Greek Engineering/Architecture

Greek engineering is generally undervalued, sometimes to the point of being forgotten, or ignored in people’s minds and writings. Our understanding of Greek society is incomplete if we know nothing of the methods by which the Greeks solved significant problems of the ordinary everyday variety, like finding and distributing drinking water, as well as the architecture of homes, temples, or other significant buildings. Many of the tools, methods, and architectural designs of today originate from ancient Greece.

In this you will be able to appreciate Greek engineering through great Greek projects. The different styles of architecture and tools that were used such a long time ago are amazing and complicated, as well as the mathematics and calculations that were understood at that time. These are only a few examples of Greek Engineering, imagine how many more amazing feats they constructed. THE TUNNEL OF EUPALINOS One extraordinary project of Greek engineering was the tunnel of Eupalinos. The tunnel was dug in the sixth century BC through the base of Mt Kastro, a 237-mile high mountain.

It was dug to bring water from a spring, now called Agiades, on the north side of Kastro, into the city of Samos, on the south side of the mountain. The tunnel is 1,040 meters long and is approximately square at 1. 8 meters high and wide. The water pipes are along the east wall I a channel sloping downward from the north to the south end. (7, 405) One interesting piece of information is that the tunnel was dug from both ends and met in the middle. Which brings an interesting question to mind. How did they find the same alignment so the two tunnels met head on?

They knew the water was to flow by gravity, therefore the channel had to have a slope. Therefore the level of the conduit from the spring determined the level of the tunnel at the north end, and the level of the north end determined the level of the south end. (7, 407) There are three basic tools that were used for surveying and sighting, the groma, the chorobates, and the measuring pole or rod. The groma is a horizontal cross, mounted on the point of an offset pole, with plumb lines hanging from each of the four end points. It allows one to sight straight and perpendicular lines.

The chorobates is a leveling tool. It’s a bench preferably about 20 feet long with four identical straight legs attached perpendicularly at each corner. There is a vertical line drawn on a crosspiece that goes from the lower part of the leg to the bench. Directly above the vertical line there is a plumb line attached to the bench. There was also a five-foot long groove down the center of the table for water in case it was too windy to use the plumb lines. There were some simpler and smaller leveling instruments that worked on the same principal.

The measuring pole or rod is basically a large ruler with a plumb line and vertical line drawn on it, a black and white sighting disk, and a more or less sophisticated mechanism for reading the measurement. (7, 410) There is a lot of speculation on how they determined the starting points and direction to dig so both tunnels would meet. Some say they used the measuring rod in a straight line up and down the mountain, and some say they used mathematics. Either way they used the tunnel wasn’t dug straight, but they somehow knew where they were digging.

They used a hammer, chisel, lamp, and bucket to dig. Since the meeting point is not in the center, it is believed that the original plans were to dig straight through from the north end, but after some time they decided it would be faster to start the other end and meet together. Which would explain the change in direction and elevation of the tunnel. There are still many questions and uncertainties behind the building of the tunnel, but it is amazing how big an impact was made on today’s tools and techniques from many things that were used then. INTRO TO GREEK ARCHITECTURE

Anywhere in the world where people have erected buildings of any consequence, column and entablature there is a great affinity to those that the ancient Greeks developed. Some things the Greeks introduced in their architecture were designed to correct certain optical illusions. For instance, the steps of the stylobate were given a very slight curvature, convex toward the ground, and this served to counteract a certain effect of sagging that might otherwise have been apparent. The first inhabitants of the Greek peninsula, who are believed to be Neolithic, built very primitive and basic structures.

The houses were mainly built with a circular, oval, apsidal, or rectangular shape. The rectangular house was mostly square, but some were oblong, and had the entrance at one of the short ends. They used mud bricks and stones in the mud with reeds or brush to help build the house. Most of the houses had one room, there were very rarely two. The next group of settlers was the Minoan architects. Their towns were mostly residential with little or no temples and public places. Unlike earlier people, their houses were private and had many rooms.

However, to separate rooms, they would use only pillars. Thus, the house was very open. The stairways were a very prominent feature for these massive homes. This began a whole new era for the Greeks dealing with architecture. (2, 1) There is considerable decoration on Greek architecture, but the decoration is not allowed to interrupt the dominant lines of the structure as a whole. The parts are subordinate and not allowed to detract from the overall unity. (8, 175) One distinct feature of the Greek architecture is the emphasis placed on planning.

