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Inmy essay I plan on dealing with the various aspects of the architecture of theGreek and the Roman temples that they built in ancient times, from; the form,the materials that were used, the technology and the siting of the templesbuilt by the ancient Greeks and Romans.

Under each aspect I hope to compare andcontrast the two differing styles of the Greeks and the Romans and how thesedifferences and similarities affected the buildings which they created.  ‘Thetemple represents the flower of Greek architecture.’ (Wycherley, 1962, p. 87)The Greeks built their temples in what would be considered the classicalarchitectural style. Logic and order were at the heart of Greek architecture.Mathematics determined the symmetry as this was their way of creating buildingswhich were pleasing to the eye, the Greeks believed that mathematics would leadto the optimum visual effect. Luxurious shrines contained peripteral temples, which were built in the typical oblong style of mostGreek temples, with the temple being roughly twice as long as it was wide.

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Themajority of the temples built were quite small, ranging from 10m to 30m,however some temples like the Parthenon were 60m long and 30m wide. A few wereeven greater than 100m long and 50m wide. The typical floor plan of the templeconsisted of a colonnade of columns on all four sides, a front and a backporch. The front porch was called a pronaos and the back porch was called anopisthodomos. The Greek temples contained a main room called a cella whichcontained an altar for religious purposes, and sometimes one or twoantechambers which served the purpose of storage for the gifts and offerings ofthe people. The temples consisted of a masonry base which served to raise thetemple above the surrounding land, bringing them closer to their gods andserving to signify it’s importance. The base usually consisted of three steps,the lower two steps were called the stereobate and the top step was called thestylobate. The colonnade of columns that surrounded the temple were primarilybuilt in the form of the Ionic and Doric order, with the most decorative featurebeing the fluting along the columns, the purpose of this was because the Greekspreferred to keep their design fairly simple but still have it signify strengthin every element of it, similarly the architrave was always kept plain, with nodecorative or ornamental features carved in to it as a way of signifying it’sstrength.

However while quite plain these elements were still known for theirbeauty which came from its grandeur and nobility. Greek ornament was used moreas an applied in their temples, especially when compared to the Romans whothoughtlessly and vulgarly used ornamental features in their design. This styleor ornament was to become a favourite in later centuries, right up until thetwentieth century. The Greeks built their temples in quite a free and moreadaptable architectural style than the Romans, which were typically highlyelaborate both in their design and their architectural planning. The Greeksdiffered from the Romans in that they built with more common sense thanplanning, thus resulting in buildings of less complexity but very well made.Early Greek temples were built with a flat roof supported by columns, but afterthe start of walls being made from stone the Greeks moved to build roofs with aslight slope.

 ‘The Greeks hadnothing to equal the basilicas and other great vaulted or domed structures ofthe Romans.’ (Wycherley, 1962, p. 120) When it comes to the form of the Romantemples, it is clear that their style of temple architecture drew a lot ofinspiration from the temple architecture that the Greeks had developed over thecenturies. It is quite apparent in the temples that they built that the Greekshad been a large influence on them as they designed their temples, from thelarge use of columns, even though structurally they weren’t necessary anymore,the fact that their temples contained a main room which was called a cella andwhich contained an altar for religious ceremonies.

Also the basic design wasquite similar with primarily rectangular bases in plan and pitches roofs.However where the Romans came into their own architecturally was in the waythat they developed the basic designs and ornaments of their temples. Unlikethe Greeks, the Romans did not feel that the temples should be plain buildings,instead they felt that the more elaborate features would better allow them torepresent and worship their gods. The Romans retained the basic elements thatthe Greeks had in their temples. Such as raising the temple on a podium, withsteps leading up to its main function area, columns surrounding the temple, amain function room and minor rooms for storage.

However the Romans developedthese basic elements to be both more practical for the use of the temple and tobe an overall more beautifully designed building. In the case of the raisedpodium, the Romans made it a greater height and created a number of roomsunderneath the temple to be used for storage among other things, they alsochanged the Greeks design of the surrounding steps, with a single staircase atthe front leading to the porch. The Romans were also quite against the use ofDoric and Ionic columns, as they were considered too plain and instead theRomans almost always used the Corinthian order when it came to their columns.The Romans continued to use decoration in other areas and features of theirtemples, so much so that in the end it was not tolerated to have any wall,column or other feature bare. Noticeably the architrave, a feature always keptclean by the Greeks as a way to emphasize the strength of the temple waseventually covered over in Roman decoration. Eventually the Romans began toincorporate round structures into their temples as they provided and appealinggrace and pleasing ornamental element not found in the architectural style ofthe Greeks. In many Roman temples we can see both the survival of the essentialGreek form and the typical Roman changes. For example the raised podium with astaircase leading up to the portico, another example is switch from a colonnadeof columns to the engagement of the columns along the side walls of the cella,also in some cases the end of the cella is semi-circular in shape and vaultedin concrete, as seen in the Temple of Venus, in Rome and Baths of Diana, inNimes.

 When it came to thesiting of their temples, both the Greeks and the Romans had similar reasoningbehind where they placed their temples, which was mainly driven by a sacred purpose. Inthe case of the Greeks the temple was placed within the boundaries of theirsacred shrine. The shrines were not locations of a religious merit but insteadwere sanctified because of their physical features, such as caves, hill-tops,the sea, or were sanctified as a result of the grave of their king or deadheroes. Similarly with the Romans, their sites were chosen for sacred purposes.The placement of their first temple was on Capitoline Hill, was ‘set there bydivine intelligence.’ (Kostof, 1995, p.191) Titus Livius recalled how a humanhead was discovered in a ditch during the building of this first Roman temple,”with all the features in perfect condition. There could be no doubt that thediscovery meant that this place would be at the head of the empire and theworld.

