Prominence of Ancient Landmarks and Religious Spaces of Power in Ancient Egypt: Analytical Essay

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1.0 Introduction

Historical spaces are significant as they allow individuals to thoroughly comprehend and make sense of current spaces. Kevin McCloud, a British designer states, “I cannot look at modern buildings without thinking of historical ones” (Brainy Quote, 2002). Ancient monumental spaces can be discerned from 2600 BCE in Egypt, where the first identified architect in history was located (Benge, 2017). Ancient Greece and Egypt invented practices, techniques, and more specifically, the underlining of the development of structures that can withstand the test of time. Deriving out of excessive manual constructions using local and natural materials for sacred spaces, to the development of present technologies and procedures, ancient landmarks still continue to influence modern structures through the conceptualization of the old and new. The purpose of this essay is to analyse the effects of ancient landmarks on modern spaces. It illustrates that the landmarks of archaic Greece and Egypt are consequential footprints in the history of architectural development throughout the world despite arising modern methodologies. Religious, cultural and geographical influences of ancient spaces of power will be analysed and compared to modern constructions.

2.0 Cultural & Religious Influences of Ancient Greece on Its Landmarks

One of the primary determinant on the formation of landmarks in ancient Greece is its cultural and religious beliefs that supplements further significance of the space. The civilization of ancient Greece surfaced during 800 B.C. when the Greek society was dominated by religion. In the book The Architecture of Ancient Greece by William Bell Dinsmoor, he explores the influences that shaped ancient Greek architecture and its origins. Dinsmoor explains that the religion was a combination of the worship of personified natural phenomena with that of deified heroes or ancestors worship (1975, p. 38). Moreover, within the 8th Century, a poet Homer Hesiod composed a poem called Theogony which explains how the gods and nature came to be (Paine, 2011, p. 25). The salient Greek gods such as Zeus, each embodied one of the forces of nature. Zeus was known to be the king of the gods that ruled earth and heaven, the god who produced storm, darkness and rain. Hencethe imaginative sentiments of the Greeks towards their gods has resulted in the practice of expressing the symbolic definitions, attributes and achievements of who they worshipped in marble or bronze sculptures (Dinsmoor & Anderson, 1975 p. 39) . Temples and sanctuaries devoted to Greek gods, as shown in Figure 1, weren’t built until these divinities were personified and embodied in statues of considerable sizes. For instance, there were no temples at Olympia, the home of Zeus, until 700 B.C. (Dinsmoor & Anderson, 1975, p. 40). It is apparent that the landmarks of archaic Greece were formed to be spaces of power that were shaped through cultural and religious beliefs, additionally, its geographic location is also as equally important.Figure 1: Olympian Zeus in the sculptured antique art of Quatremere de Quincy in Olympia’s main temple (Quincy, 1815). Statue being 12m high.

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2.1 Geographic Influences of Ancient Greece on Landmarks

The geographic site of ancient Greece has impacted the way Greeks created their sacred spaces. Archaic Greeks produced some of the most distinctive spaces through the use of locally sourced materials. Temples were created of marble at Athens, and of limestone at Paestum and Corinth (Dinsmoor & Anderson, 1975, p. 8). Mainland Greece is composed of a vast array of high mountain peaks. The relation between the environment, the Greek race and their expression in art is identified through circumstances such as extensive prowess, the lightness and invigorating properties of their atmosphere; the clay, fine limestone, and marble; these and other similar sources affected the ancient Greek space designs. Furthermore, during the 6th century comes the rise of the Doric style, one of the three classical orders in which differ in shapes of columns and frieze were set down by ancient Greece [Figure 2]. The Doric temples were constructed in stone (Samuels, 2014 p. 10), encapsulating the gradual standardization of the order such as the Parthenon, a space of worship at the time [Figure 3]. They were usually built with soft limestone taken from various local quarries. However, on account of the scarcity of marble within the Dorian region; the limestone was covered with a fine coating of stucco to fill in the crevices of the limestone; secondly, to smooth and refine; thirdly to provide a suitable round to enrich in colour (Dinsmoor & Anderson, 1975 p. 70). The temples of the archaic Greek period possessed varied characteristics as different localities influenced the developments of the buildings as well as religious and cultural beliefs. This indicates the importance of its imprints in historical records, implying that spaces are derived from essential aspects of existence. Similarly, ancient Egypt has also influenced the history of architectural development.Figure 2: Column of the Temple of Athena Pronaea at Delphi (Dinsmoor, 1975 p. 73)

Figure 3: Athens: Parthenon, from the Northwest. (Dinsmoor, 1975 plate XXXVIII)