Though old cities like Athens were the product of gradual and haphazard growth, those cities and sanctuaries which were laid out during the fifth century and later show a conscious effort to relate the parts in an integrated whole. Among sanctuaries, the Athenian Acropolis, replanned under Pericles after its devastation by the Persians, provides an excellent example, with its subtle variation of axes, its oblique views, and its careful arrangement of buildings to reflect and enhance the contours of the hill. 5, 120) One should try to imagine the buzz of activity on these spectacular projects, and the atmosphere that it would have created. TOOLS AND MATERIALS USED They used mud bricks and stones in the mud with reeds or brush to help build the house. The Greeks laid their masonry without mortar but with joints cut to great exactness. Marble was not generally used until the 5th cent. B. C. Where coarse stonework or crude bricks were used, a coating, composed of marble dust and lime rubbed and highly polished, was applied to them. Even marble itself was sometimes so treated.

Although it was long thought that buildings in ancient Greece retained the unbroken white of the marble, in fact colors and gilding were customarily applied to emphasize decorative sculpture and certain details; remaining traces of these have been found. Having discovered in the simple column and lintel an adequate method of construction, they used it exclusively, drawing from it the maximum of dignity and beauty. (2, 1) Many tools were used on these projects, such as cranes, hoists, scaffolding, wagons carrying building stone and excavated material, hammer chisel, and men at work.

For the construction of public buildings like temples, the Greeks were limited to certain basic materials and methods. Their standard material was stone, usually limestone or marble, but in some of the western colonies sandstone. Marble seems to have been the ideal, but since it was not quarried in many places and was slow and difficult to work, it was normally used sparingly. Only a few particular lavish buildings were wholly or largely constructed of marble. Where inferior stones were used, they were often made to look like marble by being given a thin coat of stucco. Apart from stone, another material incorporated in a building was timber.

It was used for the roof frame and internal ceilings, and terracotta was used for the tiles. (5, 120) THE GREEK ORDERS All through Greek architecture there are three main orders that formed an integral part of structures great and small, the Doric, the Ionic, and the Corinthian orders. The orders are also known for their columns style. The best examples of columnar buildings are, of course the temples. These normally consisted of a rectangular central hall, the cella, with a porch at the front and a false porch at the back, and an encircling ring of columns, the peristyle, sometimes doubled in the Ionic temples.

There is one great quality of the order which is, “its capacity to aid the establishment of a hierarchy of social values in the realm of architecture. ” (9, 4) A comparison of architecture and dress is a way to understand that statement. Your dress is in a way a reflection of your manners, social standing, or what you are representing. It marks certain people and sets them apart from others for the convenience of the public, for example a judge in his robe, or an officer in his uniform. The same is often used in the classic order.

It shows certain buildings are for social reasons given the privilege of having columns, which increases the significance of the building verses the ones without. The main characteristics of the association of column and entablature of the Doric order is essentially not different from the Ionic and Corinthian types. In the others the columns are more slender, and in proportion the entablature is of less vertical dimension than in the Doric. Between the Ionic and the Corinthian entablatures there appears no essential difference, and it is by the capitals that these orders are most easily recognized. 9, 8) DORIC ORDER The Doric order evolved as the predominant form on mainland Greece. It was more severe and grand than the other orders. It all starts with some wood shafts, which latter was replaced by stone. On the top of the shaft, were circular pads with a square block of wood over it. The vertical columns were used to support the beams called architraves. In order to form the ceiling, other beams were laid across the building with their ends on these architraves. On the end of these beams, they could be channeled to make a triglyph.

On the top of a triglyph there would be another beam, which would be placed for the overhanging rafters. These types of beams were referred as to a mutules. The finishing touches for the roof had to have flat gables called pediments. The gutter ran along the top of the pediments and ended at a lion’s mouth. This acted like a drain. The materials that were used for the roofs were thatch and the terra cotta and marble. The Doric temples were similar to those of the Ionic order in lay out and design. (3, 1) The Parthenon is an example of the perfection of the Doric order.

The square abacus of the capital acts as a transition between the round section of the column and the rectangular soffit of the architrave above it. (9, 6) The Doric column differs from the Ionic and the Corinthian in being without a separate base to the column itself. It also has a greater difference of girth between base and summit than the other orders. IONIC ORDER The Ionic order was developed in Ionia and the Aegean islands in the late sixth century. It has taller and thinner columns, greater decoration, and is more graceful than the Doric order.

During the age of Pericles, when the buildings on the Acropolis at Athens were rebuilt, the Ionic order was transplanted to the mainland and was set side by side with the Doric. Greek Ionic columns are of slender proportion, their height being generally about nine times the column’s lower diameter; the order is always used with a base. A column shaft with 24 flutings seems to have been the most developed form. (3, 1) The spiral scrolls, or volutes, at either side of the cap run from front to rear, and an echinus molding with egg-and-dart ornamentation occupies the space between them.

