« PreviousContinue »
openings in the raised sides lighted the grove of pillars to the right and the left by an oblique light which, intense in the
Section of central portion of Hypostyle Hall at Karnac. Scale 50 ft. to 1 in.
central avenue, was almost lost in the distance. The files of gigantic columns grew dim in the rear, their number seemed
endless, their ultimate boundary undefined, and enormous as was the structure, the skill of the designer magnified it immensely to the mind.
As the shape of the large piers in the centre of the hall was suggested by the papyrus in bloom, it was evidently thought
that there was a fitness in framing the smaller piers on the pattern of the papyrus in bud. The representation is conventional, but the intention was rendered apparent by the leaflets at the bottom of the capital or the shaft. In the earliest form of the plant-column several buds, with their stalks, are tied in a bundle, as in the pillar from the rock-cut tomb at Beni Hassan. The bands which fastened the cluster together were usually retained when the column was reduced to a single enormous stem, and there was nothing left to bind. There are two theories of the manner in which slender plants became the archetype for mighty props that exceed in their dimensions the giants of the forest. Wood is scarce in Egypt, and some suppose that reeds tied together were used for posts in slight structures, and were afterwards imitated in stone. Others maintain that since the plants were painted for ornament on the square piers which originally prevailed, and were next cut in relief, the decorative outline on the surface was finally adopted for the outline of the column itself. Whichever view is correct, the existing examples prove that the device followed the usual architectural rule, and was matured by degrees.
Pillar from Beni Hassan,
If,' says Herodotus of the Labyrinth in Egypt, all the walls and other great works of the Greeks could be put together in one they would not equal this either for labour or expense. pyramids, likewise, surpass description, and are severally equal to a number of the greatest works of the Greeks, but the Labyrinth surpasses the pyramids.' The army of labourers and artisans who reared the colossal buildings of the Egyptian kings were beyond the resources of the little States of Greece. Their large temples are late and exceptional structures. In the formation of their style they were obliged to renounce the impressions which depended on size, and seek for a substitute in the exquisite beauty of the smaller edifices within their means. Few things in the history of architecture are more instructive than the manner in which they attained their end.
They borrowed nearly all the fundamental parts of their system, but went on refining upon the originals until they had distanced every nation in artistic taste and skill.
Among the rock-hewn tombs at Beni Hassan in Middle Egypt there is one with a
portico, which plainly reveals whence the Greeks derived their Doric order. The fluted columns would naturally be educed from the square pier. The corners would be cut off when they stood in the way; the faces would soon be multiplied by repeating the
process, and when in a polygon of many sides the angles became so obtuse as to be barely perceptible, the grooves would be ploughed to restore sharpness to the edges, and give brilliancy to the pillars. In the Beni Hassan specimen the square cap or abacus rests immediately on the shaft without the interposition of the moulding or echinus which enters into the Doric of the Greeks. This, however, is present in other Egyptian examples, as in a capital from the southern temple at Karnac. The ligatures which bound the water-plants have been transferred to the fluted column where they have no significance, and to complete the evidence of the origin of the Grecian Doric, they reappear in the annuli at the top of its shaft. The Greek architecture was homogeneous in the midst of its varieties, which was due to the harmonising tact of the race, for the elements were gleaned from different quarters. It is not more clear that the Doric came from Egypt than that the Ionic order was an importation from Asia. The general con
From E. Falkener.
ception of a capital with volutes is seen Capital in Temple at Karnac. in the representation of a pavilion among the Assyrian sculptures brought from Khorsabad. The double tier of scrolls was rejected by the Greeks, and the lower half alone was retained. They had better guides than rude models
like the Assyrian bas-relief. The graceful shaft and distinctive flutings, together with the majority of the characteristic Ionic
ornaments, are all to be found at Nineveh or Persepolis.* The Corinthian order was equally borrowed. The capital em
Among the sculptures at Persepolis are representations of the king on a platform, which rests upon massive posts at the corners. Below the platform is a second floor, and below the second there is sometimes a third. On each of these under-floors stand a line of men who stretch from post to post, and with upraised hands touch lightly the floor above their heads. This is supposed by Mr. Fergusson to have suggested the Caryatides of the Greeks, which were only used with the Ionic order, and may reasonably be inferred to have been brought from the East with the other Ionic details. This opinion is confirmed by the rejection of the usual sloping roof of the Greek temple in the Caryatide portico of the Erechtheium at Athens, and the adoption of a flat roof, which resembles the Persepolitan platforms. Architecturally the figures at Persepolis do not support the floor. They are completely subordinate to the corner columns, and have been carefully contrived to avoid the appearance of the men being the real bearing power. They seem to have been merely symbolical, to express that the business of subjects was to uphold the throne, or the sculptures may have depicted the actual ceremony by which honour was paid on state occasions to the king. The Greeks improved upon the primitive Ionic with their usual consummate refinement, but they were not infallible, and when they made their Caryatides a substitute for columns they degenerated from the Persian arrangement. The notion of roofs being supported upon human heads is too unnatural to be agreeable, and no amount of merit in the execution could redeem the inherent defect of the conception.
ployed in the Tower of the Winds at Athens is an attenuated copy of one of the bell-shaped capitals of Egypt. The Greeks sometimes added a subdued and modified form of the Ionic volute, and the established Corinthian order became a combination of Asiatic and Egyptian types. Greece owed yet further obligations to Egypt. The noblest temples of the former were surrounded by columns. The grand temples of the latter had their columns within the walls in the courts or the halls, but there were small Egyptian temples called 'Mammeisi,' with an external colonnade, which were the source of the peristylar temples of the Greeks. The diminutive size of the original may have been the inducement at the outset to adopt the plan. In their roofs the Greeks departed from the usage of the Egyptians, who had neither timber nor rain, and who covered in their buildings with large slabs of stone, which formed a flat terrace. A sloping roof of wood was better suited to Greece, where timber was abundant and the rains violent. Hence the triangular pediment or gable of the Grecian temples; the mutules beneath the Doric cornice, which denoted the slope and extremities of the rafters; the triglyphs in the frieze, which represented the ends of the beams that stretched from wall to wall. The entire entablature had once been of wood, and to the last the wooden construction was expressed in the
Mammeisi at Elephantine.
The Greeks improved nearly everything they touched, but they were not exempt from the law of humanity which makes excellence depend upon successive innovations. The earliest remnant of a Doric temple is at Corinth, and is believed by Mr. Fergusson to belong to about 650 B.C. The pillars,' he says, ' are less than four diameters in height, and the architrave,the only part of the superstructure that now remains-is proportionately heavy. It is, indeed, one of the most massive specimens of architecture existing, more so than even its rock-cut prototype at Beni Hassan. As a work of art it fails from excess of strength, a fault common to most of the efforts of a rude people, ignorant of their own resources, and striving by the expression of physical strength alone to obtain all the objects of their art.'