The Eastern Provinces | Roman Architecture | Second edition

The Eastern Provinces | Roman Architecture | Second edition

The Eastern Provinces Part 1 | Roman Architecture | Second edition

The Eastern provinces comprise Asia Minor (Asia, Bithynia/Pontus, Lycia/Pamphylia, Cilicia, Galatia, and Cappadocia), Greece (Achaea, Macedonia, Epirus, and Thracia), the Levant (Syria, Arabia and Judaea), the Balkans and some of the Danube provinces (Chapter 10) and Egypt and Cyrenaica (Chapter 9).

Until the Roman conquest most of the eastern Mediterranean had been part of the Hellenistic world and the columnar Orders, which had their origins in Classical Greece, remained enormously significant. Even under Roman rule, the columnar style remained so deep-rooted that the architecture of the Eastern Empire can be viewed as the final development in an unbroken Hellenistic tradition.

Such buildings as the Temple of Zeus at Athens (Figure 11.2), the Library of Celsus at Ephesus (Figure 11.10), the Temple of Bacchus at Baalbek (Figure 11.14), and the Temple of Bel at Palmyra (Figure 11.17) all owe their effect to skillful handling of the columnar Orders, with concrete playing no significant role until the late Empire. Clearly, Roman architectural styles were nowhere near as influential here as they were in the west.

The Eastern Provinces | Roman Architecture | Second edition

In the Republican period generals took their own Greek or Asiatic architects back to Rome with them. Augustus used Greek columnar Orders to build his marble city. Trajan declared that architects in Rome usually came from Greece (Pliny the Younger, Epist. 10.39–40) and Hadrian may have imported architects from Asia Minor for his building projects. It can be argued that Rome’s main contribution to architecture lay in the realm of engineering and the development of concrete, while eastern architects continued to develop the Classical Orders.

In the words of Lyttelton: ‘While it is certainly true that it was the architects in Rome who first realized the exciting potentialities of building in concrete … it appears that throughout the first two centuries of imperial rule it was the architects of the eastern provinces of the Empire who remained pre-eminent in the evolution and exploitation of the traditional column-and-lintel style.’1

Here a few words should be said about Hellenistic architecture and the Classical orders on which it is based. The Classical tradition of trabeated columnar architecture was developed in Greece during the period 600–400 bc and two highly sophisticated styles of architecture developed, the Doric and the Ionic. Both these systems depended on a clear and logical relationship between the constituent parts of the building and equal value was given to each part.

Thus in a Classical Greek temple, no single side of the building was treated as the façade, and precincts were often planned so that the first view of a temple was from a three-quarter viewpoint. Indeed one’s first view of the Parthenon upon entering through the Propylaea is the rear of the temple not the entrance façade. Moreover, the appearance of a temple closely reflected its structure.

That is to say, not only did the columns support the horizontal entablature which spanned them, but they appeared capable of supporting them. Therefore they had to be of adequate thickness to take the weight, and sufficiently close together so that the entablature did not appear to be in danger of collapsing. In fact that is the basis of Vitruvius’ criticism of the Second Pompeian style of wall-painting (de Arch. 7.5.4).

In the Classical Greek temple structure dictated appearance to the extent that every major element played an essential part in the system. However, as early as the fifth century bc some Classical buildings began to include elements superfluous to any structural requirements, but valuable for their effect. For example, in an orthodox Classical temple, two rows of columns often ran down the cella.

They were to help support the roof, which is to say they were an integral part of the whole structure. However, in the Parthenon, these columns turned to run behind the statue of Athena, showing that they were being used decoratively rather than purely structurally.

In the Temple of Apollo at Bassae, which dates to the later fifth-century bc, the rows of columns ran so close to the cella walls that they were actually joined to them by a series of spur walls. In terms of supporting the roof they would have been of very little value, and one could conclude that their purpose was to deceive the eye by giving the impression that they were complete columns and that there were normal aisles beyond them.

This represents quite a sharp break from previous architectural practice and soon architectural elements began to be used in an unorthodox fashion. Columnar screens and façades were often placed in front of a building without regard to structural logic.

Half-columns and pilasters were used, both of which appear to act as supports while having little independent structural value. Elements that were originally necessary parts of the structure were used decoratively. For example, the pediment, which ought to be the triangle produced at the ends of a building by the sloping roof, was applied decoratively to façades and over niches or aedicules. Sometimes it became segmental in shape, or it could be hollow at the bottom or broken in the middle.

The Eastern Provinces Part 2 | Roman Architecture | Second edition

At this point, it may be useful to look at an eastern building and analyze its component parts. The Deir at Petra (Figure 11.19) is a rock-cut tomb with a columnar façade, designed to impress by its sheer size and position. It is worlds away from the graceful Greek temple designed to be viewed from all sides with its surrounding columns regular and even. Here the aim is to overwhelm by piling up the Classical Orders to create a dramatic effect, one that relies entirely upon the façade, in contrast to the small plain interior.

The façade is conceived as an independent screen in front of the building rather than an organic and logical element in the structure as a whole. Note how the central part of the façade is emphasized and the sides build up towards it. The columns are not arranged regularly, reflecting the structures they have to support; instead, they are arranged in terms of rhythms. On the two sides are pilasters, used to articulate rather than act as supports. The two niches and doorway on the lower floor are capped with alternately segmental and triangular pediments, a favorite device of the 17th century Baroque with which this eastern architecture has so much in common.

The outer pairs of columns on each side support a projecting section of the entablature which then breaks off. The third column from the edge on each side supports a shorter projecting section of an entablature, whose only function in projecting is to be supported by the column.

In the upper story, the Orders are used to more dramatic effect. The two pilasters on each end have half-columns engaged in them and support a boldly projecting section of entablature with a triglyph frieze. Once again the only function of these complicated pilasters cum half-columns is to support an entablature, whose purpose is to be supported by them. Their real function is of course not structural at all, but to give a powerful rhythm to the upper story.

