We thought we'd share something different with you today. Not too many people know much about anc...
We thought we’d share something different with you today. Not too many people know much about ancient times, but most of you have likely seen or at least heard of some of the incredible structures built by them. It is no wonder Greek builders can lay claim to 4 of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. Below we have listed just a handful of these beautiful examples of ancient architecture that we still see being replicated today.
1. The Parthenon
Let’s start with probably the most famous example of expert ancient Greek architecture – the Parthenon. Heard of it? Probably. Sitting on top of the famous Athenian Acropolis, it was built as a temple to the patron goddess of Athens, Athena. The Greeks spared no expense when building it. It took 15 years to complete (447-432BC) and was built using stone transported from Mount Pentelicus, TEN MILES AWAY. Then let’s not forget they then had to transport these chunks of rock up a 490 foot high acropolis. The transportation of the stone was probably the most expensive part of the entire project, much of the funds for which were stolen by Pericles from the treasury of the Delian League… but we won’t go into that.
The exquisite structure features intricately carved metopes, friezes and pediments depicting various fictional events such as a bunch of centaurs going about raping and pillaging. More importantly one pediment shows the competition to become patron God of Athens between Athena and Poseidon. Clearly, we know who won that. The Parthenon is without a doubt a marvel, and for those lucky enough to visit it, it’s an unforgettable spectacle of stunning design. Below is a computer generated image of what it likely would have looked like upon completion.
2. The Colossus of Rhodes
This one might not be as famous to some of you. Ever heard the saying, ‘Go big, or go home’? Well we’re fairly sure the Greeks came up with that one (ok, probably not). They took serious pride in their architecture, especially when it came to size, and they didn’t even wear big socks (or any socks for that matter!). Behold, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world – the Colossus of Rhodes.
The statue, a depiction of the Greek sun god, Helios, stood 98 feet high overlooking the harbour at Rhodes, making it one of the tallest statues of the ancient world. This is not including the size of the impressive 49 feet high marble plinth that it stood on. Construction began in 292BC and was eventually completed 12 years later in 280BC. The structure itself was built out of iron and bronze, forged mostly from weapons left behind by Demetrius’ army, then filled with stone blocks. There are some accounts that suggest the statue stood astride the harbour where ships would have to sail underneath. This is unlikely to have been the case.
Unfortunately, this stunning piece of architecture only lasted 54 years until an earthquake in 226BC brought it down, snapping it at the knees. TIt is still not known if the statue ever did stand at the harbour or if it stood somewhere else in Rhodes. One thing is for sure, the statue was real, and it certainly earned its place as one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.
3. The Theatre at Epidaurus
Designed by Polykleitos the Younger in the 4th century BC (400-300BC) the theatre at the ancient Greek site of Epidaurus in the Peloponnese is the best preserved of all ancient Greek theatres. With a capacity of 13,000 and excellent acoustics, spectators would come from all around to watch the plays. The advanced design of the theatre meant so no matter where you were seated, you would be able to hear unamplified spoken word from the stage (skene). It has been theorised by scholars at the Georgia Institute of Technology that the rows of limestone seats filter out low frequency sounds, and amplify high frequency sounds from the stage. I have personally stood on the top row of the theatre and have been able to talk to a person standing at the bottom – it really works!
The popularity of the theatre was also boosted by the existence of the asclepeion, which were healing centres named after the god of medicine, Asclepius. Patients would come to these healing centres to receive treatment, either spiritual or physical. You can think of them as the ancient Greek version of rehab. The asclepeion at Epidaurus was particularly popular because of the stunning views surrounding the site. The theatre not only proves that the ancient Greeks knew how to build beautiful structures and put on a good show but that they were also incredibly intelligent in their design.
4. Temple of Zeus
Last, but certainly not least, is the temple of Zeus at Olympia…Olympia being the original site for the Olympic Games in 776 BC. It is considered by many to be the finest example of Doric architecture (the style of the temple). Construction began in 470BC and completed in 456BC. The 12 metopes famously depict the 12 labours of Hercules, son of Zeus – some of these labours consisted of fighting the famous Nemean lion, Cerberus & the Hydra! Some of these labours were also depicted in the Disney movie for those that have seen it. Surrounding the temple were pillars with statues of previous Olympic champions on top. To be featured on one of these pillars was the highest honour. The site was destroyed in 426AD by Theosodius II and further ruined by severe earthquakes in 522 and 551AD. Today you can see the ruins still in the exact same place where they fell during the earthquake.
Inside the temple stood another of the 7 wonders of the ancient world – the statue of Zeus. The statue was built by the same architect that sculpted the statue of Athena in the Parthenon. His name was Phidias, remains of his workshop at Olympia still remain to this day. Like the statue of Athena, Zeus was made out of gold and ivory but stood slightly higher, at 43 feet. It was considered Greece’s most revered work. To this day nobody is sure what happened to the statue but it was almost certainly destroyed either naturally or by human hand.
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