The Persians were the pupils of the Assyrians and Babylonians in Art, Learning, and Science, and they learned their lessons so well that they built magnificent palaces and tombs. Temples seem to have been unimportant to them, and we know nothing of any Persian temple remains that would attract the attention of travellers or scholars.
The four most important Persian palaces of which we have any good degree of knowledge are that of Ecbatana, the ruins of which are very imperfect; a second at Susa, of which the arrangement is known; a third at Persepolis, which is not well enough preserved for any exact description to be given; and a fourth, the so-called Great Palace, near Persepolis, in which the latest Persian sovereigns lived. This magnificent palace was burned by Alexander the Great before he or his soldiers had seen its splendor. The story is that he made a feast at which Thais, a beautiful and wicked woman, appeared, and by her arts gained such power over Alexander that he consented to her proposal to fire the palace, and the king, wearing a crown of flowers35 upon his head, seized a torch and himself executed the dreadful deed, while all the company followed him with acclamations, singing, and wild shouts. At last they surrounded and danced about the dreadful conflagration.
The poet Dryden wrote an ode upon “Alexander’s Feast” in 1697 which has a world-wide reputation. I quote a few lines from it:
By Philip’s warlike son:
Aloft, in awful state,
The godlike hero sate
On his imperial throne;
His valiant peers were placed around,
Their brows with roses and with myrtles bound
(So should desert in arms be crowned);
The lovely Thais by his side
Sate, like a blooming Eastern bride,
In flower of youth and beauty’s pride.
Happy, happy, happy pair!
None but the brave,
None but the brave,
None but the brave deserves the fair.
How they point to the Persian abodes,
And glittering temples of their hostile gods!
The princes applaud with a furious joy,
And the king seized a flambeau with zeal to destroy;
Thais led the way
To light him to his prey,
And, like another Helen, fired another Troy.”
Much study and time has been given to the examination of the ruins of Persepolis, and the whole arrangement of the city has been discovered and is made plain to the student of these matters by means of the many charts, plans, and photographs of it which now exist. I shall try to tell you something of the Great Palace of Persepolis, and the other palaces near it and on the platform with it, for the Persians, like the Assyrians and Babylonians, built their palaces upon36 platforms. This one of which we speak was distinct from the city, but quite near it, and is in almost perfect condition.
It is composed of large masses of hewn stone held together by clamps of iron or lead. Many of the blocks in this platform wall are so large as to make their removal from the quarries and their elevation to the required height a difficult mechanical task, which could only have been performed by skilled laborers with good means for carrying on their work. The wall was not laid in regular blocks, but was like this plate (Fig. 24).
The platform was not of the same height in all its parts, and seems to have been in several terraces, three of which can still be seen. The buildings were on the upper terrace, which is about forty-five feet above the plain and very large; it is seven hundred and seventy feet long and four hundred feet wide. The staircases are an important feature of these ruins, and when all the palaces were in perfection these broad steps, with their landings and splendid decorations, must have made a noble and magnificent effect. The ascent of the staircases was so gradual and easy that men went up and down on horseback, and travellers now ascend and descend in this way.
There is little doubt that the staircases of Persepolis were the finest that were ever built in any part of the world, and on some of them ten horsemen could ride abreast. The broadest, or platform staircase, is entirely37 without ornament; another which leads from the platform up to the central or upper terrace is so elaborately decorated that it appears to be covered with sculptures. There are colossal representations of lions, bulls, Persian guardsmen, rows of trees, and continuous processions of smaller figures. In some parts the sculptures represent various nations bringing tributes to the Persian monarch; in other parts all the different officers of the court and those of the army are seen, and the latter appear to be guarding the stairs. (See Fig. 25.)
In a conspicuous position on this ornamental staircase there are three slabs; on two there is no design of any sort; on the third an inscription says that this was the work of “Xerxes, the Great King, the King of Kings, the son of King Darius, the Achæmenian.” This inscription is in the Persian tongue, and it is probable that it was the intention to repeat it on the slabs which are left plain in some other languages, so that it could easily be read by those of different nations; it was customary with the ancients to repeat inscriptions in this way.
The other staircases of this great platform are all more or less decorated with sculptures and resemble that described;38 they lead to the different palaces, of which there are three. The palaces are those of Darius, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes Ochus, and besides these there are two great pillared halls; one of these is called the “Hall of One Hundred Columns,” and the other Chehl Minar, or the “Great Hall of Audience.”
This view of the palace of Darius gives an idea of the appearance of all these buildings. A description of them would be only a wordy repetition of the characteristics of one apartment and hall after another, and I shall leave them to speak of the magnificent halls which are the glory of the ruins of Persepolis, and the wonders of the world to those who are acquainted with the architectural monuments of the Turkish, Greek, Roman, Moorish, and Christian nations. (See Fig. 26.)
The Hall of a Hundred Columns was very splendid, as one may judge from this picture of its gateway (Fig. 27); but the Chehl Minar, or Great Hall of Audience, which is39 also called the Hall of Xerxes, was the most remarkable of all these edifices. Its ruins occupy a space of almost three hundred and fifty feet in length and two hundred and forty-six feet in width, and consist principally of four different kinds of columns. One portion of this hall was arranged in a square, in which there were six rows of six pillars each, and on three sides of this square there were magnificent porches, in each of which there were twelve columns; so that the number of pillars in the square was thirty-six, and that of those in the three porches was the same. These porches stood out boldly from the main building and were grand in their effect.
The columns which remain in various parts of this hall40 are so high that it is thought that they must originally have measured sixty-four feet throughout the whole building. The capitals of the pillars were of three kinds: the double Horned Lion capital (Fig. 28) was used in the eastern porch, and was very simple; in the western porch was the double Bull capital, which corresponded to the first in size and general form, the difference being only in the shape of the animal.
The north porch faced the great sculptured staircase, and was the real front of the hall. On this side the columns were much ornamented. The following plates show the entire design of them, and it will be seen that the bases were very beautiful (Figs. 29 and 30).