3.0 Cultural & Religious Influences of Ancient Egypt on Its Landmarks

Landmarks of ancient Egypt were also influenced by cultural and religious beliefs. Before paradigm shift, there was ancient Egypt which began in 3100 B.C, when culture was pervaded by religion. Egyptian religion in ancient times were identified as polytheistic. Society consisted of the gods, the Pharaohs and mankind (Baines & Malek, 1980 p. 210). In comparison to Greek gods, Egyptians deities had initially appeared in shape of animals and later assumed human form while retaining the head of animal (Smith & Simpson, 1998 p. 4). In the course of the old kingdom (2686 BC to 2181 BC), Egyptians began to construct pyramids as tombs for the Pharaohs and queens [Figure 4]. Temples were places of worship such as the Abu Simbel, temple of Ramesses II Dynasty XIX [Figure 5], with four colossal seated statues of Ramesses II on the facade, along with smaller standing statues of relatives by his legs as it was believed that an individual would not exist in the afterlife unless his/her image was in the form of statue (Teeter, 2011 p. 4). Additionally, temples are spaces where Egyptians performed rituals and practices in conjunction to the belief of reincarnation, death, and life after death. In the book, Religion and Ritual in Ancient Egypt, the author emphasized that “temples were the dramatic settings for the performance of the rituals essential for the maintenance of the cosmos which formed the main dialogue between the realms of human and god” (Teeter, 2011 p. 41). Most of these rituals took form of offerings from the king to the gods. Egyptian culture were manifestation of religious beliefs which shaped its buildings that functioned in the context of religion using its own geographic area as source.

3.1 Geographic Influences of ancient Greece on Landmarks

Despite the belief of ancient Egypt having been divided into two distinct geographical sections, the black land and the vast red land (Wilson, 1956 p. 8); these two sectors shaped the way ancient Egyptians developed and used their buildings. Ancient Egypt was located in North-Eastern Africa having hot, dry desert climate with minimum rainfall. It is also where the longest river in the world is located called the Nile River, a focal point of ancient Egypt (Baines & Malek, 1980 p. 14). The Nile River was a primary source for many survival and creative aspects in the ancient Egyptian culture as people could not live in the desert areas, west of the river. Although much of ancient life took place in the Nile Valley, the vast expanses of desert “red land” had valuable resources. Egyptians used resources they discovered in the desert areas such as gold, gemstones and salts. They also mined for large blocks of stone, including sandstone, limestone, basalt and granite (Waldron, 2015 p. 24). While domestic buildings were made of mud bricks from riverbanks, Ancient Egyptians used their discoveries of different stones to build structures of importance such as temples and pyramids that contained tombs including the three Giza pyramids [Figure 6]. Egyptians also discovered that the hot, arid land was an eminent place to preserve bodies of their rulers considering that the Nile River would cause destruction during flood season (Waldron, 2015 p. 24). Geography was a significant factor that allowed Egyptian society and culture to flourish. The natural resources [Figure 7] of the ancient Egyptian land shaped the types of buildings that enabled them to construct great tombs, temples and monuments. In like manner, landmarks from both ancient Greece and Egypt have shaped the modern approach in establishing the form of buildings.

Figure 4: The Step Pyramid of King Djoser, Dynasty III, at Sakkara. (Kemp, 1989 p. 71)

Figure 5: Abu Simbel, Temple of Ramesses II. Dynasty XIX. (Smith & Simpson, 1958 p. 209)

Figure 6: The three Pyramids of Giza of the 4th Dynasty. The shame of pyramid surfaced and created by King Sneferu, 2686 – 2667 BC. (Baines and Malek, 1980 p. 156).

4.0 Influences of Ancient Greece and Egypt on Modern Architecture

Landmarks from ancient Greece and Egypt are significant spaces as they have shaped the architectural evolution throughout different countries. Although has been thousands of years since these time periods. The religious, cultural and geographical influences that resulted in the making of significant spaces for gods and rulers within ancient Greece and Egypt has helped evolve the current design styles. Firstly, the religious spaces of ancient Greece introduced proportional design, columns, friezes and pediments with incorporation of sculptures which gives its style a unique character. Columns were used to create porches outside Greek temples (Samuels, 2014 p. 13). As mentioned prior, archaic Greeks developed the three orders. The photo below [Figure 8] shows the Ionic order being used on the White House in Washington DC. The Ionic order includes columns with bases, scrolled capitals and a solid sculpted or plane frieze (Dinsmoor, 1985 p. 125). Similar to ancient Greece landmarks, the Ionic order and colonnade is incorporated within space of power in the modern era. Secondly, ancient Egyptians constructed magnificent stone building as place to worship their gods and to contain tombs for their deceased rulers for preservation purposes – the pyramids and temples. The monumental structured spaces of ancient Egyptians have stimulated innumerable individuals including architects (Tyldesly, 2011). In particular, the form of pyramid have had great influence on modern architecture and can be seen in multiple distinguished structures like illustrated through the entrance to Louvre museum built in glass which emphasises the power of the space [Figure 9]. Corresponding to the ancient Egyptians pyramids, the Louvre hold significant evidence of the past as it displays over 35,000 masterpieces one of them being the Mona Lisa. It is evident that the landmarks of ancient Greece and Egypt have made a considerable impact in the modern world of architecture.

Figure 7: A photograph displaying the scale and materials sourced locally. It emphasises the durability and importance of the space. (Baines and Malek, 1980 p. 156).