Closer to the middle is a pair of columns straddling the two projecting sections of the entablature on the story below. They support the ends of a massive broken pediment with a circular kiosk in the middle. Note, however, the sophistication with which this circular element is handled. Its columns are exactly the same height as the flanking ones and even the rhythm of the triglyph frieze is maintained. Also, the acroterion on the top of its conical roof is in exactly the position it would have been having the pediment complete.

One must conclude that there is nothing crude about this style. It is highly sophisticated handling of the Classical Orders by architects who thoroughly understood their true function and were able to break the rules with a deliberate effect in mind. Incidentally, this also presupposes that the clients of such buildings had the taste and understanding to appreciate such subtleties. In order to understand a building that breaks the rules, one has to know what the rules were in the first place.

rome

Greece

Athens had enjoyed a fine architectural past and in the Hellenistic period rulers such as Eumenes and Attalos of Pergamum had made magnificent additions to a city already resplendent with monuments such as the Parthenon, Erechtheum, and the Temple of Hephaestus. However, Athens suffered badly as a result of the Sullan sack of 86 bc and rebuilding was overdue.

The tradition of benefactions begun by the Hellenistic monarchs continued under the Romans, and Athens was favored with much patronage both by the imperial family and by fabulously wealthy individuals like Herodes Atticus. The first Roman contribution to the built environment of Athens was the commercial Agora or Agora of Caesar and Augustus, which was used as a commercial or trading center.

It was planned during the visit of Julius Caesar to Athens in 47 bc, but not begun until the visit in 19 bc of Augustus, who provided the money for it. Finally dedicated in 10 bc, it is situated in what used to be the eastern Agora until the Stoa of Attalos cut the area off from the main or western Agora. The monumental west propylon was utterly conservative if not reactionary in style.

Its four columns and its entablature, with its heavy triglyph frieze, were close copies of the late fifth century bc Classical originals. The propylon led into an open square surrounded on all sides by colonnades of Ionic columns in grey-blue Hymmetian marble. Behind were rows of shops, an arrangement common to buildings of the Hellenistic east.

The west propylon of the new Agora was one of a number of Classical revival buildings erected towards the end of the first-century bc both in Athens and Rome. We know that earlier in the century, the Erechtheum, a Classical building of the late fifth-century bc, was damaged by fire.

In the course of its reconstruction, which was completed in 27 bc, the masons engaged on its repair must have become familiar with the ornate Ionic order employed in the original building because the small circular temple NE of the Parthenon, dedicated to Rome and Augustus in the same year, had nine Ionic columns closely modeled on those of the Erechtheum.

This Classical revival in Athens had important repercussions in Rome of the last decades bc when Augustus was promoting the Classical period as a model for imperial art and architecture. Among the products of this classical revival were the Prima Porta Augustus, based upon the fifth century bc Doryphoros of Polycleitos, the Ara Pacis, completed in 9 bc and based upon Classical and Hellenistic prototypes, and the Forum of Augustus replete with its row of Caryatids based upon those of the Erechtheum.

In a more general sense, the Augustan Classical revival gave purity and discipline to the rash of new architectural forms and styles in vogue in the early years of Augustus’ principate. Thus the Classical revival in Athens, although antiquarian in spirit, had more than a passing effect on the architecture of the Roman Empire.

The old marketplace or Agora also underwent considerable rebuilding during the early Empire. Most notable was the building of a new odeum by Agrippa, in about 15 bc (Figure 11.1). Its enormous bulk must have towered over the elegant stores all around it and

The Eastern provinces comprise Asia Minor (Asia, Bithynia/Pontus, Lycia/Pamphylia, Cilicia, Galatia, and Cappadocia), Greece (Achaea, Macedonia, Epirus, and Thracia), the Levant (Syria, Arabia, and Judaea), the Balkans and some of the Danube provinces (Chapter 10) and Egypt and Cyrenaica (Chapter 9). Until the Roman conquest most of the eastern Mediterranean had been part of the Hellenistic world and the columnar Orders, which had their origins in Classical Greece, remained enormously significant.

Even under Roman rule, the columnar style remained so deep-rooted that the architecture of the Eastern Empire can be viewed as the final development in an unbroken Hellenistic tradition. Such buildings as the Temple of Zeus at Athens (Figure 11.2), the Library of Celsus at Ephesus (Figure 11.10), the Temple of Bacchus at Baalbek (Figure 11.14), and the Temple of Bel at Palmyra (Figure 11.17) all owe their effect to skillful handling of the columnar Orders, with concrete playing no significant role until the late Empire. Clearly, Roman architectural styles were nowhere near as influential here as they were in the west.

rome

In the Republican period, generals took their own Greek or Asiatic architects back to Rome with them. Augustus used Greek columnar Orders to build his marble city. Trajan declared that architects in Rome usually came from Greece (Pliny the Younger, Epist. 10.39–40) and Hadrian may have imported architects from Asia Minor for his building projects.

It can be argued that Rome’s main contribution to architecture lay in the realm of engineering and the development of concrete, while eastern architects continued to develop the Classical Orders. In the words of Lyttelton: ‘While it is certainly true that it was the architects in Rome who first realized the exciting potentialities of building in concrete … it appears that throughout the first two centuries of imperial rule it was the architects of the eastern provinces of the Empire who remained pre-eminent in the evolution and exploitation of the traditional column-and-lintel style.’1

Here a few words should be said about Hellenistic architecture and the Classical orders on which it is based. The Classical tradition of trabeated columnar architecture was developed in Greece during the period 600–400 bc and two highly sophisticated styles of architecture developed, the Doric and the Ionic. Both these systems depended on a clear and logical relationship between the constituent parts of the building and equal value was given to each part.

Thus in a Classical Greek temple, no single side of the building was treated as the façade, and precincts were often planned so that the first view of a temple was from a three-quarter viewpoint. Indeed one’s first view of the Parthenon upon entering through the Propylaea is the rear of the temple not the entrance façade. Moreover, the appearance of a temple closely reflected its structure.

