The ancient Greek civilization surfaced around year 3000 B.C.E. during the Helladic Period originating with the Minoans and Mycenaeans expanding outwards upon the mainland and islands. The Greeks continued to expand and flourish throughout the duration of the Hellenic Period and the Hellenistic Period, under the rule of Philip ll, and then proceeded by his son Alexander the Great, who had substantial success in conquering many city-states. Until the death of Alexander the Great the Ancient Greek city-states began to disassemble and separate due to a multitude of civil wars that lasted for decades.
During its successful years, the Ancient Greeks were a very powerful civilization and much of it was due to its rulers prosperity but additionally it was in part to its success in engineering immaculate structural elements.
Like most city-states, the strength in engineering allowed the Greeks to show there hierarchical dominance and sense of affluence within their civilization and upon neighboring ancient civilizations. The ability to engineer flawlessly would allow for all of its city-states to prosper and grow, allowing for an ease in expansion.
The Greeks were famous for engineering temples, most notably the Parthenon. A Greek Temple is defined as the “ homes for the individual god or goddess who protected and sustained the community” . Unlike many religious structures today, Greek Temples were not a place of worship rather a home for the god or goddess and the citizens of these once city-states would act as their servants, preparing food and gifts for whomever the temple was dedicated to.
The number of Greek Temples was quite extensive and required a copious amount of planning, funding, material, and manual labor. Before construction or the design process could begin, city states or Polis’s needed to ensure they could sponsor/fund the entirety of the project. When looking for appropriate funding, kings and emperors looked in multiple sectors to gain adequate funding. Funding was split up with generous donations coming from kings and emperors, characterized by Aristotle as “ an honorable outlet of personnel ‘magnificence’” for the rich. Additionally “fifth century Athens was exceptional in using the defence contributions of its maritime alliance to build the ‘the works of Perikles’”. It is believed that the Parthenon would have cost around 470 talents where 1 talent roughly equates to 1.4 million U.S. dollars today.
Through the process of allocating costs, emperors or kings hired designers to planout the temples. Some of the most famous designers include Pytheos, Hermogenes and Iktinos who was one of the two designers for the Parthenon. When designing these Temples, appropriate location and axial layout was crucial to the final form and layout of the building. Most Greek temples were laid out on the east to west axis but there is continued debate on why it took this form. Some historians believe it has to do with the solar path of the sun and how it illuminates the interior where the sculpture of the dedicated Greek god or goddess is situated. In addition, the location of the temple within the city-state it was situated in was also decisive in planning. The Greeks “had a preference for placing temples on or next to the civic centre, on natural eminences, or overlooking plains and sea, was widespread”.
The temple within the polis had a hierarchical importance and required it to be of prominence to other structures nearby. For example, the Parthenon is elevated upon Mount Acropolis, achieving prominence and allowing the temple to be closer to the gods, goddesses, and the heavens. Constructing a Greek temple required innumerable amounts of craftsmanship, material, and time. The main sourced material for constructing these temples was a variation of stone which included travertine, limestone, sandstone, and or marble. More than just stone was used during the construction of these temples, including wood and metal for doors, fired clay for roofing, and different types of metals for masonry ties. The economy and location of the temple was the basis for choosing which type of material the temple would be constructed out of.
In “Mylasa in southwestern Turkey had a mountain nearby ‘where a white stone of great beauty is quarried’(marble)”. Once the stone was quarried “they had been delivered and received by the workshop, where they passed to the stonecutters to be made more suitable to fulfill their function and to assume their final shape”. All the blocks would be cut to shape and size prior to the erection of the temple. These temples were crafted of complex forms which didn’t include the use of mortar or plaster, rather the use of metal bolts and accurate joints. Placing these larger pieces of stone, ranging from “10 to 13 feet long…above columns 33 or 39 feet high” required a systematised approach that would aid in accurately placing the stone pieces. The system that would was designed included the use of hoisting.