© Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
Doric temple dedicated to Athéna
Doric temple dedicated to Athéna
The Greeks of the traditional time thought that the Mycenaean citadels had been built by giants, the Cyclops; their own architectural aspirations are expressed however on a less monumental mode and more refined. If the Greeks developed their art in the construction of the temples and, later, of the public edifices, their own houses preserve, on the other hand, always a great sobriety. The first of them, out of hardcores or bricks of believed ground, comprise often only one part and a porch directed in the south. Their flat roofs out of ground or are covered with thatch; the use of the clay tiles appears only in the middle of the VII E front century J. - C. The first temples resemble dwellings: they are indeed the houses (oikoi) gods. However, contrary to the residences of the Greeks, they are surrounded by colonnades which form a sheltered gallery (the peristyle), and are covered with terracotta, painted merry colors, intended to protect the upper parts out of wooden. The vestiges of the temples of Thermos flask (Etolie) and Samos make it possible to recall the evolution of these first buildings. Egypt, which inspires to the Greeks their first monumental sculptures, gives to the latter the idea to very build temples hones some, whose ornamentation obeys well defined diagrams: orders.
The oldest capitals of columns - discovered in Smyrna, in Eastern Greece, and dating from the end of the VII E front century J. - C. - must much with Syrian architecture. Their thick drums are decorated carved sheets which overlap, sometimes associated with volutes. It is in first half of the Life century that appears the ionic capital, recognizable with its large volutes resting on a belt of decorative reasons. The barrels of the columns, decorated grooves, are based on profiled bases. This order develops in Ionie and in the Greek islands to the VI E century (in particular in Ephèse and Samos), in Athens and in the remainder of Greece with the O C century. The upper parts of the ionic buildings are relatively simple; they comprise sometimes dentils and a carved plank.
The Doric order, more austere, is a creation of continental Greece. The first representative temples were built in Olympie, Corinthe and Corfou. The columns do not have basic and the capitals are made of widened discs (spines) surmounted square plates (abacuses); the upper parts divide, above an architrave simple, in métopes rectangular (who can be painted or carved) separated by triglyphes higher than broad. This order is a free translation, in the stone, of reasons which decorated buildings out of wooden initially. At the traditional age, the doric columns have grooves with the arrises, whereas those of the ionic columns more (generally twenty-four instead of twenty) and are separated by a flat part.
The ionic capitals, equipped with two faces, one with before and the other with the back (contrary to the doric capitals), posed problems with the angles, which led the architects to design the Corinthian capital, at the end of the O C century. This one has the shape of a basket (or a reversed bell) decorated with sheets of acanthus and decorated with the angles of small volutes. In many buildings, and in particular the temples, the order used conditions the style of external decoration.
The Greek temple is before a whole building intended to shelter a pertaining to worship statue, and not a gathering place for a religious community. It honors the god, but also the city, which thus posts its richness and its size. Generally built out of marble, the temples are surrounded by colonnades external built according to one of the great architectural orders cities previously (doric, ionic or Corinthian). Certain small temples have columns only in frontage; others, on the other hand (in Minor Asia and Sicily), comprise not only one peristyle on all their circumference, but also several spans of columns on the front, and sometimes on the back. The central part (concealed) can also contain colonnades on two levels which give to the statue an imposing architectural framework. The doors of the temples are generally directed in the east. The furnace bridges can be simple blocks monoliths, decorated volutes with the angles and mouldings, or take, as in Eastern Greece, a more monumental character, while trônant on an elevated platform which one reaches by broad flights of steps.
The Parthenon and the temple of Héphaïstos to Athens are two very good examples of traditional temples. The refinement of their architecture is bound, inter alia, with the “optical correction” which the manufacturers carried out: no line is indeed truly vertical or horizontal, also, the building does not appear too cubic.
The treasures are small buildings resembling temples but having, generally, only one line of columns in frontage. In certain cases (in Delphes, and later in Erechthéion of Athens), the columns will be replaced by statues of women, the caryatids.
The auditorium of the Greek theater, cut with hillside, forms a “hemicycle”, whose size often exceeds the half-circle. It is composed of seats in steps laid out around a circular orchestra. From the IV E century, the plays are not played any more in the orchestra but on an elevated scene whose decoration grows rich gradually by various architectural refinements.
The public edifices intended to accommodate assemblies are rectangular. Their roofs are supported by interior colonnades laid out in a radial way. Let us odéons are used for the musical representations, the bouleutêria with the political meetings. The gantries (stoa), long covered colonnades, which had sometimes two stages, understood on the back of the lines of parts. Located on the sanctuaries or the places on the market; they could shelter gravers, courts and inns. Like the temples, these buildings testify to a great architectural diversity: they are built according to the Ionic order, doric or Corinthian.