That is to say, not only did the columns support the horizontal entablature which spanned them, but they appeared capable of supporting them. Therefore they had to be of adequate thickness to take the weight, and sufficiently close together so that the entablature did not appear to be in danger of collapsing. In fact that is the basis of Vitruvius’ criticism of the Second Pompeian style of wall-painting (de Arch. 7.5.4).

In the Classical Greek temple structure dictated appearance to the extent that every major element played an essential part in the system. However, as early as the fifth century bc some Classical buildings began to include elements superfluous to any structural requirements, but valuable for their effect. For example, in an orthodox Classical temple, two rows of columns often ran down the cella. They were to help support the roof, which is to say they were an integral part of the whole structure.

However, in the Parthenon, these columns turned to run behind the statue of Athena, showing that they were being used decoratively rather than purely structurally. In the Temple of Apollo at Bassae, which dates to the later fifth-century bc, the rows of columns ran so close to the cella walls that they were actually joined to them by a series of spur walls.

In terms of supporting the roof they would have been of very little value, and one could conclude that their purpose was to deceive the eye by giving the impression that they were complete columns and that there were normal aisles beyond them. This represents quite a sharp break from previous architectural practice and soon architectural elements began to be used in an unorthodox fashion.

Columnar screens and façades were often placed in front of a building without regard to structural logic. Half-columns and pilasters were used, both of which appear to act as supports while having little independent structural value.

Elements that were originally necessary parts of the structure were used decoratively. For example, the pediment, which ought to be the triangle produced at the ends of a building by the sloping roof, was applied decoratively to façades and over niches or aedicules. Sometimes it became segmental in shape, or it could be hollow at the bottom or broken in the middle.

At this point it may be useful to look at an eastern building and analyze its component parts. The Deir at Petra (Figure 11.19) is a rock-cut tomb with a columnar façade, designed to impress by its sheer size and position. It is worlds away from the graceful Greek temple designed to be viewed from all sides with its surrounding columns regular and even.

Here the aim is to overwhelm by piling up the Classical Orders to create a dramatic effect, one that relies entirely upon the façade, in contrast to the small plain interior. The façade is conceived as an independent screen in front of the building rather than an organic and logical element in the structure as a whole. Note how the central part of the façade is emphasized and the sides build up towards it.

The columns are not arranged regularly, reflecting the structures they have to support; instead, they are arranged in terms of rhythms. On the two sides are pilasters, used to articulate rather than act as supports. The two niches and doorway on the lower floor are capped with alternately segmental and triangular pediments, a favorite device of the 17th century Baroque with which this eastern architecture has so much in common.

The outer pairs of columns on each side support a projecting section of the entablature which then breaks off. The third column from the edge on each side supports a shorter projecting section of an entablature, whose only function in projecting is to be supported by the column.

In the upper story, the Orders are used to more dramatic effect. The two pilasters on each end have half-columns engaged in them and support a boldly projecting section of entablature with a triglyph frieze. Once again the only function of these complicated pilasters cum half-columns is to support an entablature, whose purpose is to be supported by them. Their real function is of course not structural at all, but to give a powerful rhythm to the upper story. Closer to the middle is a pair of columns straddling the two projecting sections of the entablature on the story below.

They support the ends of a massive broken pediment with a circular kiosk in the middle. Note, however, the sophistication with which this circular element is handled. Its columns are exactly the same height as the flanking ones and even the rhythm of the triglyph frieze is maintained. Also, the acroterion on the top of its conical roof is in exactly the position it would have been having the pediment complete.

One must conclude that there is nothing crude about this style. It is highly sophisticated handling of the Classical Orders by architects who thoroughly understood their true function and were able to break the rules with a deliberate effect in mind. Incidentally, this also presupposes that the clients of such buildings had the taste and understanding to appreciate such subtleties. In order to understand a building that breaks the rules, one has to know what the rules were in the first place.

 

The Eastern Provinces Part 2

The Eastern Provinces Part 2 | Roman Architecture | Second edition

 

Greece

Athens had enjoyed a fine architectural past and in the Hellenistic period rulers such as Eumenes and Attalos of Pergamum had made magnificent additions to a city already resplendent with monuments such as the Parthenon, Erechtheum, and the Temple of Hephaestus. However, Athens suffered badly as a result of the Sullan sack of 86 bc and rebuilding was overdue. The tradition of benefactions begun by the Hellenistic monarchs continued under the Romans, and Athens was favored with much patronage both by the imperial family and by fabulously wealthy individuals like Herodes Atticus.

The first Roman contribution to the built environment of Athens was the commercial Agora or Agora of Caesar and Augustus, which was used as a commercial or trading center. It was planned during the visit of Julius Caesar to Athens in 47 bc, but not begun until the visit in 19 bc of Augustus, who provided the money for it. Finally dedicated in 10 bc, it is situated in what used to be the eastern Agora until the Stoa of Attalos cut the area off from the main or western Agora.

The monumental west propylon was utterly conservative if not reactionary in style. Its four columns and its entablature, with its heavy triglyph frieze, were close copies of the late fifth century bc Classical originals. The propylon led into an open square surrounded on all sides by colonnades of Ionic columns in grey-blue Hymmetian marble. Behind were rows of shops, an arrangement common to buildings of the Hellenistic east.

The west propylon of the new Agora was one of a number of Classical revival buildings erected towards the end of the first-century bc both in Athens and Rome. We know that earlier in the century, the Erechtheum, a Classical building of the late fifth-century bc, was damaged by fire. In the course of its reconstruction, which was completed in 27 bc, the masons engaged on its repair must have become familiar with the ornate Ionic order employed in the original building because the small circular temple NE of the Parthenon, dedicated to Rome and Augustus in the same year, had nine Ionic columns closely modeled on those of the Erechtheum.