The capitals have three distinct parts; at the bottom is a sort of bed of lotus leaves, part of which are turned down,41 and the others standing up form a kind of cup on which the next section above rests. The middle section is fluted and has spiral scrolls or volutes, such as are seen in Ionic capitals, only here they are in a perpendicular position instead of the customary horizontal one. The upper portion had the same double figures of bulls as were on the columns of the western colonnade. The decoration on the bases was made of two or three rows of hanging lotus leaves, some round and others pointed in form. The shafts of these pillars were formed of different blocks of stone joined by iron cramps; they were cut in exact and regular flutings, numbering from forty-eight to fifty-two on each pillar.
This plan of the Hall of Audience will help you to understand its arrangement more clearly (Fig. 31).
The square with the thirty-six columns, and the three porches with twelve columns each, are distinctly marked. The most ornamental pillars were on the side with the entrance or gateway. The two small rooms on the ends of the main portico may have been guard-rooms.
We can only regret that, while we know certain things about this hall, there is still much of which we know nothing. However, there are many theories concerning it. Some authorities believe that it was roofed, while others42 think that it was open and protected only by curtains and hangings, of which the Persians made much use. As we cannot know positively about it, and Persepolis was the spring residence of the Persian kings, it is pleasant to fancy that this splendid pillared hall was a summer throne-room, having beautiful hangings that could be drawn aside at will, admitting all the spicy breezes of that sunny land, and realizing the description of the palace of Shushan in the Book of Esther, which says, “In the court of the garden of the king’s palace; where were white, green, and blue hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble; the beds were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black marble.”
Here the king could receive all those who sought him; the glorious view of the plains of Susa and Persepolis, the breezes which came to him laden with the odors of the choicest flowers would soothe him to content, and realize his full desire for that deep breath from open air which gives a sense of freedom and power. We know that no Oriental, be he monarch or slave, desires to live beneath a roof or within closed doors.
The column was in Persia developed with a good deal of originality and much artistic feeling; and one fine base of the time of Cyrus is especially interesting for its close resemblance to the base of certain Ionic pillars afterward made in Greece (Fig. 32).
The tombs of the royal Persians were usually hewn out of the solid rock; the tomb of Cyrus, only, resembles a little house; this plate gives a representation of it (Fig. 33).
The one apartment in this tomb is about eleven feet43 long, seven feet broad, and seven feet high; it has no window, and a low, narrow doorway in one of the end walls is the only entrance to it. Ancient writers say that the body of Cyrus in a golden coffin was deposited in this tomb.
Seven other tombs have been explored; they are excavations in the sides of the mountains high enough to be prominent objects to the sight, and yet difficult of approach. The fronts of these tombs are much ornamented, and the internal chambers are large; there are recesses for the burial-cases, and these vary in number, some having only space for three bodies. The tomb of Darius had three recesses, in each of which there were three burial-cases; but this was an unusually large number. The tombs near Persepolis are the finest which have yet been examined.
The most noticeable characteristic of Persian architecture is its regularity. The plans used are simple, and only straight lines occur in them; thus, all the angles are right angles. The columns are regularly placed, and the two44 sides of an apartment or building correspond to each other. The magnificent staircases, and the abundance of elegant columns which have been called “groves of pillars” by some writers, produced a grand and dignified effect. The huge size of the blocks of stone used by Persian builders gives an impression of great power in those who planned their use, and demands for them the respect of all thoughtful students of these edifices.
The faults of this architecture lay in the narrow doorways, the small number of passages, and the clumsy thickness of the walls. But these faults are insignificant in comparison with its beauties, and it is all the more to be admired that it was invented by the Persians, not copied from other nations, and there is little doubt that the Greeks profited by its study to improve their own style, and through this study substituted lightness and elegance for the clumsy and heavy effect of the earliest Grecian architecture.
There is so much of religious, historical, romantic, and poetical association with the land of Judea, that it is a disappointment to know that there are no remains of Judean architecture from which to study the early art-history of that country; it is literally true that nothing remains.
The ruins of Jerusalem, Baalbec, Palmyra, Petra, and places beyond the Jordan are not Jewish, but Roman remains. The most interesting remnant is a passage and gateway which belonged to the great temple at Jerusalem. This passage is situated beneath the platform of the temple; it is called “The Gateway Huldah.” The width of it is forty-one feet, and at one point there is a magnificent pillar, called a monolith, because it is cut from a single stone. This pillar supports four arches, which divide the passage into as many compartments, each one of which has a flat45 dome. On these domes or roofs there were formerly beautiful ornamental designs, one of which remains, and is like this picture (Fig. 34). Its combination of Oriental and Roman design proves that it cannot be very old, but must have been made after the influence of the Romans had been felt in Judea.
Since the excavations in Assyria, and through the use of the knowledge obtained there and in other ancient countries, and by comparing this with the descriptions of the Bible and the works of Josephus, some antiquarians have made plans and drawings of what they believe that the temple at Jerusalem must have been at the time of the Crucifixion. The result of this work has little interest, for two reasons: first, because we do not know that it is correct; second, because even at the time to which it is ascribed, it was not the ancient temple of Solomon. That had been destroyed, and after the return of the Jews from the Captivity, was rebuilt; again, it had been changed and restored by the Romans under Herod, so that it had little in reality, or by way of association, to give it the sacred and intense interest46 for us which would belong to the true, ancient temple at Jerusalem.
Of all profane and of all holy things,
Where Jew and Turk and Gentile yet concur
To make thee what thou art, thy history brings
Thoughts mixed of joy and woe. The whole earth rings
With the sad truth which He has prophesied,
Who would have sheltered with his holy wings
Thee and thy children. You his power defied;
You scourged him while he lived, and mocked him as he died!
That caught the first light which its Maker made,—
It led the hymn of other orbs on high;
’Twill shine when all the fires of heaven shall fade.
Pilgrims at Salem’s porch, be that your aid!
For it has kept its watch on Palestine!
Look to its holy light, nor be dismayed,
Though broken is each consecrated shrine,
Though crushed and ruined all which men have called divine.”
The earliest history of Greece is lost in what we may call the Age of Legend. From that period have come to us such marvellous stories of gods and goddesses, and all sorts of wonderful happenings and doings, that even the most serious and wise scholars can learn little about it, and it remains to all alike a kind of delightful fairy-land.
