The Setting of Hellenistic Temples

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  • 7/28/2019 The Setting of Hellenistic Temples


    The Setting of Hellenistic TemplesAuthor(s): Phyllis Williams LehmannSource: Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 13, No. 4 (Dec., 1954), pp. 15-20Published by: University of California Press on behalf of the Society of Architectural HistoriansStable URL: .

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  • 7/28/2019 The Setting of Hellenistic Temples



    IN THEHELLENISTICge the creativepowerof Greekarchi-tects found expression not so much on the mainland ofGreece, n the venerablesanctuariesof the past, as in AsiaMinor and certain of the neighboring islands. For in thecenturiesfollowing Alexanderthe Great,this was the mostproductiveregionof the Greekworld,architecturally peak-ing. In such a newly founded city as Pergamon or a re-settled town like Priene, the new architecturalconcepts ofthe day could more easily be put into practicewithoutthecrippling necessity of adjusting them to already existingcivic and religious centres.To be sure,essential tastes andpracticesof previouscen-turiescontinued,especiallyin the last decades of the fourthcentury and the beginning of the third. The archaic andclassical taste for heights,for placinga templeon an akrop-olis as at Athens or atop a steep promontory overlookingthe sea as at Sounion, persisted,if anythingintensified,inthe Hellenistic period. At Herakleia-on-the-Latmos Fig.1), an early Hellenistic temple perched high up on an out-cropping of rock overlooking the lake reflects this sametendency.So, too, does the Templeof Athena which crownsthe akropolis at Lindos (Fig. 2, A). In the later fourthcentury,whenit was built, it was still possible to enjoy thesight of a building standingin lonely isolation. But not forlong. In due time it became necessary to add a vast andimpressive approach o the templecomposedof a H-shapedcolonnade precededand followed by a monumentalflightof steps leading to a propylon from which one finallygained access to the temple at the highest point of theakropolis. Similarly,theearlyHellenisticTempleof Athenaat Pergamonwhichoriginallyhad occupieda commandingposition on one of the uppermostheights of the akropolis,visible from afar, utterly devoid of setting, was providedin the secondcenturywith a greatarchitectural rameworkin the form of a two-storied stoa (Fig. 3).And why? Not only because these colonnades and therooms behind them were in themselvesfunctional and de-sirable but because in the previous century a new archi-tecturalconcepthad become irresistible-the desire to pro-vide each significant architectural unit, like the temple,

    with its own architecturalenvironment, ts own setting orsurrounding.No longer could such a building be left inisolation or loosely juxtaposed against its neighbors as ithad been in previouscenturies. Now even oldersanctuarieslike the temples of Athena at Pergamonor Lindos had tobe remodelled n accordancewith the new principles.These new principles are visible in the sanctuary ofAsklepiosat Kos (Fig. 4). There the major temple, builtin the mid-second century B.C., is the focal point of agrandiose composition. Placed on the highest of threeterraces, it is framed by a horseshoe colonnade and ap-proachedby three monumentalstairways leading from theouter propylon,across the lower terraces, to its facade. Afew standardarchitectural ngredients-a propylon,stoas.monumental stairways, an altar, the temple itself-aregroupedinto a clearlydefined,immediatelygraspablecom-position, a composition characterizedby simplicity, bold-ness and plasticity, by a sharp, firm juxtaposition of thefew standardelements.Contrastsof scale, an elevatedandcentralposition,anaxial approach,emphasison thefacade,all make of the templethe focal point, the culmination ofthe composition.Kos is a sanctuaryof particularcomplexity.But the es-sential ingredients of this architecturalcomposition maybe found in scores of Hellenisticsanctuaries,especially theall-importantand new Hellenistic insistence upon provid-ing thetemplewith an architectural nvironmentor setting.The shape of this settingvaries considerably.Sometimes tis an openhorseshoeor GreekH, as at Kos; sometimestheH-shapedframe of stoas is elongatedand closed, as in thesanctuaryof Artemis at Magnesia (Fig. 5), or the templeis set in the centre of a quadrangle,as at Lagina (Fig. 6).Less frequently,the architectural rame forms a trapezoid,as at Teos or Assos (Fig. 7), and sometimes,whatevertheshape of the enclosure, the temple is sucked back into adominating position at the rear of the field, a schemepar-ticularly convenient for temples presiding over markets,as at Assos, but by no means limited to them. As in thesanctuaryof Zeus at Priene (Fig. 8), the temple may ac-tually be engaged in the surrounding colonnades which,incidentally,are often of a different and contrastingorder-a Doric framework or an Ionic temple,an Ionic setting

    The Setting of Hellenistic Temples 15PHYLLIS WILLIAMS LEHMANN combines archaeology in the field withclassroom teaching at Smith College.

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  • 7/28/2019 The Setting of Hellenistic Temples


    FIG. 1. Herakleia-on-the-Latmos. Temple of Athena. (Author)

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    FIG.2. Lindos. Restored plan of the Akropolis.(C. Blinkenberg, Lindos . . ., I, P1. I)

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    FIG. 3. Pergamon. Reconstruction of the Sanctuary of Athena PoliasNikephoros. (Altertiimer von Pergamon, II, P1. XLI)

    for a Doric. At Miletos (Fig. 9), the NorthMarketTemplehas beenliterallyembedded n the surroundingcolonnade.Nonetheless,by virtue of its greaterheight, its projectingporch, and its axial position opposite the propylon, it re-tains the customary ocal position.The overwhelmingpop-ularity of these new principleswas reflectedon the main-land of Greecewherethey underlie the contained,definedforms of the precinctof Zeus at Megalopolis (Fig. 10).Finally,on the precipitousslopesof the akropolisat Per-gamon,wemeettheelongatedrectangleorbar-shaped anc-tuary.Here,in thetheatreprecinct, heTempleof DionysosKathegemonis backed up to the hillside at the rear of along, narrow terrace (Fig. 11). On one side it is ap-proached by an endless stoa, on the other by a combina-tion of stoa and theatre.But,as usual, it dominates ts sur-

    roundings,like a jewel in its setting, standingat the verybackof its precinctand, as we shall see, raisedto singulareffectivenessby its high position above a flight of steps(Fig. 12).On the other side of the akropolisof Pergamonsimilarelongated precinctswere built, amongthem the sanctuaryof Demeter. There the temple stands on a narrow ledgehigh up over the city which, in antiquityas now, lay farbelow in the valley. As we have come to expect, it wasframedon three sides by stoas and the stepsof a theatron,a bold terrace architecturethat required and receivedstrong buttressing.The use of such elongatedterracepre-cincts bearswitnessto anothersignificant eatureof Hellen-istic sanctuaries o whichI shallreturn-the tastefor vista.For the shapeof the sanctuariesof Demeterand Dionysoscannotbe explainedsolely by the necessitiesof the terrain.Elsewhere in Pergamon, broad, square terraces werecreated.An indispensableingredient in the dominatingrole ofthe Temple of Dionysos, as I have mentioned,is its highposition at the very back of the sanctuary(Fig. 12). Hadit not been raisedup abovea flightof steps, it would havebeen lost in spite of its axial position, given the excessivelengthof theprecinctandits ownsmallsize. By virtueof itsgreatpodiumof steps and the emphasisupon its facade, itbecomes of commanding importance,the dramatic,spotlighted focal point of a rich composition.Dramaticcon-trasts, both of scale and of level, are characteristic ofHellenistic layouts. Hence the new importanceof monu-mental stairways.We have seen them at Lindos and Kos(F