This Classical revival in Athens had important repercussions in Rome of the last decades bc when Augustus was promoting the Classical period as a model for imperial art and architecture. Among the products of this classical revival were the Prima Porta Augustus, based upon the fifth century bc Doryphoros of Polycleitos, the Ara Pacis, completed in 9 bc and based upon Classical and Hellenistic prototypes, and the Forum of Augustus replete with its row of Caryatids based upon those of the Erechtheum.

In a more general sense, the Augustan Classical revival gave purity and discipline to the rash of new architectural forms and styles in vogue in the early years of Augustus’ principate. Thus the Classical revival in Athens, although antiquarian in spirit, had more than a passing effect on the architecture of the Roman Empire.

The old marketplace or Agora also underwent considerable rebuilding during the early Empire. Most notable was the building of a new odeum by Agrippa, in about 15 bc (Figure 11.1). Its enormous bulk must have towered over the elegant stores all around it and

Figure 11.1  Athens (Greece), Odeum of Agrippa, c. 15 bc: elevation and axonometric view. (After A. Boethius and J. B. Ward Perkins, Etruscan and Roman Architecture [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970], figure 147.)

added a startling new dimension to the square. Its ground plan took advantage of the site which slopes gently down from south to north. The shallow semicircular banks of seats fitted into the slope, so that the orchestra was directly accessible at ground level north of the building, while the topmost seats were also accessible at ground level south of the building.

The seating was inscribed into a tall, square auditorium whose general arrangements are reminiscent, on a larger scale, of Hellenistic meeting halls, such as the bouleuterion at Miletus, the ecclesiasterion at Priene, and the nearby bouleuterion on the west side of the Agora. Unfortunately, its daring timber roof spanning 25 meters collapsed in the middle of the second-century ad. As a result, a cross-wall was inserted, thus cutting the seating capacity to less than half.

The nearby Temple of Ares is another Augustan addition that should be singled out for special mention. The enigma of this temple is that, although it belongs to the later fifth-century bc, every block bears a Roman mason’s mark. The conclusion of the American excavators was that the temple must have been transported block by block and re-erected in the middle of the Agora.

Its removal to the Agora may be connected with an inscription honoring Augustus’ grandson, Gaius, as the ‘new Ares’. The re-siting of the Temple of Ares is a clear illustration of the Roman use of temples for propaganda purposes, as well as illustrating the changing status of the Agora from the commercial to the civic center of Athens.

The most thorough building program was instituted by Hadrian, who first visited Athens in ad 124–125. His greatest project was the completion of the enormous temple of Olympian Zeus started by the tyrant Peisistratus in the sixth-century bc (Figure 11.2).

Figure 11.2  Athens (Greece), the temple of Zeus, completed by Hadrian in ad 131–132.

Planned as a gigantic Doric temple c. 530 bc, it had lain uncompleted for hundreds of years, until Antiochus Epiphanes resumed building in the Corinthian Order to the designs of a Roman architect called Cossutius (174 bc). The temple, measuring 44 × 110 meters, dipteral on the flanks and peripheral at the ends, was on the same colossal scale as its predecessor but used slender Corinthian columns of Pentelic marble, 16.89 meters high.

This second attempt also failed, and adding insult to injury Sulla, who had sacked Athens in 86 bc, took marble columns from the unfinished temple to Rome for use on the Capitol (Pliny, Nat. Hist. 36.5.45). Finally, in ad 131–132 Hadrian completed the temple and placed in the cella a chryselephantine statue of Zeus.

Near the Olympieion is the Arch of Hadrian (Figure 11.3), which marked the beginning of Hadrian’s new city, Hadrianopolis or Novae Athenae. On the side facing the Olympieion is an inscription meant to be read by anyone passing through it on the way to the old city: ‘This is Athens, the ancient city of Theseus.’ On the other side is an inscription: ‘This is the city of Hadrian and not of Theseus.’ Flanking the very shallow arched passage stood pairs of free-standing Corinthian columns, which rested upon plinths and supported projecting entablatures.

The upper story consisted of an open, three-bay columnar screen. The outer pairs of columns, now missing, supported projecting entablatures like the corresponding ones below, while the central pair supported a projecting aedicule with a triangular pediment The aedicule was originally screened and on one side was a statue of Hadrian gazing over his city and on the other a statue of Theseus. If the arrangement seems unusual for an honorific arch it may be explicable in terms of the kind of rhythmical columnar facades appearing in contemporary buildings such as the Library of Celsus at Ephesus (Figure 11.10).

The plain tetrastyle entrance porch of the Library of Hadrian at Athens was flanked on each side by a finely drafted masonry wall in front of which were seven free-standing Corinthian columns supporting projecting entablatures (Figure 11.4). It is perhaps worth noting that the façade columns support architraves with two, rather than three fasciae and that there are consoles rather than modillions in the cornice, features of Asiatic origin, which also appear

Figure 11.3  Athens (Greece), Arch of Hadrian, c. ad 138.

 

Figure 11.4  Athens (Greece), Library of Hadrian, façade (ad 117–138).

on Hadrianic monuments in Rome. The porch opened into a sizeable enclosure surrounded by a peristyle of 100 columns of Phrygian stone or pavonazzetto (Pausanias, Description of Greece 1.18.9). In the centre was a pool measuring 58 × 13 metres surrounded by a garden.

The scrolls or books were stored in the rooms along the east side, opposite the entrance.

The second-century ad saw the last notable additions to the city, the odeum and the stadium, both donated by the wealthy benefactor, Herodes Atticus. The odeum, built in memory of his wife, who died about ad 160 (Figure 11.5), was built presumably because the old one was now unserviceable owing to the insertion of the cross-wall. Nestling into the south slope of the Acropolis, it had a semicircular auditorium, c. 81 metres wide, making it as big as a Roman theatre.