Back to that remote age one can send his fancy and imagination to feast upon the tales of wondrous bravery, passionate love, dire revenge, and supernatural occurrences of every sort until he is weary of it all. Then he is glad to come back to his actual life, in which cause and effect are so much more clearly seen, and which, if more matter-of-fact, is more comfortable than the hap-hazard existence of those remarkable beings who were liable to be changed into47 beasts, or trees, or almost anything else at a moment’s notice, or to be whisked away from the midst of their families and friends and set down to starve in some desolate place where there was nothing to eat, and no one to listen to complaints of sorrow or hunger.
This legendary time in Grecian history begins nobody knows when, and ends about one thousand years before the birth of Christ. Our only knowledge of it comes from the mythology which we have inherited from the past, and the two poems of Homer, called the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey.”
The “Iliad” recounts the anger of Achilles and all that happened in the Trojan War; the “Odyssey” relates the wonderful adventures of Ulysses. Probably Homer never thought of such a thing as being an historian—he was a poet—much less did he dream of being the only historian of any certain time or age; but since, in the course of his poems, he refers to the manners and customs of the years that had preceded him, and gives accounts of certain past events, he is, in truth, the prime source from which we learn the little that we know of the prehistoric days in Greece.
It is believed that Homer wrote about 850 B.C., and after that date we have nothing complete in Greek literature until the time of Herodotus, who is called the “Father of History” and was born in 484 B.C. Thus four centuries between Homer and Herodotus are left with no authoritative writings.
The legendary or first period of Greek history was followed by five hundred years more of which we have no continuous history; but facts have been gathered here and there from the works of various authors which make it possible to give a reliable account of the Greece of that time. For our purpose in this book we go on to a still later time, or a third period, which began about 500 B.C., in which the48 architecture and art which we have in mind, when we use the general term Greek Art, originated.
It is true that before this temples had been erected of which we have some knowledge, and the elegant and ornate articles which Dr. Schliemann has found in his excavations at Troy and Mycenæ prove that the art of that remote time reached a high point of excellence. The temples and other buildings of which we know anything, and which belonged to the second period, were clumsy and rude when compared with the perfection of the time which we propose to study.
Before we speak of any one edifice it is best to understand something of the various orders of Greek architecture, more especially as the terms which belong to it and had their origin in it are now used in speaking of architecture the world over, and from being first applied to Greek art have grown to be general in their application.
In the most ancient days of Greece the royal fortresses were the finest structures, but in later days the temple became the supreme object upon which thought and labor were lavished. The public buildings which served the uses of the whole people were second in consideration, while the private dwellings were of the least importance of all. The Greek temple was built upon a raised structure like those of Assyria and other Oriental nations, but the Greek temple was much smaller, and by a dignified and simple elegance in detail, and a harmony in all its parts, it expressed a more noble religious sentiment than could be conveyed by all the vast piles of massive confusion that had abounded in more Eastern lands.
The earliest and simplest Greek temples were merely small, square chambers made to contain an image of a god, and in later times, when the temples came to be splendid50 and grand, the apartment containing the sacred image was still called the cella or cell, as it had been named from the first. The simplest form of temple was like the little cut (Fig. 36), and had two pillars in the centre of the front and two square pilasters at the front end of the side walls. These pilasters are called antæ, and the whole style of the building is called distyle in antis; the word distyle denotes the two pillars, and the expression means two pillars with antæ.
The above picture shows the next advance that was made in form (Fig. 37). A porch was added to the cell,52 the two parts being separated by a wall with a doorway in it. After a time the number of pillars in front was increased to six, and the two outer ones were the first of a row which extended along the entire length of the sides of the temple, thus forming a peristyle, or a row of columns entirely around the cell; the cell itself remained, according to the original plan, in the centre of the building. The ground plan of such a temple is given in the next wood-cut (Fig. 38).
A large proportion of the Greek temples were built in this manner, and were called hexastyle from the six columns on the front.
The different orders of ancient Greek architecture are called the Doric, the Ionic, and the Corinthian. The Greeks were very fond of the Doric order, and used it so extensively as to make it almost exclusively their own. The picture of the Parthenon will help you to understand the explanations of the characteristics of the Doric order (Fig. 39).
As you see, the pillars had no base, but rested directly on the upper plinth of the foundation of the building. The shaft of the column is cut in flutings, and the number of them varies from sixteen to twenty; the latter number being most frequently used. The capital of the column is divided into two portions; the lower one is called the echinus, and projects beyond the shaft and supports a square tile or block which is called the abacus, and this is the architectural name for the upper member of all capitals to columns. The architrave or principal beam above these columns rests directly on the capitals and runs around the building. This architrave is made of separate blocks of marble or stone, and is finished at the top by a small strip of the same materials, which is called a tenia. This cut, which gives a53 section of the Parthenon on a larger scale than the last picture, will enable you to find the different portions more easily (Fig. 40).
Above the architrave and resting on it is the frieze; this is ornamented with fluted spaces called triglyphs, because they are cut in three flutings. The spaces between the triglyphs are called metopes, and sometimes left plain, and sometimes ornamented with sculptures, as is the case in the frieze of the Parthenon. Under the triglyphs six little blocks, or drops, are placed so that they lay over the architrave. Above the frieze there is another narrow strip, or tenia, like that upon the architrave. Above all this rests the cornice, and underneath the cornice are one or more rows of the small, drop-like blocks such as make the lower finish of the triglyphs; in the lower band of the cornice54 separate blocks are placed over each triglyph and each metope, with a small space between.
It is important to know that the architrave, frieze, and cornice, all taken together, form what is called the entablature; and the entablature occupies the whole of the broad space between the top of the capitals of the pillars and the lower edge of the roof.
The triangular space formed by the sloping of the roof upon the ends of a building is called the pediment, and, as you will see in the picture of the Parthenon, its pediment was ornamented with elaborate sculptures which are spoken of in the volume of this series which is devoted to that art. It was customary to thus ornament the pediment and to paint the walls of the cella and other portions of the building, so that while the pure Doric style seems at first sight to be stiff and straight in its effect, it becomes rich and ornamental by the use of sculpture and painting, and yet remains solid and stable.
