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Essay on Ancient Greek Architecture

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Ancient Greece – The Classical Period

The history of ancient Greek society is a classic example in the world history of the collapse of family relations and of the development of particularly robust slave relations, which F. Engels characterizes as a necessary and important stage in the world-historical process. Sources provide enough information for the complexity and duration of this process, which started in the II millennium BC. In the first half of the 5th century BC on the other, a country that has undergone a constant struggle with the Persians and the reunification of the people’s forces. That’s how people got into feeling their high calling, the consciousness of their own, and the historical mission.

Fine art at the beginning of the 5th century BC has penetrated from the same spirit as the tragedies of Aeschylus. The form of the Dorian temple was indeed created in the 7th century, but the most perfect Dorian temples refer to the 5th century BC. In the Temple of Poseidon in Paestum and in the Temple of Aphaia on the Aigina Island. The original unassembled massiveness of the oldest peripheries gives a way to a more sophisticated power ratio, on a tenser dramatism. Here is strongly emphasized, the opposition carrying worn parts, the expression of raw strength and tranquility. By shifting the accents, traditional forms are filled with particular significance. The powerful, bulging columns that encircle like narrow hoop bodies, give the buildings the character of a centerpiece, what is the action of the surrounding choir in the tragedy. At the same time as the Greek tragedy, the beginning of the 5th century finds in self-restraining forces to be raised in a serious and perfect simplicity. This is clearly evident when we meet the Acropolis bark with the chariot of Delphi, one of the few original bronze statues of that time. The charioteer is a votive statue, part of the bigger, no saved group. He is right, standing in solemn immobility as if it does not notice the rule by his four horses. Unlike the analogous statues of the Ancient East, in the majesty of the Greek statue, there is nothing outrageous naturally; there is no suppressive force; in the slender silhouette of the figure expressed the power of the self-conscious person. With falling down diples of the garment and its smooth outline the figure is rising, similar to the characters of the Aeschylus tragedies, with the proud consciousness of own dignity. But this expression of force does not look like the naive gentleness of the smiley archaic resorts.

The face of the Charioteer of Delphi is not the focus of the overall design, but it shows the same significance and seriousness as the whole figure. In it, we find that combination of beauty and nobility, which the ancients called “kalokagathia’. Physical perfection yields thus its moral justification. The head of the Auriga is shaped in no more detail than in archaic statues, but all the facade of the person is perceived by sculpture more rationally. The head is more clearly defined as an oval, disturbed by the feeders only under the bandage curls. The border of the face and the face is clearly marked with the wide band playing the role of an entablature. The strongly protruding nose is a pivotal point in the construction of the whole face. On this most prominent part is opposed to the softer relief of the remaining parts. Full lips are pretty strong protruding, and the eyes and the heavy chin weaker, the hair is transmitted with incised lines. Such a nuanced figure is unfamiliar to the less-early sculpture. A remarkable work of classical Greek sculpture was discovered just a few decades ago a bronze statue of the god, probably on the thundering Poseidon lightning. By its basic purpose, that work goes a step further than the resorts. Here we see the volition of man, not the freedom fretted by anything, the life-giving physical force fully conforming to spiritual growth. But human is also an expression of the perfect. The power is justice, life is a law. Body and spirit, movement and balance are not put to one another. There is no trace in Poseidon’s head of the grim and oppressive expression of the deities of the Ancient East. One of the greatest sculptors of the 5th century is Phidias whose name is narrow related to the merging of two currents in the Greek classic, namely Myron and Polykleitos. The true merging of these currents was carried out in Attica during the short period when Athenians under the leadership of Pericles, dominated all over Greece. Mostly, the significant monument of this time is the Athenian Acropolis. In the history of the emergence and construction of the Athenian Acropolis, reflects the flowering of all Greek art from the 5th century BC the distant times of Mycenae culture, on its steep rocks, rose a royal palace. By affirming democracy, the Acropolis has become a place for society monuments and in the center of it was the Hekatompedon temple, decorated with colored statues.

During the Greco-Persian Wars, The acropolis suffered a lot, in a difficult time the Greeks abandoned the enemies who plundered his riches. Then the victory over the Persians, the Acropolis began mass construction, whose main success was determined by the sequence of a series of favorable circumstances. At that time, Greek art was has already reached full maturity, and has not encountered any difficulties in solving the tasks that were placed on him. That’s why we should not we are surprised that the builders of the Acropolis used the ancient artistic treasures half-destroyed by the Persians, including archaic statues, as a building material. They were confident that they will outperform their own precursors. Another essential condition for the successful construction of the Acropolis, or that, thanks to the sums paid by the Allies, the Athenian State Treasury had huge funds.

