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Some curious discoveries, lately made on the construction of the Parthenon, tend to give us the highest opinion of the architectural science of the Athenians. The entasis of the columns, so remarkable in the true Doric of Corinth, and the Doric colonies of Italy and Sicily, and which is so much reduced in the Athenian Doric, that its existence was generally doubted, has now been proved to exist: and the singular fact has been ascertained that the pavement on which the columns stand is not level, but depressed at the four corners, so as to form an arch in the direction both of length and breadth. The columns of the peristyle are found not to be perpendicular, but to incline inwards, so that the external profile of the column is an inch and a half longer than the internal. We may conceive this inclination to have been given for the sake of obtaining a more effectual support to the weight of the roof, and a better security of the whole structure against earthquakes. This intention, however, could hardly have been connected with the curvature of the platform; since, if the object had been to place the axes of the inclining columns perpendicular to the platform, the curvature should have been in the opposite direction or concave. The curvature of the pavement, therefore, had a different object in view; probably the same as that produced by the entasis of the columns, which, as it did not strengthen the columns, we may conclude to have had reference only to external appearance. Mr. John Pennethorne, who, during his residence at Athens, directed his particular attention to the scientific principles upon which the Athenians proceeded, informs me that he found the upper step of the eastern front of the Parthenon to form a simple curve, rising three inches in the centre; that higher in the front the curve changes its character; that in the architrave it becomes a curve of double curvature, and the same in the cornice, with an increase of curve.
Page 341. 344.
ON THE ERECHTHEIUM.
Herodotus relates that Xerxes, repenting of having set fire to the temple of Erechtheus, ordered two days afterwards, that the Athenian exiles who were in his camp, should ascend to the Acropolis, and perform their sacrifices in the temple, when they were said to have found that the sacred olive which had been burnt together with the temple, had made a new sprout of a cubit in length'. It seems, therefore, that the temple was not entirely destroyed; that the foundations at least of the ancient Erechtheium had escaped the fury of the barbarians, and that as neither the salt-well nor olive-tree could have been moved *, the new Erechtheium was built upon the ancient site, and of the same form as the old building, though with all the improvement in decoration which could be devised in that brilliant interval between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars, when taste and invention were in the meridian among the Athenians, and when they were anxiously engaged in restoring all the temples destroyed by the Persians, with the exception of a few left in ruins as memorials of everlasting enmity1. To that period, the design of the existing Erechtheium is certainly to be ascribed, although it may not have been finished until long afterwards; for none of the remaining antiquities of Athens, afford a more convincing proof of the ingenuity and resources of the Athenian architects, and of their power of converting difficulties into beauties. In choosing the Ionic order, they probably imitated the ancient building, for the Ionic was more national to the Athenians than the Doric: and they seem to have been ambitious of excelling their Asiatic kinsmen in their own peculiar order of architecture, by the addition of new and elaborate ornaments, imagined with the utmost ingenuity and elegance of taste, and executed with a sharpness and perfection which it could hardly have been supposed that marble was capable of receiving. sustained, seems not to have been great, otherwise the report of the commission could not have agreed so well in details and measurements with the existing ruins: indeed the word employed by Xenophon (lvnrpr\<jQr}) implies only a conflagration.
1 Herodot. 8, 55. In the time of I'ausanins the story had improved to a growth of two cubits in one day. Att. 27, 2.
1 Herodotus and Pausanias, who wrote at an interval of six hundred years, and Apollodorus, who lived midway between them, all speak of the sacred olive as of the original tree planted by Minerva. Hence, at least, it is evident that an olive tree always grew upon the same spot in the Erechtheium.
We may easily conceive, at the same time, that a new temple of Minerva of the largest dimensions and the greatest splendour, having been voted by the sovereign people, the task of renewing the old temple of Polias in a manner befitting its pre-eminent sanctity, and proportioned to the liberal expenditure bestowed upon other buildings, may have been deferred until the Parthenon was completed, when the public attention and the public means were occupied by another great undertaking, equally interesting to Pericles and the Athenians: so that in all probability it was not until the Propylaea were completed in the year preceding the commencement of the Peloponnesian war, that the Erechtheium was begun. The preparations for war, soon followed by the war itself, would naturally cause the works of the Erechtheium to proceed more tardily until they were at length entirely suspended: it is not surprising, therefore, that the temple should have still remained in the twenty-third year of that war (b.c. 409—8.) in the
1 i( rbv itavra \povov row ?x"0,,C i'iro/«vq/nnTo. Paiisan. Pliocic. 36, 2.
state described by the inscription before referred to !, and of which a copy is subjoined, that is to say, still imperfect, though not wanting much of being finished, as we may infer also from Herodotus, who wrote in the early years of the war, and who describes the temple as containing the olive-tree and salt-well, without making any allusion to the temple, as having been in an incomplete state. When the works were suspended, the first care of the architect would have been to cover in the temple of Polias, as containing the revered βρέτας Or ξόανον of the goddess, and some other highly esteemed monuments, which might suffer from exposure to the seasons: and, accordingly, we learn from the inscription that the deficiencies of this portion of the building were confined to the fluting of the columns and to some of the external decorations of the walls, while in the Pandroseium, much was still wanting in the upper parts, the execution of which may have been the more easily postponed, as in this temple two of the sacred objects admitted of exposure to the air, and one of them even required it.
The report of the commissioners appointed to examine the state of the temple in the twenty-second year of the war, we may suppose to have been speedily followed by an order for the completion of the work ; but this had scarcely been executed, or perhaps was not yet finished, when the building was again left in a damaged state by the effects of a fire, which occurred only three years afterwards in the archonship of Callias?. The injury, however, which it then
Upon the whole, it appears that this building, although designed by Phidias and his colleagues, was not terminated until towards the end of the Peloponnesian war, or even after its conclusion, perhaps about the year 393 B.c, when the Athenians had so far recovered from the effects of the war, as to re-establish under Oonon, their Long Walls, and the walls of the Peiraic city.
One of the first remarks suggested by the inscription, is that the western wall and its extant frieze of Eleusinian stone ', in which are some remains of cramps for fixing the figures (£ejm) of the Zophorus being distinctly alluded to as in the wall before the Pandroseium (irpbg rov HavSpoatlov): the eastern prostasis by its aspect (7rp6c tto, to the east), and the southern by the Kopai or Caryatides, there can scarcely remain any doubt that the northern portico was that which the same document entitles 17 irpoaraaic r) 7rpoc Tou Bvp&fiaroQ, or the portico before the thyroma.
There has been a question whether the middle apartment
The inscription as an official document, is more cautious in its designation, and describes it simply as 4 ve<ic iv ir<5\« iv 1} ro dpxaiov dyaXfia. There is still, however, a difficulty in this passage of Xenophon, and of some importance as involving a question of chronology. The moon rose totally eclipsed at Athens on the evening of the 15th of April, B.c. 406, a fact which would perfectly explain the word ioirepac, if this was the eclipse alluded to by Xenophon. According to the received opinion, however, as to the commencement of the Attic year, the archonship of Callias did not begin until about midsummer. That eclipse, therefore, happened not in the archonship of Callias, but towards the end of the ninth month of his predecessor Antigenes. There was indeed another eclipse, great but not total, on the 9th of October in the same year, or in the fourth month of Callias, but this eclipse happened not in the evening, but after midnight.
1 In 1R24, the frieze of Eleusinian stone above the engaged column of the western wall no longer existed, but a similar frieze still remains in the northern portico.