The Doric style may be regarded as a native growth in Greece, as almost every detail of its construction and its ornaments may be traced back to the early wooden buildings of the people, as the architecture of the tombs of Beni-Hassan had been. The triglyphs, for instance, represent the ends of the beams upon which the rafters rested, while the bas-reliefs between took the place of the votive offerings which in the primitive temples were placed in the open spaces between the beams. It is not necessary here to go into all the particulars of this resemblance, which perhaps learned men have sometimes carried too far, and which are rather difficult to understand; it is enough to say that there are excellent reasons for regarding the theory as, upon the whole, sound, although, of course, the Grecian architects modified and enriched the forms which the simple timber work had suggested.
The next great order was called the Ionic, and has a55 close relation with certain forms found in Asia Minor. This picture of an Ionic capital and entablature is taken from the Temple of Athena at Priene (Fig. 41). Its scroll-like capital recalls those of the pillars in the Great Hall of Xerxes at Persepolis, shown in Figs. 28 and 29, and many examples of even closer resemblance might be given. The order differed from the Doric principally in the ornamentation of its capitals and in the fact that the columns have bases. These cuts show different kinds of bases belonging to the Ionic order. The first is from the temple at Priene (Fig. 42), and the second is the form known as the Attic base (Fig. 43). The third is especially interesting from its close resemblance to the ancient Persian base shown in Fig. 32, and is another illustration of the Eastern origin of this order (Fig. 44).
The Ionic capital is very easily recognized by its spiral projections, or scrolls, which are called volutes (Fig. 45).56 These are so placed that they present a flat surface on the opposite sides of the capital, like the picture below (Fig. 46); sometimes the volutes are finished by a rosette in the centre.
The shaft of the Ionic column is sometimes plain and sometimes fluted; the flutings number twenty-four, and are separated by a narrow, plain band or fillet. In some ancient examples of the Ionic order the entire entablature is left plain, but in many instances there are bands of carvings, as in the first Ionic example given above; in some modern Italian architecture even more ornament has been added.
The three, or sometimes two, layers or bands of stone which form the Ionic architrave project a little, each one more than the other, and the ornamented band above it serves to separate it from the frieze so as to make these two portions of the entablature quite distinct from each other. The frieze is never divided into set spaces as in the Doric order, but when ornamented has a continuous design in relief.
The lower part of the cornice is frequently cut in little pieces or dentals which form what is called the “tooth-like57 ornament;” these have the effect of hanging from underneath the cornice. There is a certain pleasing effect in Ionic architecture which, perhaps, appeals to our taste at first sight more forcibly than does the severe elegance of the Doric order. Nevertheless, the latter is a higher type of art, and it is not probable that it can ever be superseded by any new invention or lose the prestige which it has held so long.
That which is called the Corinthian order differs very little from the Ionic except in the capital, but as this was so prominent a member of the Ionic style, the difference seems greater than it really is. It is therefore not necessary to speak of its parts in detail. The Choragic Monument of Lysicrates at Athens is as good a specimen of the order as remains at this time, and of this we give an illustration (Fig. 47).
The Corinthian order of architecture does not belong to the early period of art in Greece. It came after the influence of Oriental architecture had been shown in the Ionic style; and perhaps the beautiful Corinthian capital may have been suggested by the palm-leaf and lotus capitals of Egypt. What has been said of other orders will help you in understanding this; but I shall tell you especially about its capital, as that is its distinguishing feature. The form58 of the capital may be called bell-shaped, and it is set round with two rows of leaves, eight in each row; above these is a third row of leaves, or of a sort of small twisted husks, which supports eight small volutes. The abacus or top portion of the capital is cut out at the corners so that sharp projections are made, called horns, and one volute comes directly under each horn of the abacus. This cut (Fig. 48) gives a more distinct idea of the capital than does that above, and you will see that four of the volutes really form the upper corners of the capital. The four other volutes meet on two opposite sides of the capital; sometimes they are interwoven, and a flower, or rosette, or some other ornament is placed above them and lays up over the abacus. Different kinds of leaves are used in making this capital; olive, water plant, and acanthus are all thus employed; there is a very pretty legend as to its origin which makes the acanthus seem to be the only one which belongs to it, and is as follows:
It was the custom in Greece to place a basket upon the new-made graves in which were the viands which those there buried had preferred when in life. About 550 B.C. a lovely virgin died at Corinth, and her nurse arranged the basket with care and covered it with a tile. It happened that the basket was set directly over a young acanthus plant, and the leaves grew up about it in such a manner that the sculptor Callimachus was attracted by its grace and beauty, and conceived the idea of using it as a model for a59 new capital in architecture. I have always been sorry that it was not named for the beautiful maiden rather than for the city in which she was buried.
Another feature of Greek architecture is the use of the Caryatid, or a human figure standing upon a base and supporting the capital of a column upon the head, or, to put it more plainly, a human figure serving as the shaft to a column. These figures are usually females, and this picture of one from the Erechtheium at Athens shows how they are placed (Fig. 49). Sometimes the figures of giants, called Telamones, were used in the same way.
In Oriental art such figures are numerous; they are used to support platforms and the thrones of kings; their position is sometimes varied by making the uplifted hands bear the weight instead of the head (Fig. 50). In any case this feature in architecture is tiresome, and its use is certainly questionable as a matter of good taste.
Having given a general outline of the characteristics of Greek architecture, I will speak of some remarkable edifices which are beautiful in themselves and have an interest for us on account of their associations with the history of the world, as well as with that of art.
60 The Temple of Diana at Ephesus, of which nothing now remains, was the largest and most splendid of all the Greek temples. It was four hundred and twenty-five feet long by two hundred and twenty wide.
The ancients counted this temple as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and when we know that its pillars were sixty feet high, and that the beams of the architrave which had to be lifted up above the pillars to be put in place were each thirty feet long, we can readily understand that the building of it was a wonderful work. This was not the first temple that had stood on the same spot, for we know that one had been burned on the night in which Alexander the Great was born, 356 B.C. It was set on fire by Herostratus; he was tried for this crime and was put to the torture to make him declare his motive for doing such a dreadful deed; he gave as his only reason his desire to have his name handed down through all ages, and he believed that by burning the temple he should accomplish his object—as, indeed, he did, for every historian repeats the story of his crime, and his name stands as a synonym for wicked ambition.