In fact, the whole building was largely Roman in layout. The scene building and outer façade rose to a height of 28 metres and were richly veneered with marble, as were the seats for the audience. Philostratus (Vit. Soph. 551) makes special mention of the fine cedar roof, which is evidenced by a layer of ash discovered by the excavators. Meinel argues that the massive buttresses in the outer cavea wall indicate the position of the roof beams of a transverse trussed roof, although the maximum span from the stage building to the back of the cavea is an astonishing 49 metres.2

Philostratus compares the Athenian odeum with the roofed one at Corinth, also built by Herodes Atticus, which he regards as fine, but inferior to the one in Athens. He also mentions the fine stadium of white marble, built in only four years (Vit. Soph. 550). Presumably, the Odeum of Herodes Atticus at Athens was burnt in the Herulian sack of ad 267, which destroyed the buildings of the Agora and devastated the area. A little later the Athenians pulled down many of their ruined buildings to throw up a new city wall which encompassed a small part of the city centre.

Of the other major towns of Greece, Corinth is worth special mention because of the way it was treated in the second-century bc (Figure 11.6). Despite its illustrious history, it was

Figure 11.5  Athens, Odeum of Herodes Atticus, ad 161, heavily renovated in 1950.

Figure 11.6  Corinth (Greece): plan of the central area. (After M.I. Finley, ed., Atlas of Classical Archaeology [London: Chatto and Windus, 1977].)

sacked by Mummius in 146 bc and the destruction which took place is commented upon by Polybius (39.13). Refounded as a colony by Julius Caesar in 44 bc, it became the capital of the Roman province of Achaea. The colonists were Italians and the rebuilt city was distinctly Italian in character. The venerable sixth-century bc Temple of Apollo, built on higher ground to the north of the agora, was redesigned in the Roman style.3

The agora itself was split neatly into two terraces separated by a central row of shops with a bema (speaker’s platform) in the middle. Behind the south stoa were buildings which would have been familiar to Roman eyes: a curia, a basilica and administrative offices for the officials of the Isthmian games. On the east side of the agora was the Julian basilica and just to the north the third basilica. Recent excavations have revealed the fourth basilica to the west of the agora.

These basilicas would have been necessary for conducting the extensive legal business of the province of Achaea, of which Corinth was now the capital. During the first and second centuries ad, six small temples were built along the west side of the agora. Significantly, they are all podium temples with lofty staircases on the entrance side, a type of temple which had its origins in Italy. In the first century ad, the large Temple E may have been built to house the Imperial cult.

The Fountain of Peirene in the NW corner of the agora was entirely remodelled, probably by Herodes Atticus, in the second-century ad. Massive half-domed apses were added to three sides, the floor level raised and the walls revetted in marble, giving it a rather theatrical appearance.

Greek theatres were frequently altered in accordance with Roman fashion. This generally involved creating an integrated Roman auditorium with the stage joined to the sides of the cavea and a tall scaenae frons rising behind. In the process the stage was often reduced in height and extended into the orchestra, sometimes cutting off the parodoi completely.

In some cases, the analemmata were cut back so as to make them parallel to the stage in the Roman manner, as was done in the theatre at Corinth. The new scaenae frons was almost totally Roman in style and followed the second-century ad fashion of having all three doorways enclosed in semicircular niches. By the third century ad many Greek theatres, such as those at Maronea, Philippi, Corinth and Stobi, had been turned into arenas by removing the lowest rows of seating and enlarging the orchestra.

A good deal of evidence has emerged that the orchestras or arenas of theatres such as those in Corinth, Argos and Athens were turned into kolymbethrae which could be flooded for water spectacles. This occurred in the Late Empire from the late third to the early fifth-century ad.

Asia Minor

After his death the Empire of Alexander the Great broke up into a number of kingdoms, heralding the beginning of the age we call Hellenistic. This age lasted until the Battle of Actium in 31 bc when Octavian defeated Antony and Cleopatra and took over the last of the Hellenistic kingdoms. First, we should look at how town planning developed in the Hellenistic period.

A good way of doing this is to compare the layout of the Acropolis of Pergamum with an older town such as Priene, which was laid out according to the rigid grid plan associated with the Hippodamus. This was particularly surprising in the case of Priene, which was built on a steep slope. On the other hand in Pergamum, built on an even steeper slope, there was no attempt to impose such rigid planning.

The terraces of the Great Altar (1 on Figure 11.7), the Temple of Athena (2), and the Temple of Trajan (3), rise like a series of steps from south to north following the contours of the hill and facing out across the plain over 300 metres below. The theatre, rising 46 metres from the level of its orchestra to the topmost seats, sits beneath them like a giant fan. Under the theatre, a long stoa facing the Temple of Dionysus at one end gives stability to the scheme. In typically Hellenistic fashion it is the overall grouping which dominates, not the individual buildings which are subordinated to the arrangement

Figure 11.7  Pergamum (Bergama, Turkey): plan of the Acropolis.
Figure 11.7  Pergamum (Bergama, Turkey): plan of the Acropolis.

as a whole. The plan of Pergamum is the masterly exploitation of a difficult site. As Lyttelton says: ‘The terraces of Priene might be said to overcome the difficulties of the terrain, whereas those of Pergamum exploit them.’4 Of the individual buildings of Pergamum the Trajaneum is of immediate interest because its architectural details are so close to those of Hadrian’s Temple of Venus and Rome (Figure 8.23), whose two-fascia architrave, consoles instead of modillions under the cornice, and sima with alternately open and closed palmettes, suggest that it was built by architects trained in the Asiatic tradition.5

The Acropolis consists of many monuments belonging to the second and third centuries bc, but the Temple of Trajan, which is an integral part of the scheme, dates to the early second-century ad. There is nothing surprising in this because in the Eastern provinces Hellenistic building styles continued to develop well into the Roman Imperial period.

Miletus, Priene, Ephesus and Aphrodisias had become leading centres of Hellenistic culture. Miletus was laid out in 479 bc according to a rigid grid system (Figure 11.8). As at Pergamum many of the buildings belong to the Hellenistic period, but it was additions in the Roman period which forged them into an organically related entity. Facing the harbour was the 160-metre-long L-shaped harbour stoa (1 in Figure 11.8).

