Site hosted by Build your free website today!

To what extent were Greek sanctuaries planned as unified architectural schemes? Your answer should include detailed discussion of the Acropolis at Athens and at least one other sanctuary.

In the introduction it is worth pointing out that architecture was not a factor in the establishing of sanctuaries: all that was required was a space (temenos) and an altar. Architectural development is embellishment.

Start with the Acropolis. It is of great antiquity, going back to Mycenaean times. There was a building programme after Marathon e.g. the new temple to Athena, predecessor of the Parthenon. This and other buildings were destroyed by the Persians in 480 B.C. There was no rebuilding until Perikles set in motion his building programme. Such a programme, involving a complete rebuilding following destruction, is unique to Athens. It was overseen by Pheidias.

However, the architect did not have complete freedom. The position of earlier buildings influenced the programme. The Parthenon was built more or less on the site of its smaller predecessor: being the most splendid of the new buildings, it was erected first. The Propylaia, now no longer a fortified entrance, was aligned along the length of the Acropolis, with the columns of its inner porch echoing those of the Parthenon. Such an impressive entrance is not found in any other sanctuary. If the replacement for the old temple of Athena, which had faced the altar, had been built on the same site, it would have been dwarfed by the Parthenon. The decision was taken, therefore, to build the Erechtheion further to the north, regardless of the difficulties with the sloping ground and the presence of several sacred places e.g. the tomb of Kekrops.

The Peloponnesian War affected the later stages of the programme: for example, the Propylaia was not completed to its original plan. Also, in the later buildings the Ionic order features more prominently e.g. the Erechtheion and temple of Athena Nike, reflecting the position of Athens as champion of the Ionian Greeks. Even so, there is a coherence in the building programme which is not found elsewhere.

By contrast, at Olympia the arrangement of the buildings is haphazard, loosely positioned around the processional route leading to the altar. Unlike at Athens, buildings were added over a longer period of time and were not part of a single programme. For example, the great temple of Zeus is not in the most prominent position within the altis. It is true that the buildings do give definition to the enclosure: the treasuries to the north, palaistra to the west, bouleuterion to the south, and colonnade to the east. This is not however, the result of one particular programme or scheme. Even the treasuries vary significantly e.g. the treasury of Gela, the largest and most impressive. A sketch could be used to illustrate the layout of the sanctuary.

At Delphi, the temple of Apollo is in the central position, reflecting its importance and its connection with the oracle. However, the sacred way zig zags up the steeply terraced enclosure, with a range of buildings (give examples) loosely arranged along it. Space is in very short supply, and the impression is, therefore, of a rather crowded site. As at Olympia, buildings were added over time; some were dedicated by the wider Greek community, reflecting the pan Hellenic importance of the sanctuary e.g. the club house of the Cnidians.

The conclusion should pick up the opening comments about the significance of architecture later in the development of sanctuaries. The situation at Athens is unique: here the arrangement of buildings is less haphazard, the result of a coherent programme set in motion by Perikles.

more essay plans