After this destruction the temple was rebuilt on a most magnificent scale, and was not finished until two hundred and twenty years had passed. Diana was a great and powerful goddess, and all the nations of Asia united in gifts for the adornment of her shrine; the women even gave their personal ornaments to be sold to increase the fund to be spent upon it.
This temple was four times as large as the Parthenon at Athens, and had one hundred and twenty-seven splendid columns, thirty-six of which were finely carved and were the gifts of various sovereigns. The grand staircase was made from the wood of a single Cyprian vine. But great as was the temple itself, its adornments of statues by the sculptor Praxiteles, and the vast treasures of ornaments and61 rare objects by which it was enriched made it even more famous. The Temple of Diana was robbed by Nero and burned by the Goths, but its final destruction probably occurred after A.D. 381, when the Emperor Theodosius I. issued an edict forbidding all the ceremonies of the pagan worship.
Many beautiful objects were taken away to adorn the mediæval churches of other religions than that of the Ephesians. Some of its green jasper columns were used to support the dome of St. Sophia at Constantinople, and other parts of it are seen in the cathedrals of Italy.
There is scarcely a more desolate spot in the world than is the Ephesus of to-day. No remaining ruins are so preserved as to afford the visitor any satisfaction. The marbles and stone have been used to build other towns, which in their turn have been destroyed. The inhabitants are a handful of poor Greek peasants; wolves and jackals from the neighboring mountains roam about; and though an abundance of myrtle and some lovely groves relieve the gloominess of the scene, it is impossible when there to re-create in imagination the splendid Ephesian city, with its wharves and docks, its temples, theatres, and palaces, which were so famous as to cause it to be spoken of with wonder throughout the ancient world.
We often hear of the glory of the Periclean age at Athens, and it is true that under the leadership of Pericles Athens reached its greatest prosperity. This picture shows the Acropolis as it appeared at that time (Fig. 51).
In these best days of Athens the whole Acropolis was consecrated to religious worship and ceremonials, and its entire extent was occupied by temples and statues of the gods. The fact that I have before mentioned, that the religion of a country moulds its art, is especially true of the art of Greece; figures of the gods and bas-reliefs of the ceremonies of the Grecian worship form a large and most62 important part of the work of the Greek artists, and the splendid temples were raised to be the sacred homes of the statues of the great gods, to which the people could come with offerings and prayers.
The Acropolis was also a sort of fortress, because it was an eminence, and its sides of craggy rock allowed of but one ascent; thus it could be easily defended. Then, when all the wonders and riches of art had been collected there, the pure white marble, the sculpture and painting, and the ornaments of shining metals which glistened in the sun, while brilliant colors added their rich effect, it might be called a gorgeous museum, such as has never since been equalled in the history of the world.
It is important to know that the Athenians worshipped three different goddesses, all called by the one name of Athene or Athena. The most ancient and most sacred of these was Athena Polias, whose statue, made of olive-wood, was believed to have fallen from heaven. The Erechtheium was dedicated to this goddess, and there this holy, heaven-sent figure was kept, with other sacred objects of which I shall speak in their place.
The Athena next in importance was the goddess of the Parthenon, or the “House of the Virgin,” as the word signifies, for this Athena Parthenos is the same as the goddess Minerva, who is said never to have married or known the sentiment of love; she was the goddess of war, prudence, and wisdom. The third Athena was called Promachos, which means the champion. Phidias made of her one of his splendid statues, standing erect, with helmet, spear, and shield.
In describing the Acropolis we shall begin with the Propylæa, or the entrances, which occupy the centre of our picture and to which the steps lead, showing the passage between the pillars, three being left on each side. This magnificent series of entrances—as the whole ascent64 from the outer gate in the wall, up the steps, and through the passage between the pillars may be called—was erected about 437 B.C., and cost two thousand talents of gold, which is equal to about two millions of our dollars. The fame of the Propylæa was world-wide, and together with the Parthenon it was considered the architectural glory of the Periclean age. The style in which they are built is a splendid example of the combination of the Doric and the Ionic orders, for while the exterior is almost pure Doric, the interior is made more cheerful by the use of the Ionic columns and ornamentation.
High up at the right of the picture stands the Parthenon. Its architecture, which is Doric, has been described. We do not know when this temple was begun, but it is probably on the site of an older one. It was finished 438 B.C., and the general care of its erection was given to Phidias, the most famous of all sculptors. The marble of which the Parthenon was built was pure Pentelic, and as it rested on a rude basement of limestone the contrast between the two made the marble of the temple seem all the finer. Within and without this temple abounded in magnificent sculptures executed by Phidias himself or under his orders.
The Erechtheium, which is only partly visible at the back on the left of the picture, was the most sacred temple of Athens. It was the burial-place of Erechtheus, who was regarded not only as the founder of this temple, but also of the religion of Athena in Athens. Beside the heaven-descended statue of Athena Polias which was kept here, there was the sacred olive-tree which Athena had called forth from the earth when she was contending for the possession of Attica; here, too, was the well of salt water which Poseidon (or Neptune) made by striking the spot with his trident, and several other sacred objects (Fig. 52).
This beautiful temple was built in the Ionic style, and is very interesting because it is so different in form from65 every other Greek temple of which we know. This is partly due to the fact that it was built where the ground was not level, one portion of it being eight feet higher than another. A second reason for its irregularity may be that it required to be divided into more cells or apartments than other Greek temples in order to arrange the different sacred objects within its walls. A very considerable portion of this temple is still standing. The frieze, of which but little remains, was of black marble, upon which there were figures in white marble.
The Erechtheium is certainly a splendid example of the Attic-Ionic style, and the eye rests upon it with admiration; but its half-pillars and caryatides, its various porches and luxuriant detail of form and ornament, are less effective as a whole than is the Parthenon in its pure Doric architecture.