Behind it were the small marketplace (2) and the north agora (3). Nearby was the circular Temple of Apollo Delphinius in its rectangular columnar enclosure, built in the Hellenistic period and altered in Roman times (4). At the beginning of the Roman imperial period, a gate (10) was inserted between the harbour stoa and the Delphinion, thus uniting the two buildings, marking the entrance into the market area and separating it from the area to the north of it. Further to the

Figure 11.8  Miletus (Turkey): a plan of the city centre. (After E. Akurgal, Ancient Civilizations and Ruins of Turkey [Istanbul: Haşet Kitabevi, 1973], 212.)

south were the Capito Baths built at the time of Claudius (5) and the gymnasium built in the second-century bc (6). On the other side of the road was the bouleuterion dating to 175–164 bc (7) and squeezed between it and the north agora which may be the sanctuary of the imperial cult (8). In the Roman period these elements were unified by a broad collonaded street, 100 metres long × 28 metres broad, running between the gate (10) and the south agora (9).

At the end of the collonaded street, a new baroque gateway to the south agora with a dramatically broken pediment (12) was the focus of attention. Built in the second half of the second-century ad, it is now in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. The south agora (9) was built in the mid-second century bc and originally consisted of three separate stoas, two L-shaped and all three in the Doric Order (9).

Together they enclosed a vast open space, measuring 164 × 196 metres, but they were not joined up into a single four-sided stoa until Roman times. Vying for attention with the gate to the south agora (12) was a large and impressive nymphaeum with staggered columns, like the Library of Celsus at Ephesus (Figure 11.10), on three storeys (13) set back from the collonaded street.

Another type of terrain presents itself at Ephesus. To the east of the ancient harbour is a flattish area bounded to the south by Mount Koressos and the east by Mount Pion. The enormous theatre (Figure 11.9), 142 metres in diameter, was magnificently sited at the foot of Mount Pion and faced west towards the harbour 600 metres away, linked to it by a collonaded street, 11 metres broad.

The theatre was begun c. 200 bc, but the building continued into Roman times when it attained its maximum diameter in the second-century ad. In the third century ad its orchestra turned into an arena and later into a kolymbethra. North of the street and adjacent to the theatre was the vast Harbour Baths complex, finished in the later second-century ad. The baths were strikingly different in their layout from the conventional Roman

Figure 11.9  Ephesus (Turkey), theatre

imperial type, especially because of the Greek insistence upon columnar and trabeated structure. More than half of the ground plan (202 × 238 metres) was devoted to the gymnasium, which was surrounded by multiple porticoes of columns used as covered running tracks.

The main bulk of the building itself centred around a large peristyle courtyard, on whose north and south sides were two richly decorated rooms with elaborate niches around three sides and columnar screens on the sides facing the peristyle. This type of room (often called a ‘Marmorsaal’) was a recurrent feature of bath buildings in the east.

A road led south from the theatre and then turned eastward to begin the steep ascent up the valley between Mount Koressos and Mount Pion. Along this road can be seen a number of monuments designed to attract the eye and divert attention from the many bends in the sloping street. First, on the right was the second-century ad Library of Celsus in its colonnaded enclosure (Figure 11.10).

Its façade is of interest because of the staggered columns, a feature of the nymphaeum at Miletus, whereby the pairing of the columns in the lower storey did not correspond to the pairing of the columns in the upper storey. Higher up the hill on the left was the Temple of Hadrian, most of whose ground area was devoted to the arresting façade and porch (Figure 11.11).

The temple was tetrastyle, in this case with two columns and two square piers. The two side intercolumniations were installed while the middle one was wider and was spanned by a large arch which broke into the pediment. This ‘arcuated lintel’, seen in the colonnade around the Canopus of Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli (Figure 8.20), was a favourite eastern device whose Assyrian origins have been traced back to the eighth-century bc.

 

The Eastern Provinces Part 3 | Roman Architecture | Second edition

The Eastern Provinces Part 3 | Roman Architecture | Second edition

 

In Asia Minor, there had been a long tradition of theatre building which lasted into Roman times, although several Hellenistic features persisted. For example, the cavea usually exceeded a semicircle, as in the first-century ad theatres at Nysa, Hierapolis and Prusias-ad-Hypium,

Figure 11.10  Ephesus (Turkey), Library of Celsus.

Figure 11.11  Ephesus (Turkey), Temple of Hadrian.

and in the second century ad theatres at Side, Sagalassus and Perge.6 This usually resulted in the width of the stage being greatly reduced compared to western theatres. The cavea was separated from the scene building by open parodoi, as at Myra, Aezani and numerous other theatres of Asia Minor and Greece. Sometimes there was an attempt to roof the parodoi over, as at Perge, and sometimes the scene building ran so close to the cavea as to eliminate them entirely, as at Hierapolis.

The stage was often between 2 and 3 metres high, and there were frequently five doorways in the back wall of the scaenae frons instead of the usual three. In the early third century ad in Asia Minor and Greece, as in Italy and the west, it became fashionable to transform the orchestra into an arena. In Side for example the orchestra, originally c. 29 metres wide, was transformed into an arena by enclosing the lowest four rows of seats in a massive wall, two metres thick.

This practice extended to Sicily: for example at Tyndaris and Taormina; Cyrenaica, as at Apollonia and Cyrene; and Macedonia, as at Dodona and Stobi. The theatres of Asia Minor were exceedingly large, with overall diameters of 139.8 metres (Miletus), 142 metres (Ephesus), 148 metres (Tralles) and c. 150 metres (Smyrna). The regions of Asia Minor most ready to accept Roman fashions were those of the south: Lycia, Pisidia and Pamphylia, which were the least Hellenised parts, but became extremely prosperous under the Roman Empire.