Figure 9: Louvre Museum, Paris, with the pyramid entrance (Zelasko, n.d)

Figure 8: North front of the White House, c. 1800. (The White House Historical Association, 1860)

5.0 Conclusion

Having the knowledge and understanding of historic evidence allows individuals to critically analyse and evaluate different aspects of landmarks, potentially producing unique spaces. Landmarks from ancient Greece and Egypt were made for cultural and religious purposes that consisted worshipping gods in sacred spaces. Additionally, the geographical area of ancient Greece and Egypt played a substantial role in the forms and materials of their structures. Having the vast desert in ancient Egypt, Egyptians were able to preserve deceased rulers, whereas the landmarks in ancient Greece were located in mountain peaks which contained qualities of their environment. Spaces of power are often cultural, and at times religious symbols. Time periods, cities and cultures are known by their monumental spaces. While the current focus is on new development and buildings, spaces today still embrace qualities from the past. It is clear that the architectural history of ancient Greece and Egypt are influential to the modern period.

6.0 Reference List

  1. Paine, M. (2011). Ancient Greece. Harpenden, England: Pocket Essentials. Retrieved From https://www.library.qut.edu.au/
  2. Quirke, S. (2014). Exploring Religion in Ancient Egypt, Chichester, United Kingdom: John Wiley and Sons Ltd. Retrieved from https://www.library.qut.edu.au/
  3. Teeter, E. (2011). Religion and ritual in ancient Egypt. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved From https://www.library.qut.edu.au/
  4. Wilson, J. (1956). The culture of ancient Egypt (First Phoenix edition). Chicago, [Illinois]: The University of Chicago Press. Retrieved From https://www.library.qut.edu.au/
  5. Kevin McCloud Quotes. (2002). BrainyQuote.com, N/A. Retrieved From https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/kevin_mccloud_526571
  6. Benge, A. V. (2017, September 26). The First Architect in History [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.theclassroom.com/the-first-architect-in-history-13654587.html
  7. Tyldesley, Dr. J (2011, February 17). Ancient Egypt and the Modern World [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/egyptians/egypt_importance_01.shtml
  8. Dinsmoor, W., & Anderson, W. (1975). The architecture of ancient Greece: an account of its historic development (3rd revised ed.). London: Batsford. Retrieved From https://www.library.qut.edu.au/
  9. Smith, W., & Simpson, W. (1998). The art and architecture of ancient Egypt (Rev. with additions / by William Kelly Simpson.). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Retrieved From https://www.library.qut.edu.au/
  10. Samuels, C. (2014). Technology in ancient Greece. New York, NY: Gareth Stevens Publishing. Retrieved from https://www.library.qut.edu.au/
  11. Waldron, M. (2015). Geography matters in ancient Egypt. London: Raintree. Retrieved From https://www.library.qut.edu.au/
  12. Kemp, B. (1989). Ancient Egypt : anatomy of a civilization. London: Routledge. Retrieved from https://www.library.qut.edu.au/
  13. Baines, J., & Malek, J. (1980). Atlas of ancient Egypt. New York, N.Y: Facts on File Publications. Retrieved from https://www.library.qut.edu.au/

7.0 List of Figures

  1. Figure 1
    1. Unknown, (n.d.). Statue of Zeus at Olympia. [Image]. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statue_of_Zeus_at_Olympia
  2. Figure 2
    1. Dinsmoor, W., & Anderson, W. (1975). Column of the Temple of Athena Pronaea at Delphi. Retrieved https://www.library.qut.edu.au/
  3. Figure 3
    1. Dinsmoor, W., & Anderson, W. (1975). Athens: Parthenon, from the Northwest. Retrieved From https://www.library.qut.edu.au/
  4. Figure 4
    1. Kemp, B. (1989). The Step Pyramid of King Djoser, Dynasty III, at Sakkara, looking north-west. Retrieved From https://www.library.qut.edu.au/
  5. Figure 5
    1. Smith, W., & Simpson, W. (1998). Abu Simbel, Temple of Ramesses II. Dynasty XIX. Retrieved from https://www.library.qut.edu.au/
  6. Figure 6
    1. Baines, J., & Malek, J. (1980). Giza. Retrieved From https://www.library.qut.edu.au/
  7. Figure 7
    1. Baines, J., & Malek, J. (1980). Norden, Travels in Egypt and Nubia. Retrieved From https://www.library.qut.edu.au/
  8. Figure 8
    1. White House Historical Collection (1860). Architecture: 1790s-1840s. Retrieved From https://www.whitehousehistory.org/architecture-1790s-1840s
  9. Figure 9
    1. Zelazko, A (n.d.). Louvre Museum | Facts, History, Collections, & Pyramid. Retrieved From https://www.britannica.com/topic/Louvre-Museum
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Prominence of Ancient Landmarks and Religious Spaces of Power in Ancient Egypt: Analytical Essay. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 16, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/prominence-of-ancient-landmarks-and-religious-spaces-of-power-in-ancient-egypt-analytical-essay/
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