Greece: Geometric and Archaic Period

Monday, September 26, 2016

 One of the best preserved examples is offered by the temple of Hera at Olympia in which external appearance and the interior work together to maximize the monumentality.

The temple, as it characterizes the Greek cities of the Archaic and Classical period, originated in the Geometric period. No similar buildings are known from the Minoan-Mycenaean period and it is possible that the palaces performed some of their socio-religious functions. From the Geometric period onwards, however, remarkably large houses suddenly served to gather a community around a central hearth. The image of the deity had its place against the back wall, but not always in a central position; a famous example is the group of Sphyrelata of the small Cretan village of Dreros that represent Apollo, Artemis and Leto. The space inside these buildings was not subdivided for ritual and religious purposes – an observation that is significant insofar as image and worshippers became more and more separated in later periods. The aura of these early images was rather created by their method of manufacture, size and other accessories.

Since the eighth century BCE and with the growing articulation of the polis the temples became more and more monumental, many of them reaching lengths of 30.5 meters. In addition, the ornaments also served to make these qualities more visible. The inner space transformed into a long corridor, at the end of which the cult image had its place. There is no clear linear development of these constellations; instead, the tension between the different zones of the temple, the entrance, the cella and the image at its back wall leads to different solutions. The design of the individual segments, of the pillars, the porch or the doors, or of the interior space likewise augmented the emphasis on the cult image at the end of this movement. One of the best preserved examples is offered by the temple of Hera at Olympia in which external appearance and the interior work together to maximize the monumentality.

During the Geometric and Archaic period, the temple in general and its interior in particular served to create a strong link between the community and the cult image, and we see a noticeable shift towards a more abstract and isolated presentation of the image. While in the early periods it had been included in the meeting of the community during the ritual dinners, the image became more and more isolated in the interior over time and the dining rituals came to be excluded from the buildings. This was an expression of the newly-defined position of the image, which was important: on the one hand it was available to everyone, but on the other it was secluded in the interior to increase its numinous effect (Drerup 1969; Gruben 1966; Kalpaxis 1976; Mazarakis Ainian 1988; Hellmann 2006; Boschung 2007; Lippolis, Livadiotti, and Rocco 2007; Mylonopoulos 2010).

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