The theatre at Aspendos in Lycia on the south coast of Turkey has several western features, such as the semicircular cavea with seats running flush with the stage building. However, it also has some eastern features such as the division of the cavea into two seating zones instead of three, the large number of cunei (nine in the lower cavea), and the rectilinear scaenae frons with five doorways whose height diminished towards the sides (Figure 11.12). Although lacking most of its columns its scene building is one of the best-preserved in the Roman world.

Figure 11.12  Aspendus (Turkey), theatre, general view.

 

Syria

The Levantine coastline and the fertile areas around the river Euphrates could boast civilizations older than that of Greece. The Phoenician cities of Byblos, Tyre and Sidon could trace their history back for millennia, and the storm god, Baal, had been worshipped from time immemorial at Baalbek in the Bekaa Valley. The Greeks had limited influence in what was essentially a Phoenician part of the world and consequently, the architecture of this region was closer to that of Rome than that of Greece.

Further south was Judaea, which was ruled by the enlightened King Herod when it passed under Roman protection, and consequently, the Roman influence was strong. The Decapolis (‘ten cities’) was an important group of cities, mainly in the province of Arabia, including for example Pella and Jerash in Jordan, but also Scythopolis (Beth-Shean) in Judaea (Israel) and Damascus in Syria.

Magnificent towns like Palmyra derived their wealth from the caravan trade and were famous for their collonaded streets, which seem to be an eastern development. Finally on the eastern fringe of the Empire was the town of Doura Europos, which was intermittently under Roman rule.

The sanctuary of Jupiter Heliopolitanus at Baalbek in Lebanon is one of the grandest building complexes in the Roman Empire (Figure 11.13). There had been a sanctuary on this site since the sixth-century bc and the foundation of the Roman colony Julia Augusta Felix Heliopolitana in 16 bc saw the beginning of a great rebuilding. The complex consisted of a monumental propylon, a hexagonal forecourt, and a huge (96 × 86 metres) collonaded courtyard dominated by the impressive bulk of the Temple of Jupiter, which must have been standing to capital height in ad 60 to judge by an inscription on one of the columns.

The temple (88 × 48 metres) was not as large as some giants like the Temple of Zeus at Athens, but it was most impressively sited. Standing on a high podium it measured nearly 44 metres from

Figure 11.13  Baalbek (Lebanon), sanctuary, begun early first-century ad and completed ad 250: reconstructed view. Inset, Temple of Venus, third-century ad: plan and reconstructed view. (After A. Boethius and J. B. Ward Perkins, Etruscan and Roman Architecture [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970].)

 

the floor of the courtyard to the apex of the pediment. The courtyard in front of it was surrounded on three sides by 10 × 19 columns, forming almost exactly a double square ground plan. The columns themselves with their unfluted shafts and Corinthian capitals based on those of Augustan Rome rose to a height of 19.90 metres.

The entablature followed traditional lines except for the bull and lion proteomes which projected from the frieze, presumably an allusion to Baal and Astarte. The sanctuary has obvious signs of Hellenistic and Roman influence, but its layout and many of its characteristics, especially the tower-like altar in front of the temple, are found in earlier Lebanese sanctuaries.

Parallel to the Temple of Jupiter but outside its enclosure was the Temple of Bacchus, begun in the late first and largely built in the second century ad (Figure 11.14). Smaller than the Temple of Jupiter, but nonetheless as big as the Parthenon in Athens (35 × 66 metres), its exceptional state of preservation provides a clear impression of its scale and grandeur. It had 8 × 15 unfluted Corinthian columns, closely spaced and very tall (19 metres high), on a high podium approached by a lofty triple flight of steps.

In terms of detail, the order is similar to that of its gigantic neighbour, the Temple of Jupiter, but the treatment of the coffers above the surrounding columns is much richer. The interior is notable for its fine proportions and sensitive architecture. The cella has a double-square ground plan and its height is equal to its width. Fluted Corinthian half-columns on plinths line the side walls, and between each pair is an arched niche below and a pedimented one above.

At the far end of the cella is a flight of steps at the top of which two piers faced with Corinthian half-columns stand out from the wall and frame the adyton. The scale of the half-columns is identical to those lining the side walls and their distance from the wall is the same as the distance between the columns along

 

Figure 11.14  Baalbek (Lebanon), Temple of Bacchus, second century ad. the wall. Also, their bases are at exactly the same level as the bases of the wall columns. The retention of scale for the free-standing and engaged orders is a master touch. 7

The rectangular courtyard around the Temple of Jupiter (Figure 11.13) appears to date to the same period as the Temple of Bacchus and there are some similarities in design between the two. The courtyard was surrounded on three sides by porticoes of Egyptian granite columns framing the façade of the temple which filled the fourth side. Behind the granite, columns were alternate round and square exedrae.

The round exedrae were flanked by square Corinthian piers between which stood two granite Corinthian columns, an arrangement reminiscent of the Pantheon at Rome (Figure 8.12), although here the spacing between the columns and piers was kept exactly even so that they corresponded precisely to the granite columns of the façade of the portico. Preceding the rectangular court was a hexagonal court with closely similar details. As Lyttelton points out,8 the hexagonal shape gave a strong forward impetus as the visitor moved towards the court of the Temple of Jupiter.

The propylaea which gave access to the whole sanctuary was the last part of the complex to be finished, perhaps by Caracalla or Philip the Arab. A lofty staircase led up to a row of ten Corinthian columns between a pair of two-storied towers. The central intercolumniation was wider than the rest, perhaps to accommodate an arcuated lintel. The small third-century ad Temple of Venus (Figure 11.13, inset) had a circular cella surrounded by Corinthian columns and a tetrastyle porch with a double row of columns.

The columns rested upon a podium and steps leading up to the porch. Between each pair of columns around the cellar, both podium and entablature receded towards the cella wall in a series of gentle concavities. As a result, the capitals and bases of the columns were five-sided. This fanciful design seems to have had no exact parallel in antiquity, although a remarkably similar scheme was used by Borromini in the 17th century for the lantern of St. Ivo in Rome.

