Morphology of Ancient Temples




T he architectural member that differentiates the Corinthian order from the Ionic is the column capital, which is embellished with acanthus leaves in two successive rows, and pairs of volutes that meet in twos at its four corners.
It is generally believed that this elaborate type of column capital was created by the sculptor and bronze-caster Callimachos, and that the earliest application of it in architecture was by Ictinos in the temple of Apollo Epicourios at Bassae, in Arcadia.
Morphological analysis of the Corinthian column capital shoes that the overlying entablature was not supported by the leaves and volutes but by its stable nucleus, the "calathos".
In the Corinthian order, as in the Ionic, application of the morphological canon was not particularly strict, resulting in the creation of different variations of colum capitals by the architects. Some of the earliest and loveliest examples are to be seen on the choregic monument of Lysicrates in Athens and in the Tholos at Epidaurus.


T he remarkable and impressive quality of ancient Greek temples is expressed in the famous visual refinements, the imperceptible deviation from the geometric forms, the purpose of which was to endow the inanimate buildings with organic vitality.

In the Parthenon the visual refinements are present in their most consummate form. All the lines of the crepis are very slightly convex and not exactly straight. The columns incline very slightly inwards, towards the cella, and their shafts have a barely perceptible swelling, the entasis, which reaches its maximum at 2/5 of their height. The corner columns of each side are very slightly thicker than the rest and the distance between them and the adjacent ones is slightly less than the normal intercolumniations. The entablature has an analogous curvature to the crepis.
The experimentation with this system of almost invisible refinements evidently commenced in the Early Archaic period.


I n the ancient Greek temples, independently of their order, the "peristasis" around the cella was covered by marble ceilings that were formed of oblong plaques on the under surface of which were square recesses, the "coffers".
When the openings were large, as in the "Theseion" and the Parthenon, transverse marble beams underpinned the coffered plaques.