An interesting fact about Greek architecture is that the marbles used were painted in high colors. There is a theory, which may or may not be true, that the custom first arose in the same way as the shape of the Doric entablature, from the imitation of wooden buildings. The wood was painted to preserve it, and when stone began to be substituted, the architects, accustomed to bright effects, colored the marbles to look like wood. Whether this is the true origin of the custom or not, it is certain that the custom prevailed. The lower parts of the pillars of a Doric temple were usually stained a light golden-brown tint; the triglyphs and the mutules, or brackets beneath the cornices, were a rich blue; the trunnels, or wooden pins, were red or gilded; the metopes had a dark red background, against which the bas-reliefs with which they were ornamented stood out in strong contrast, while the frieze and cornice were richly painted with garlands and leaves. So highly colored a building would seem less out of place amid the varied landscape of Greece than under our colder skies, and67 it is difficult for us to form any just idea of the splendid appearance it must have presented.
One of the most wonderful things about Greek architecture is the way in which allowance was made for the deception of the eye by certain forms and lines. It is not easy to explain this fully, but it is too remarkable to be wholly passed over. If a column were cut so as to diminish regularly from the bottom to the top it would seem to the eye to hollow in, and to correct this the clever Greek architect made his columns swell out a little at the middle. This is called entasis, and is the best known of the means taken to make forms look as they should. Another case is that of long horizontal lines. If they are really level they appear to sag at the centre, therefore in Greek temples they are delicately rounded up a little, and so have the effect of being perfectly straight. These two examples may serve to show what I mean by saying that architectural forms were made one way so as to look another, and in nothing did the Greek architecture show more marvellous skill and taste than in this.
In other Grecian cities the architecture differed but little from that of Athens, and, indeed, the influence of Athenian art and artists was felt all over the Eastern world; it is therefore not necessary for our purpose to speak further of Greek temples.
Next in importance were the municipal buildings, of which we find but few traces at Athens. The monument of Lysicrates is so beautiful that it gives us a most exalted idea of what the taste in such edifices must have been (Fig. 53).
This monument was erected in the year 334 B.C. when Lysicrates was choragus; this officer provided the chorus for the plays represented at Athens for the year. It was expensive to hold this position, and its duties were arduous; the choragus had to find the men for the chorus, bring them together, and have them instructed in the68 music, and also provide proper food for them while they studied. It was customary to present a tripod to the choragus who provided the finest musical entertainment, and also to build a monument upon which the tripod was placed as a lasting honor to him who had received it. There was a street at Athens called the “Street of the Tripods” because it passed a line of choragic monuments. These monuments were dedicated to different gods; this of Lysicrates was devoted to Bacchus, and was decorated with sculptures representing scenes in the story of that god, who was regarded as the patron of plays and theatres; indeed, the Greek drama originated in the choruses which were sung at his festivals.
The Greek theatres were very large and fine; the seats were ranged in a half circle, but as none remain in a sufficient state of preservation to afford a satisfactory picture, it would be impossible to give a clear description of them here.
The ancient Greeks were not tomb-builders, and we know little of their burial-places. However, the Mausoleum built at Halicarnassus by Artemisia, in memory of her husband, Mausolus, was so important as to be numbered among the seven wonders of the world (Fig. 54).69 Mausolus was the King of Caria, of which country Halicarnassus was the chief city. He died about 353 B.C., and his wife, Artemisia, gradually faded away with sorrow at his death, and survived him but two years. But during this time she had commenced the erection of the Mausoleum, and the artists to whom she intrusted the work were as faithful in completing it as though she had lived, for the sake of their own fame as artists. This magnificent tomb may be described as an example of architecture as a fine art70 exclusively, for it cannot be said to have been useful, since the body of Mausolus was burned according to custom, and certainly a much smaller tomb would have been sufficient for the remaining ashes.
The whole height of the Mausoleum was one hundred and forty feet; the north and south aisles were sixty-three feet long, and the others a little less. The burial vault was at the base, and the whole mass above it was ornamented with magnificent designs splendidly executed. Above the whole was a quadriga, or four-horse chariot, in which it is said that a figure of Mausolus was placed so that from land or sea it could be seen at a great distance. It is not strange that this tomb was called a wonder in its day, and from it we still take our word “mausoleum” for all burial-places which merit so distinguished a name.
Writers of the twelfth century speak of the beauty of this tomb, but in A.D. 1402, when the Knights of St. John took possession of Halicarnassus, it no longer remained, and a castle was built upon its site. The tomb had been buried, probably by an earthquake, and the name of the place was then changed to Boodroom.
In the year 1522 some sculptures were found there, but it was not until 1856 that Mr. Newton, an Englishman, discovered that these remains had belonged to the Mausoleum. A large collection of reliefs, statues, and other objects, more or less imperfect, was taken to London and placed in the British Museum, where they are known as the “Halicarnassus Sculptures.”
As other temples were influenced by the example of the Athenian builders, so many other tombs resembled that of Mausolus in greater or less degree, although none approached it in grandeur and magnificence.
Of the domestic architecture of the Greeks we know very little. Almost all that is said of it is chiefly speculation, as even the descriptions of Grecian palaces and houses71 which are given by the classic writers are imperfect. The life of the Greek was passed largely in public, at the temple, the theatre, or the baths, or at least in the open air, and comparatively little attention was given to the building of the private houses; but in the ruins of the temples and other monuments which still exist we have sufficient proof that no art has surpassed that of ancient Greece in purity, elegance, and grandeur of style.
Since the Etruscans were an earlier Italian nation than the Romans, and Rome, in her primal days, was ruled by Etruscan kings, it is here fitting to speak of this remarkable old people.
As Rome increased the Etruscans disappeared, and the younger power came to have so mighty an influence in the world that it absorbed the consideration of all nations as much as if no other had ever ruled in Italy.
72 No Etruscan temple now remains, but we know that they were not splendid like those of Greece. They were of two forms, one being circular and dedicated to a single deity, while others were devoted to three gods and had three cells; their walls were built at right angles, thus making their shape regular.
The theatres and amphitheatres of the Etruscans were nearly circular and much like those of the later Italians, but not one remains except that at Sutri, which, being cut in the rock, does not afford a good example of the usual arrangement of these edifices.
In fact, the only important remains of Etruscan architecture are the tombs, of which there are many. These are of two kinds; the first are cut in the rocks and resemble the Egyptian tombs at Beni-Hassan, reminding one of little houses (Fig. 55).
