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Study Aid 4: The Architecture of Ancient Greece

If ancient Egyptian culture was fairly consistent in its long history, Grecian civilization had a more fitful evolution. The Minoan culture (circa 3000-1250 BC), centered on the island of Crete, built colorful and complex "palaces" like the one at Knossos (at its height between 2000-1520 BC). Located on mainland Greece, the Mycenaeans were a more militaristic culture and built their towns on mountaintops as citadels, fortified by enormous boulders. They also developed the tholos tomb with corbelled, conical domes, e.g. "The Treasury of Atreus", Mycenae, c.1250 BC. Natural disasters and later Mycenaean invasions probably devastated the Minoans. Mycenaean culture was itself wiped out c. 1100 BC by barbarian invaders from the north.

Grecian culture began to re-form or advance again in the 8th century BC. But this development was scattered among many independent city/states (the polis). An early phase of this revived Greek tradition is known as the "Archaic Period" (700-480 BC). Wooden temples with colonnades are built and then gradually replaced by temples of stone. The Doric and Ionic orders were also gradually developed and refined during this era.

The most famous period of Greek art is known today as the "Classic Period." The temples of this period are noted for their extreme refinement of proportions and details, and are ornamented with superb carving of great realism. The classic period buildings of the Acropolis in Athens celebrated the Athenian city/state and the goddess Athena, its divine protector. Also commemorated was the Greek military victory over the Persians. The four surviving structures on the Acropolis are: the Parthenon, 447-432 BC, commisioned by Pericles and designed by Iktinus (begun by Kallikrates), sculpture by Phidias; the Propylaea Gate by Mnesicles (437-432 BC); the Temple of Athena Nike byKallikrates, c. 420 BC; and the Erechtheion designed by an unknown architect and built between 421-405 BC. Also erected in Athens was the graceful Choragic monument of Lysicrates (335 BC), one of the first Greek buildings to feature the Corinthian order on the exterior and one of the few classical Greek buildings with a vertical orientation.

Inventive Greek artists were not content with the "perfection" of the Acropolis buildings and continued to create new combinations and proportions. Such experimentation accelerated in the late 4th c.BC, and Greek art soon came to display greater emotion, variety and movement. This phase is known today as the Hellenistic period and its characteristics became widespread through the conquests of Alexander the Great (336-323 BC), e.g. the Temple of Apollo at Didyma (present-day Turkey), begun c.300 BC, designed by Paeonius and Daphnis.

Greek Urbanism
Beginning in the 8th c.BC, the Greeks actively colonized many parts of the Mediterranean. They frequently used the planning theories of Hippodamos of Miletus (active in the 5th c.BC) that were based on the grid and the rational allocation of space according to use, e.g. Miletus, (Turkey) c. 466 BC and Priene (Turkey), c. 350 BC. At the center of these towns was an open meeting place known as the agora that was dominated by stoas -- linear buildings with porticoes that were used for a variety of purposes. Other public amenities such as temples, theaters, and gymnasiums were also provided for the citizens.


Knossos

Palace of Minos

Date: 2000-1520 BC
Location: Knossos, Crete
Architect: Unknown

Knossos1

Plan

Knossos2

Reconstruction - Birds-Eye View

Knossos3

Reconstruction - Palace Courtyard

Knossos4

"Queen's" Megaron

Knossos5

Throne Room and Reconstructed Light Well

Knossos6

Site Today with Partial Reconstruction

Knossos7

Aerial View of Archaeological Site

Knossos8

Fresco of Minoan "Bull Vaulting"


The Treasury of Atreus

Date: 1250 BC
Location: Mycenea, Greece
Architect: Unknown

Atreus1

Cut-Away Reconstruction View

Atreus2

Reconstruction - Entrance Elevation

Atreus3

Current Entrance Elevation

Atreus4

Current Interior Elevation


Acropolis

Date: 5th Century BC
Location: Athens, Greece


Acropolis1

Aerial View

Reconstruction - Birds-eye View


The Parthenon

Date: 447-432 BC
Location: Acropolis, Athens
Architect: Iktinus & Kallicrates
Supervising Sculptor: Phidias
Patrons: Pericles and the People of Athens

Parthenon1

Exterior

Parthenon2

Western Elevation

Parthenon3

Reconstruction - East Pediment

Reconstruction as it would have appeared in the 17th Century

Reconstruction - Interior View

Parthenon4

Elgin Marbles (East Pediment Sculptures) - Currently in the British Museum

Parthenon5

Detail of Sculpted Frieze Depicting the Panathenaic Procession

Parthenon6

Entablature Reconstruction


Propylaea

Date: 437-432 BC
Location: Acropolis, Athens
Architect: Mnesicles
Patrons: Pericles and the People of Athens

Birds-eye Reconstruction of Panathenaic Procession


Propylaea1

Reconstruction - Birds-eye View

Propylaea2

The Great Stair

Propylaea3

Propylaea with the Great Stair and the Temple of Athena Nike (Upper Right)

Propylaea4

Reconstruction - View from the Interior of the Propylaea into the Acropolis


The Erechtheion

Date: 421-405 BC
Location: Acropolis, Athens
Architect: Unknown


Erechtheion1

Reconstruction - Elevations

Labeled Plan

Reconstruction View

Erechtheion2

South Elevation

Erechtheion3

North Porch

Erechtheion4

East Elevation

Exterior View - Caryatid Porch


Temple of Apollo

Date: 300 BC-
Location: Didyma, Turkey
Architects: Paeonius & Daphnis


Apollo1

Reconstruction - Elevation

Apollo2

Reconstruction - Cut-Away View

Exterior View

Apollo3

Corridor to the Inner Sanctuary

Apollo4

Inner Sanctuary


The City of Priene

Date: 350BC
Location: Priene, Asia Minor
Architect: Unknown

Priene1

Reconstruction - Birds-eye View

Priene2

Plan of the City Center

Priene3

House Plans