The construction of the Acropolis was done relatively briefly period: from 447 to 432 BC – the Parthenon; from 437 to 435.- the Propylaea and about 450 to 421 – the small temple of the wingless Nike; only the Erechtheion was built later time – 420 to 407. Built almost entirely new over the short period of blooming, the Acropolis reveals no distractions from no natural growth of Greek art in the second half of the 5th century. The Acropolis is characterized by a wide variety of its separate parts and, together with that, the inner unity of the free-floating whole. And today, the Acropolis buildings are still perceived as an exquisitely proportioned wreath on the mighty hill. The entrance of the Acropolis was on the west side. There was a road up there were crowds of Athenian citizens. First attracted the glances erected right next to the entrance of the Acropolis Propylaea, reminiscent of a temple facade. In the eyes of the Athenians towering powerful Dorian columns, flanked by both sides two wings of smaller and more exquisite Dorian columns. On the right, on the naturally exposed cliff rose the temple of Nike. It was placed under a slight diagonal and the silhouette, outlining clearly against the background of the sky, could be embraced by look. This first sight of the Acropolis acted unusually strong. Despite all its variety and freedom, the composition possesses unity.

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The parts of the architectural ensemble are connecting with each other by increasing volumes to the center, but every part, especially the little temple of Nike, was completed as an independent organism. Just now, in this Acropolis differed radically from all the other older temple ensembles, especially from the Egyptian, in which the individual buildings completely merged into one, but also from the early Greek sanctuaries, whose separate buildings were scattered in complete disorder. The visitor of the Acropolis saw all his buildings turned face to face and could imagine each of them alone for myself. With his gaze, he established the size of the little one a temple of Nike, who, when crossed, turned to him all your sides. The procession passed through the Propylaea. They also had front and back rear Dorian columns, but because of the climbing up inside the Propylene stairs, these columns were put on different heights. To associate the two Doric columns, the building itself was using slender Ionic columns, theirs the foundations coinciding in height with the lower Dorian columns, and their capitals with the higher ones. So the bold was justified a combination of the Dorian and Ionian orders and achieved diversity without sacrificing unity. The composition of Propylaea was three-part: after the mighty maestoso, it followed a spectacular allegro, and the whole ends with the calm Andante. In his movement through the Acropolis, the spectator met with countless new impressions. When he entered the Propylaea and turned back, he could see the backdrop of the distant mountain chain through the mighty Dorian columns; the little toy temple of victory, all surrounded by air and light. Immediately after the Propylaea, however, the spectacular revealed panorama of the Acropolis sanctuaries. She stared through her eyes at the colossal statue of Athena Promachos, which, with the golden peak of his spear was a beacon for the ships approaching Piraeus and which almost covered the little Erechtheion.

The array was on the right on the main and most majestic building of the Acropolis – Parthenon. His bony position would not have been accidental; then, it should soon have helped the viewer to catch a glance at not only the facade but also the entire volume of the building. Because of the same, the entrance was placed from the east side, so that, to see Athena Parthenos, the mistress of the great temple, the procession had to circumnavigate the temple on its north side and to be enjoying the beauty of his flawless forms. But the Parthenon is remarkable not only as a unit in the common architectural impact of the Acropolis. It is one of its kind and a very unique masterpiece of Greek architecture. Here’s the type of Greek temple over which creation has worked generations, and has received its most sublime and wonderful interpretation. Thus, the Parthenon preserves the form of the traditional Dorian perimeter; a three-step foundation, columns with fluted, entablature with metopes, and a two-sided roof. But the Creators of the Parthenon have freely transformed these traditional forms. With its eight columns on its short and seventeen on the long sides, the temple is larger in size than most Dorian temples, and in particular the Paestum temple. Only this has already led to a greater lightening of architectural forms. Indeed, the Parthenon columns are considerably smaller, slender, and inter-columns wider than in Doric temples. They do not look so massive and they rise in intensity up, almost like Ionic columns. The cornice is not released like this much above them and its shade is much smaller. The walls of the whole were decorated with a frieze, and this gives the temple an even more exquisite appearance. All these deviations from the canon were insignificant, but the sight of Greeks noticed them.

The architectural thinking of the Greek builders is clearly revealed in the capitals of the Propylaea. The shape of the Ionian capital is which originated in the Asia Minor cities, apparently as a variant of the eastern plant motif. In the oldest capitals the volutes are disproportionately large compared to the thin body of the column and have planar character; in the capitals of the Propylaea, plastic. With their slightly hanging cribs, they emphasize the true purpose of the capital, and the power of the pressure of an entablature lying on it. These capitals do not are meant for a close heart; they reveal their whole beauty only in perspective shortening. The alternation of plates, rollers, grooves, and grooves give a special charm, exquisite to the Dorian capitals and more varied in shape. In compliance with the classical requirements, however, all these details are subordinate to the single composition. The theatre of Dionysus at the foot of the Acropolis dates back to later times. Greek theatres from the 5th century BC are almost unchanged. One of the finest Greek theatres is believed to be Epidaurus (4th century). About the difference from the theatre of modern times, the Greek was closely related to ritual. Usually, they were built near sanctuaries, dedicated to God Dionysus.