The second and most numerous class are mounds of earth raised above a wall at the base. These were called “Tumuli,” and some of them had fine, well-furnished apartments in their midst. The next cut shows such a room as it appeared when first opened; in it were found bedsteads, biers, shields, arrows, a variety of vessels, and several kinds of useful utensils (Fig. 56).
These tombs are in truth more connected with other arts than with architecture, and many beautiful articles have been found in them. The most interesting feature of Etruscan architecture is the arch, which was first brought into general use by the Romans, but is found in Etruscan remains (Fig. 57), both in the semi-circular and pointed forms. The principle of the arch had been known to several Oriental nations, but it had been applied only to short spaces and74 comparatively unimportant uses, such as windows and doorways (Fig. 58).
There is no doubt that many of the earliest works of the Romans were executed under the direction of Etruscan architects. Among these was the great Cloaca Maxima, or principal drain of ancient Rome. This was a wonderful achievement; it is probable that the oldest arch in Europe is that of this sewer, and the fact of its still remaining proves how well it must have been built in order to last so long (Fig. 59).
The early works of Rome, which were largely executed by the Etruscans, were principally those useful, semi-architectural objects necessary in the making of a city, such as aqueducts and bridges. These belong quite as much to civil engineering as to architecture, and we shall not speak of them.
In studying Roman architecture one is surprised at the number of uses to which it was applied, for not only do75 the temples, tombs, theatres, and monuments such as we have found in other countries exist in Rome, but there are also basilicas, baths, palaces, triumphal arches, pillars of victory, fountains, and various other objects suited to the wants of a great people.
No truly pure, national order of architecture existed at Rome. The union of the arch of the Etruscans with the columns of the Greeks enabled the Romans to change the forms of their edifices and to produce a great variety in them. They employed the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders, but they rarely used one of these alone; they united them in endless combinations, and introduced a capital of the order which is called the Composite (Fig. 60). It consists of the lower part of the Corinthian and the upper part of the Ionic capital; this was very rich in ornament, but the line where the two orders were joined was always a defect, and it never came into general favor.
The Romans also introduced what is called the Tuscan order, which is usually mentioned with the Doric, Ionic,76 Corinthian, and Composite, as being one of the five classic orders of architecture, although it is really little more than a variety of the Doric, as the Composite is of the Corinthian order. It differed from the Doric in having a base, while its frieze was simple and unadorned, the cornice also being very plain. The shaft of the Tuscan column was never fluted.
The Romans also used an arcade which was a combination of Greek and Etruscan art, like this cut (Fig. 61); thus showing a power of adapting forms which already existed in new combinations and for new purposes, rather than an originative genius.
A very important advance made by the Romans was the improvement of interior architecture. The halls and portions of edifices to be used were more cared for than ever before; this was sometimes done at the expense of the exteriors, to which the Greeks had devoted all their thought. In fact, many ancient Roman temples were inferior to other edifices which they built. The Pantheon is the only one existing in such a state as to be spoken of with satisfaction.
This ground-plan (Fig. 62) shows that the Pantheon is circular with a porch. Taken separately, the rotunda and the porch are each fine in their own way, but the joining of the circular and angular forms has an effect of unfitness which one cannot forget even when looking at that which we regard with reverent interest. The central portion was at first a part of the Baths of Agrippa, but on account of its great beauty it was changed by Agrippa himself into77 a temple, by the addition of a row of Corinthian columns around the interior. (See Fig. 63.)
Taken all in all, the effect of the Pantheon is that of grandeur and simplicity. When we remember that sixteen hundred and eighty-eight years have passed since it was repaired by Septimius Severus, we wonder at its good preservation, though we know that it has been robbed of its bronze covering and other fine ornaments. An inscription still remaining on its portico states that Marcus Aurelius and Septimius Severus repaired this temple; history says that Hadrian restored it after a fire, probably about the78 year 117, and it is even said that Agrippa, who died A.D. 13, added the portico to a rotunda which existed before his time.
The objects now in the interior of the Pantheon are so largely modern that they do not belong to this portion of our subject, but there is much interest associated with this spot, and it is dear to all the world as the burial-place of Raphael, Annibale Caracci, and other great artists.
Next to the temples of Rome came the Basilicas, of which there were many before the time of Constantine. The word basilica means the royal house, and these edifices were first intended for a court-room in which the king administered his laws; later they became markets, or places of exchange, where men met for business transactions.79 The ruins of the Basilicas of Trajan and Maxentius, two of the finest of these edifices, are in such condition that their plans can be understood (Fig. 64). They were large, and divided into aisles by rows of columns; at one end there was a semi-circular recess or apse, in which was a raised platform, approached by steps, also semi-circular in form. Upon this platform the king or other exalted officer had his place, while those of lesser rank were on the steps below, on either side. Fronting the apse was an altar upon which sacrifices were offered before commencing any important business.
The principal reason for speaking of basilicas is that by the above cut you may see the great change made in architecture about this time by the use of columns, only half the height of the building, which were united by arches. This was a very important step, and is, in truth, one of the principal features that mark the progress of the change from ancient to Gothic architecture—a change not fully developed until the twelfth century.
I shall not say much of the theatres, amphitheatres, and baths of ancient Rome, because it is not easy to treat them in the simple manner suited to this book; they were magnificent and costly, and made an important part of Roman80 architecture; they were probably copied from the public buildings of the Etruscans.
Marcus Scaurus built a theatre in 58 B.C. which held eighty thousand spectators; it had rich columns and statues, and was decorated with gold, silver, and ivory. The first stone theatre in Rome was built in 55 B.C., and was only half the size of that of Marcus Scaurus. Parts of the theatre of Marcellus still remain in the present Orsini Palace in Rome, and serve to give an idea of the architecture of the period immediately before the birth of Christ.
The Emperor Augustus boasted that he had found a city of brick and had changed it to one of marble, but after his time architecture suffered a decline, and its second flourishing period may be dated from A.D. 69. To this time belongs the Colosseum, also called the Flavian Amphitheatre; it covers about five acres of ground, and is sufficiently well preserved for a good idea to be formed of what it must have been when in its best estate. The enormous size of these ancient Roman edifices is almost too much for us to imagine, and the most extensive of them all were the Thermæ, or public baths.