” The Romans based their sacred locations in order to connect them to orbring them closer to the gods that they worshipped. These locations in turnbecame central to the siting of their temples. TheGreek temple’s construction and design was very much based on the raw materialswhich were available locally.

While Greece did not have many forests native toits’s land, it was fortunate that it had limestone in plentiful supply and highquality white marble was also readily available. Large deposits of clay whichwas necessary for roof tiles and architectural and sculptural decoration werealso spread through the country. However before 650BCE no Greek temples werebuilt using finished stone, but as a result of a reestablishment of trade linksbetween Greece and the Egypt the Greek designers and masons came to anunderstanding and familiarity with Egypt’s stone building and constructionmethods. This resulted in monumental architecture and sculpture becoming widelyused in Greece.

In the later part of the 7th century slowly therewas a replacement of wooden structures with stone structures. During thisperiod of change the Greek architects decided to create a basic architecturaltemplate for the design of their temples and other important public buildings.The first order developed was the Doric Order, this was later followed by theIonic Order and then the Corinthian Order, each one with its own set of ruleson the characteristics and sizes for the columns, upper facades and decorativefeatures for their buildings. The Greeks mainly used limestone for the mainstructural features of the temples, such as the columns, pillars and the walls,terracotta for the roof tiles and marble was used for ornamentation. Usuallythere was an architect who oversaw the build of each temple, and wasresponsible for each aspect of the build, from the masons, to the labourers, tothe sculptors and the painters. When it came to the actual construction of thetemple, the stone that was used was precisely cut by the master stone masons sothat the stone blocks would all fit perfectly into place without the need forthe use of mortar.

Once the blocks were cut they were then hoisted into theirpositions by large labour forces. The temples were built with a masonry base.While the Greeks underwent the process of switching to stone constructiontemples began to be given masonry walls, made out of local stone rubble, thecella and any antechambers were also made from stone.

The earlier Greek templeswere designed and built with a flat thatched roof as a result of the columnsbeing unfit to carry greater weights. But after the walls began to be builtfrom stone the Greeks were able to design and build temples with slightlysloped roofs which were built using ceramic terracotta tiles as the walls wereable to carry heavier loads. While it was common knowledge among the Greekarchitects about the “arch” and the “vault” as building techniques, the Greeksused them rarely, if ever. Instead of using these methods the Greeks opted forthe use of the “post and lintel” technique, which involved the use of verticaluprights, either columns or post, and supporting horizontal beams, the lintel.This Method is known to date back to the earliest Greek temples and while thismethod did work, it wwas quite a primitive construction method of roofing as itrequired the use of a large number of columns or posts for support. The stonecolumns themselves were made up of a number of smaller pieces which were setone on top of the other with no use of mortar, however in some cases they werelocked together with the use of bronze pegs.

The columns usually narrowed asthey got nearer to the top. However the Greeks noticed that the columns lookedas though they were concaved and weak, so to fix this the columns were built sothat the thickest part of the column was about one third of the way up. Theroof of the temple is supported by the entablature, it was made up of a seriesof tiers and was supported by the columns. Theearliest built buildings of the ancient romans were built using a materialknown as tuff, which was a volcanic rock which varied in its hardness and wasable to be worked using bronze tools. As the Romans developed their buildingsand construction methods, they began to use harder locally available stonessuch as albani. Then the Romans progressed to the use of limestone, the typethey used was called travertine and was mined in Tivoli.

The Romans used marblepurely for decorative and ornamental purposes, like facing or sometimesmosaics. The Romans made use of various coloured marbles and other stones,which we can see in the remains of Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli. Before the Greeksinfluenced the architectural style and construction techniques of the Romans,they were firstly influenced by the construction methods of the Etruscans, whowere known for their use of the ‘arch’ and the ‘vault’. These techniquesbrought the direction of Roman engineering far away from the Greeks who usedthe ‘post and lintel’ method in the construction of their temples. The Romanshad three techniques when it came to vaulting, all of which used simplegeometric forms. The techniques were; the semi-circular barrel vault, thesegmental vault and the groin vault.

Their vaults were usually covered withtiles. Eventually the vault was further developed by the Romans to the ‘dome’. Thedome technique opened up new possibilities to the Roman architects as they werenow able to create large open spaces in their temples, an example of which isHadrian’s Pantheon in Rome. These techniques were enhanced further upon theRoman’s development of concrete.  Thetemples that were built by the Greeks and Romans help to give us small glimpsesinto the structure of their society.

In the case of the Greeks it is clear thatthey highly valued nature and the earth, as their choice of siting was as aresult of the natural features that existed on those locations. Also it isobvious that intellect was a major part of their society, because the design oftheir buildings were based of mathematics, which they believed would help themto achieve the most eye-pleasing temple possible, also all of theirconstruction techniques came very much out of common sense and logic. They alsodid not believe that a building had to be overly complex or ornamental in orderfor it to be considered beautiful, instead simplicity and strength werefeatures that were more desired by the Greeks. The Romans however were a verydifferent society with very different values to that of the Greeks.

Religionwas clearly of high importance to the Romans as they went to great lengths inorder to insure that their temples were sited and designed in a way that wouldin their mind be the best way of honouring their gods. They highly regarded beautyin their society, going to great lengths to make all features of their templeshighly decorative and elaborate. The Romans were also great intellects as theywere able to take techniques and building methods of other cultures and developthem greatly, to the extent that the techniques and the methods, as well as thematerials that they developed are still in use to this day. 


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