The rare buildings in rotunda or with apse are generally sanctuaries, but it is not always the case: Tholos of Athens, for example, was a kind of club for politicians. The monumental tombs (like the Mausoleum) and the buildings in the shape of temple built on an elevated basis are characteristic of Eastern Greece starting from the IV E century. The houses become also more elaborate: they obtain with course with peristyle (as in Délos), grounds in mosaic and comprise sometimes stages.
Methods of construction and architectural decoration
In addition to the traditional orders, which govern the shape of the columns and the scheduling of the buildings, there exist many stereotyped decorative reasons. The entourages of doors are often decorated mouldings in wavelets (ogee mouldings), decorated, according to their form, of carved or painted reasons (oves or leaf and dart mouldings). On the buildings of the VI E and O C century, the clay coatings which still protect the rare elements out of wooden present also a large variety of decorative elements. Conversely, the Greek artists adapt architectural reasons, by modifying their scale, on pieces of furniture and small objects. This method is still used nowadays in work of the stone or wood.
The color plays a big role in the classical architecture, even if it remains about it hardly any more of trace. The mouldings and the capitals are raised of red, blue, green or gold. The structure of the Greek buildings is generally static, and the stones are solidarized by wood or iron, which is also useful (though) to seldom reinforce the beams. The arc is known, but hardly appreciated Greeks; the latter in did not build much. The bricks, dried with the sun, are used only for the buildings of less importance or certain parts of the walls of fortification.
The work of bronze
Apart from the marble and terracotta used respectively for monumental arts and ceramics, the Greeks make use of bronze for the large statuary, but also for the manufacture of small objects, like the mirrors. Their reflective surface is made of a disc of polished metal and their back sometimes decorated with engraved scenes, with the style rather close to that of paintings of vase. The Greeks also carry out vases as well as great bronze cuts. At the time antiquated, some of them are decorated planks illustrated in relief. Let us quote finally among the objects out of bronze, the helmets, sometimes worked by famous artists, and the plates intended for the decoration of the pieces of furniture. Bronze could be hammered and engraved cold, or run in moulds built starting from lost wax models.
Most Greek States currency before the end of the VI E front century J beat. - C. the preparation of the matrices requests all the talents of the engraver. The effigies, often in high relief, represent an animal, a divinity or, later, a royal character. Those of the Hellenistic time make it possible to identify the portraits of sovereigns being reproduced on other supports.
Work on the stones
The Greeks do not use the hard precious stones but they practice engraving on fine stone (primarily chalcedony and quartz) or on metal rings. At the time antiquated, the reason more the current is the Egyptian beetle and, during the traditional period, large the scarabéoïde, often assembled into hanging. The production of stones crimped in metal rings develops especially at the time Hellenistic; some of these parts, of an exceptional quality, carry the signature of famous artists (Epimène and Dexaménos, for example). Indeed, the large Greek sculptors do not scorn to work on this kind of stone, whereas with the Rebirth, this activity is given up by the artists with the profit of the craftsmen.
The artists improve their technique of manufacture of the jewels by relearning the East the complex techniques of gold goldsmithery: make in filigree, granulation and brazing of elaborate ornaments. The parts most furnished with decorative elements date from the antiquated time; they are especially the hanging ones of ear with heads of animals or monsters. Traditional goldsmithery is more sober but, in IVe century, appear the incrustations out of enamel and, at the time Hellenistic, the polished stones (garnet for example), crimped in gold. The bracelets finished by heads of animals are typical traditional age; they must much with the tradition Persian. In addition, some very worked containers, out of gold or money, arrived to us.
In the minor arts, the most current products are the terra cotta figurines. Most between them were at the same time discovered as the vases. Moulded in series, they seldom show originality. Nevertheless, the archeologists occasionally exhumed very decorative objects, manufactured for example in Corinthe or Rhodos, and in particular of the aryballes (perfume bottles). The latter, which date from the antiquated period, have the shape of animals or heads. These various objects come from houses, of tombs or of sanctuaries, some of them obviously were used as offerings.
Among the most known statuettes, it is necessary to quote the figurines known as of TANAGRA, which date from the Hellenistic time. They are very coloured studies elegant women. The majority are manufactured in continental Greece, but there exist also workshops in Eastern Greece, which carry out similar terra cotta.
The Greek artists also created plates in relief which had decorative or votive functions. It is the case of the traditional series of Milo, in Cyclades, and of Locri, in the south of Italy, which illustrates religious scenes related to the worship of Perséphone. At the time traditional, the craftsmen paint their statuettes after having cooked them. The adoption of this technique explains why almost all the nuances and colors disappeared.