The Baths of Diocletian, built A.D. 303, were the largest of all; they had seats for twenty-four hundred bathers. These baths were in reality a group of spacious halls of varied forms, but all magnificent in size. The great hall of the Baths of Diocletian was three hundred and fifty feet long by eighty feet in width and ninety-six feet high; it was converted into a church by Michael Angelo and is called S. Maria Degli Angeli, or Holy Mary of the Angels. Many splendid pictures which were once in St. Peter’s are now in this church, and copies of them made in mosaic fill the places where they were originally hung.
The Baths of Caracalla were built in A.D. 217, and though they had seats for but sixteen hundred bathers, they were much more splendid than the Baths of Diocletian.81 They were surrounded by pleasure gardens, porticoes, and a stadium or race-course, where all sorts of games were held. Some beautiful mosaic pavements have been taken from these baths, and are now in the Lateran and the Villa Borghese palaces; there was a Pinacotica, or Fine Art Gallery here, in which were some of the greatest art treasures of the world, such as the Farnese Hercules, the Farnese Bull, the two Gladiators, and other famous statues, besides cameos, bronzes, and sculptures, almost without end. The granite basins in the Piazza Farnese, and some green basalt urns now in the Vatican Museum, were taken from the Baths of Caracalla, and, indeed, all over Rome there are objects of more or less beauty which were found here.
Formerly the site of these baths was like a beautiful Eden where Nature made herself happy in luxuriant growths of all lovely things. The poet Shelley was very fond of going there, and wrote of it, “Among the flowery glades and thickets of odoriferous blossoming trees, which are extended in ever-winding labyrinths upon its immense platforms and dizzy arches suspended in the air,” by which we know that the ruins were covered with a soil which was fruitful in flowers, vines, and trees; but all these have been torn away in order to make the excavations which were necessary for the exploration of these wonderful baths, and now the parts which remain stand fully exposed to the view of the curious traveller.
The Roman Triumphal Arches were one of the characteristic outgrowths of the Imperial period. These splendid works were designed to perpetuate the fame of the emperors and to recall to the people the important acts of their lives. The arch of Constantine given below is one of the most famous arches in Rome (Fig. 65). It is believed that parts of it were in an arch of Trajan’s time, and some even go so far as to say that it was originally dedicated to82 the earlier emperor and adopted by Constantine as his own. It is remarkably well preserved, and this is undoubtedly due to the fact of its being dedicated to the first Christian sovereign of Rome. The other most famous arches in the city are that of Titus, which dates from A.D. 81, and that of Septimius Severus, which was erected in honor of him and of his wife, Julia, by the silversmiths and merchants of the Forum Boarium, in which spot the arch was raised.
These triumphal arches existed in all the countries where Rome held sway, and, indeed, this is true of all kinds of Roman architectural works.
This Arch of Beneventum was erected in the second century after Christ, by Trajan, when he repaired the83 Appian Way. It is one of the most graceful and best preserved of all the arches of Italy (Fig. 66).
All these arches had originally groups of statuary upon them, for which they served merely as the pedestals. Their taking the form of an arch was due to their being placed in the public way, where it was necessary to leave a passage for the street. Sometimes they were placed where two roads met, and a double arch was then made. Elaborate as the arches often were, you must keep in mind that they are only a part of the entire design, and that the least important part; the statuary, which has been destroyed by time, being really the more striking feature of the whole.
The tombs of Rome were very numerous, and were an84 important element in Roman architecture. The tomb of Cecilia Metella is of importance because it is the oldest remaining building of Imperial Rome and the finest tomb which has been preserved (Fig. 67).
As you see, the tomb is a round tower. In the thirteenth century it was turned into a fortress, and so much dust has been deposited on its summit in the passing of time that bushes and ivy now grow there. Many writers describe it, and Byron in his “Childe Harold” spoke of it in some verses, of which the following is the beginning:
Firm as a fortress, with its fence of stone,
Such as an army’s baffled strength delays,
Standing with half its battlements alone,
And with two thousand years of ivy grown,
The garland of eternity, where wave
The green leaves over all by time o’erthrown;—
What was this tower of strength? within its cave
What treasure lay so lock’d, so hid?—a woman’s grave.”
The tomb of Hadrian, now known as the Castle of St. Angelo, is very interesting, and is one of the most prominent and familiar objects in Rome at the present day. But the tombs called Columbaria were much in use in ancient Rome, and differed essentially from those of which we have spoken, inasmuch as they were usually below the ground, and externally had no architecture. They consisted of85 oblong or square apartments, the sides of which were filled with small apertures of the proper size to hold an urn which contained the ashes that remained after a body had been burned, according to the Roman custom. Some of these apartments, especially when they belonged to private families, were adorned with pilasters and decorated with colors. (See Fig. 68.)
The sepulchres of Rome were gradually enlarged, until, in the days of Constantine, they were frequently built like small temples above the ground, with crypts or vaults beneath them.
So little now remains of the ancient domestic architecture of Rome that one is forced to study this subject from written descriptions collected from the works of various historians, poets, and other writers. But from what we know we may conclude that the villas and country-houses were so constructed as to be full of comfort, and suited to the uses for which they were built, without too much regard to the symmetry of the exteriors. The interior convenience was the chief thing to be considered, and when finished86 they must have often resembled a collection of buildings all joined together, of various heights and shapes; but within they were adapted to the different seasons, as some rooms were made for being warm, while others were arranged for coolness; the views from the windows were also an important feature, and, in short, the pleasure of the people living in them was made the first point to be gained, rather than the impression upon the eye of those who saw them from without.
There was great luxury and elegance in the palaces of the noble classes in ancient Rome. The home of Diocletian at Spalatro was one of the most famous Roman palaces, and its ruins show that it was once magnificent. This palace was divided by four streets which ran through it at right angles with each other and met in its centre. Its entrances were called the Golden, Iron, and Brazen Gates. Its exterior architecture was simple and massive, as it was necessary that it should serve as a fortress in case of an attack. Its principal gallery overlooked the sea; it was five hundred and fifteen feet long and twenty-four feet wide, and was famous for its architectural beauty and for the views which it commanded.