The places where the deity appeared were appropriately adapted for spectacular purposes. That explains the fact that in Greek theatres the connection with the Greek theatre is so clearly expressed in nature, even though the Greeks did save it everywhere and everywhere in their understanding of an art form. They were usually lifting up the heater on the slope of a rather steep hill from where it was discovered wide view of the surroundings; removing the ‘superfluous’ from the array, the builders built concentric circles for the locations of viewers. In the center there was a circular playground – orchestra, where an altar originally stood; the choir was later on. Behind the orchestra was a building, the so-called. Sketch, whose Front side served as background to dramatic action; later a temporary wooden wall was erected before the sketch. Curtain, separating viewers from the scene, decorations creating the illusion of another world, and artificial lighting, flooding the scene with a fairy tale light – everything we used to be today was unknown to the Greeks. At first, the choir and the actors stood on the same plane, and the viewers were straight to the ground. The action took place under the open sky. The circular orchestra, like a skyscraper, expresses the cosmic nature of what was happening there. Only the flat proscenium to which the viewers’ places were turned and where the actors acted, implied the opposite between the viewer and the theatre, between the real world and the art world … The art of the 5th century BC is the highlight of the art development of Greece. Great successes have been achieved before, but unlike the Egyptian masters who use one and forever an established canon, Greek art, strived for continuity progress, and perfection. Despite its full depth, their best work, they kept their extraordinary freshness and immediacy of perception. In art, the Greek masters, have seen an image of the light of the whole nation, and important public affairs; trying to make their wisdom in artistic images and were confident they could do that with the means of art. Greek artists drew the themes from everywhere – from the ancient tradition, the past, and the life of their time. Art responds to the different needs of man. The classical language of the classics is characterized by its simple common understanding that will always attract the sympathies of the offspring. Classics have always kept that sense of measure, which the Greeks opposed to the boundless piquancy of the surplus of Eastern art.

All this has enabled the Greeks to create values ​​with world significance. The enormous importance of Hellenic culture in the 5th century knew the contemporaries and their closest descendants. Not by accident, even in the period of decline Athens admired its temples, the works of art, and admitted that it is worthy to rule not only over the Hellenes but also over the world. However, the cultural and artistic achievements of Greece in the 5th century had their borders. The evolution of classics has not taken place within the city-states meaningfully. In the conditions of slavery, the Greeks did not manage to rise to the recognition of equality among all people. But to all their sociability, the ancient Greeks believed that the highest task of man is knowledge of oneself. It is for this purpose that Greek art has acquired and reached such completeness and perfection that they would not soon become once again accessible to people, and created such works that will always awaken admiration and wonder. But the development could not stop with what you have achieved here. It was enough to slip in doubts in man’s consciousness and wake up in him to stand up and look around, and to know the world around you in all its diversity. This desire intensified the receptivity it gave him the need to move and shouted for the life of new rhythms. All this has determined its further legitimacy in the natural evolution of art, the search for a new harmony in other conditions and in other forms.


  1. Beard, Mary. The Parthenon. Harvard University Press, 2003.
  2. Boardman, John. Greek Art. 4th ed., Thames & Hudson, 1996.
  3. Boedeker, Deborah Dickmann, and Kurt A Raaflaub. Democracy, Empire, And The Arts In Fifth-Century Athens. Harvard University Press, 2003.
  4. Connelly, Joan Breton. The Parthenon Enigma: A Journey Into Legend. Head Of Zeus, 2014.
  5. Hurwit, Jeffrey M. The Athenian Acropolis: History, Mythology, And Archaeology From The Neolithic Era To The Present. Cambridge University Press, 2000.
  6. Hurwit, Jeffrey M. The Acropolis In The Age Of Pericles. University Press, 2004.
  7. Meier, Christian. Athens: A Portrait Of The City In Its Golden Age. Pimlico, 2000.
  8. Posner, Ernst. Archives In The Ancient World. Harvard University Press, 1972.
  9. Rostovtzeff, Michael Ivanovitch. The Social And Economic History Of The Hellenistic World. 1st ed., Oxford University Press, 1986.
  10. Stewart, Andrew. Classical Greece And The Birth Of Western Art. 1st ed., Cambridge University Press, 2008.

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