The entablature, usually about one quarter the height of the column, has an architrave generally divided into three bands, each projecting beyond the next; a frieze, often adorned with sculpture; and a cornice enriched with dentils, above which are a corona and a crowning cyma molding. CORINTHIAN ORDER The origin of the Corinthian order cannot be determined so accurately as that of the other two types. The first examples of it that are known to archeological research show a high standard of development, for there is no record of the transitional stages through which it must have previously passed.

The Greek Corinthian, aside from its distinctive capital, is similar to the Ionic, but the column is somewhat more slender. The capital, which may have been especially devised for circular structures, is of uncertain origin. Callimachus is the legendary originator of the design. The delicate foliated details make plausible an original in metalwork. (3, 1) The most famous Greek example is that of the small choragic monument of Lysicrates in Athens. The Greeks evidently regarded the Corinthian column as an elaborate form of architectural support to be reserved for building of a highly ornate character.

The Corinthian order was not used as widely as the Doric or Ionic. The reason being that the Corinthian order was fancier than the others, and had a lot more detail. Thus, information dealing with this order is very little, and some is not worth putting up. THE PARTHENON Today, in the plain and rocky landscape stands out the gigantic and imposing volume of the Parthenon. This is the holiest of all the monuments in Athens, already famous in antiquity as a masterpiece of the Greek architecture. Its construction began in 447 BC upon the ruins of an earlier temple of the goddess, which was destroyed by the Persians. 1, 19)Much of the remains from the damage done by the Persians to the building under construction were used in the repair of the fortification walls on the north side of the Acropolis. Only the foundations and some column drums were deemed of use by the Parthenon’s architects, Ikinos and Kallikrates, but Phidias himself supervised the works and under took the sculptures decorating the temple. (6, 238) (1, 19) They extended the foundations they found to accommodate a larger plan. The huge statue of Athena, which the Parthenon was to house, required an extra large cella which determined the size of the building and hence its foundations.

Work began in 447 BC, the temple and statue were dedicated to Athena Parthenos, Athena the Virgin, in 438 BC, and the pedimental sculptures were finished by 432 BC. (6, 239) The Parthenon is regarded as the epitome of Doric temple building. THE THEATER AT EPIDAURUS The theater at Epidaurus is famous for being the prettiest of all Greek theaters. The theater is still preserved in almost excellent condition. The circular orchestra of 20. 28 meters diameter has a center alter of Dionysus. (1, 38) A small ditch runs around it perimeter to collect rainwater.

The cavea has the shape of a fan, with 34 rows of seats, divided into 12 sectors by scales holding approximately 6,200 spectators. Beyond the semicircular corridor, at a later period, there were added 21 new rows with a capacity of another 14,000 spectators. (1, 38) The analogy between the number of rows of the upper and lower diazomae is considered to be mathematically perfect. The first and last row of the lower part and the first of the upper part had seats with backs that were reserved for distinguished citizens. The theater has ideal aesthetic harmony and almost perfect acoustics.

The stage that rose behind the orchestra, most of it lost, was supported by twelve Ionic pillars with a jutting out wing at each end. There were two glorious entrances with Corinthian pillars. Every year at this theatre there took place feasts in honor of Asklepios, including musical and dramatic presentations. In 1954 the theatre was restored into its original shape and since then it hosts every summer the productions of the Epidaurus festival. (1, 38) THE TEMPLE OF ATHENA NIKE The temple of Athena Nike is considerably smaller than the other temples of the Acropolis.

Its construction lasted several years and was completed after 430 BC by Kallikrates. (1, 16) It was built on the ruins of the mycenaen tower, which at the time was covered with limestone blocks. It is the first building that greets the visitors who approach the Propylaia with its elegant Ionic features that balance the dominating Doric character of the Propylaia. It faces to the east and its entrance is lined with four monolithic Ionic columns that support a shallow porch. The west end is similarly treated with four Ionic columns and a porch, but they preceded a blind wall.

In its interior there was the ancient xoanon, which is the wooden statue of Apteros Nike. The parapet of the Temple of Athena Nike surrounded the temple and acted as a guardrail to protect people from falling off the steep bastion. It was elaborately decorated by relief sculptures which were seen best by the visitors ascending the ramp towards the Propylaia. It depicted not a coherent story like the Parthenon frieze, but instead it was decorated with a number of Nike relief sculptures in various states of activity. The parapet was built after the temple was complete, perhaps as late as 410 BCE. (4, 1)


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