Palmyra was an oasis town mid-way between the Mediterranean ports of Sidon, Tyre and Byblos, and the Euphrates. Caravans bringing products from India, China and Arabia, and merchants with goods from Greece, Rome and other Mediterranean countries found the town a convenient place of exchange and trans-shipment. This arrangement saved the merchants ferrying goods the whole length of the caravan route.

When in ad 137 duties were levied upon imported goods the city entered a period of great prosperity. In the middle of the second-century ad a series of public buildings was begun, starting with the great collonaded street which ran from the Grove temple in the west to the Temple of Bel, a distance of 1,000 metres (Figure 11.15). The columns, mainly Corinthian and unfluted, were 9.5 metres high, most with projecting brackets for statues.

The road changed direction at two points, one marked by a monumental tetrakionia with four huge pedestals each supporting four columns with a statue in the middle. Further to the east, the road changed direction more sharply to turn towards the Temple of Bel. Here the change of direction was masked by an ornate triple arch (Figure 11.16).

The Temple of Bel itself (Figure 11.17) is known from an inscription to have been dedicated in ad 32 and belongs mainly to the first-century ad. In ground plan it was pseudodipteral with a column count of 8 × 15, an arrangement strongly reminiscent of Hermogenes’ celebrated Temple of Artemis Leucophryene at Magnesia (Figure 11.15, inset).

The plinths provided the module, as in the Temple of Artemis, the spacings and plinths being of the same dimensions. The central intercolumniation on each short side was wider than the rest to allow a more impressive entrance. Yet despite its thoroughly Hellenistic layout, the cella was not entered from the pronaos, but through an elaborate doorway engaged into the columns in the west side. The result of the adaptation of a Hellenistic temple layout to a Semitic cult

Figure 11.15  Palmyra (Syria): general plan. Inset, Temple of Bel: plan.

Figure 11.16  Palmyra (Syria), triple arch.

Figure 11.17  Palmyra (Syria), Temple of Bel, dedicated ad 32.

can be seen inside the cella by the two cult chambers or thalami at the ends, one with the famous ‘Zodiac’ or ‘Palmyra ceiling’. The acanthus-clad crow-step merlons which capped the cornice are further signs of eastern influence. Another important temple was the small Corinthian Temple of Baal Shamin began in ad 23.

Dura Europos was a Hellenistic foundation dating to about 300 bc, sited on a plateau on the west bank of the Euphrates. On the east side of the city, sheer cliffs run down to the river, and watercourses have cut out natural defences to the north and south. The city was ringed with walls from its inception, particularly strong on the exposed desert side to the west.

The streets were laid out on strictly Hippodamian lines, with an open agora in the middle. The ruling Seleucids seem to have regarded it as a key defensive site in their struggles with the Parthians, but finally, at the end of the second-century bc, the city fell. In the Parthian period that followed changes were most evident in the Agora area, which gradually became transformed into an oriental bazaar with narrow lanes and crowded shops.

A number of new temples appeared, like those of Atargatis, Bel, Adonis and Azzarathkona. The most common plan for such temples was a walled temenos lined with small rooms and chapels. The main sanctuary, usually located at the end of the temenos was approximately square with the entrance in the centre, leading into a pronaos, and a chamber behind.

This rear chamber usually had two smaller rooms, one on each side. The origins of this type of temple are to be found in Mesopotamia and perhaps came to Dura from Assur or similar cities. Dura came briefly under Roman domination at the time of Trajan but was not permanently part of the Empire until it was recaptured by Lucius Verus in ad 165. At first, the changes were few.

A Mithraeum was built, probably for the Roman troops, and some military buildings appeared in the northern part of the city. The garrison was increased in ad 210 and larger quarters were built for the military, including a praetorium, a bath, an amphitheatre and new temples. A palace, the largest building in Dura, was built for the Dux ripae who commanded the troops on the Euphrates frontier.

Entry was through an imposing peristyle courtyard with a similar courtyard beyond. Around this second courtyard were public rooms, a dining room, an audience hall and servants’ rooms. At the back, overlooking the river, was an imposing suite of rooms which served as the private quarters of the Dux. Although the materials used for this palace were local, the type of building was of Roman origin. Even the unit of measurement reflects its alien nature, the Roman foot instead of the Semitic cubit.

Arabia

The arid areas east and south of the river Jordan became the province of Arabia Petraea under Trajan. Its most important cities lay in the most northerly part of the province: Bostra (Bosra), the provincial capital (now in Syria), Gerasa (Jerash in Jordan) with its famous colonnades, and Philadelphia (Amman).

The area south of the Dead sea as far as the Gulf of Aqaba was originally the Nabataean kingdom, which lay astride the caravan routes from the Arabian ports to Syria; at one time Petra, which nestles deep within the mountains of Edom, was its capital. Exotic and remote, Petra was unknown to Europeans until Johann Burckhardt discovered it in 1812.

The Nabataeans, formerly a nomadic people, began to settle in the area during the fourth-century bc, and soon Petra became a centre of the flourishing spice and perfume trade conducted with southern Arabia and India. Among the many influences on Nabataean architecture was the architecture of nearby Egypt, which until the death of Cleopatra in 31 bc was part of the Hellenistic world.

Although it declined thereafter, Petra reached the height of its prosperity in the first-century ad, when it was described as peaceful and well-governed (Strabo, Geo. 16.4.21). Because its annexation by Rome did not take place until ad 106 the great monuments of Petra used to be dated to the period of Roman domination. However, recent studies suggest that many important monuments date much earlier and are in Lyttelton’s view ‘a product of the Hellenistic, rather than the Roman baroque style.’9

The city is approached through the narrow Siq gorge, which winds its way through the towering mountains on each side. The gorge narrows and, at the end, the first monument to be glimpsed is a sliver of a rock-cut tomb, known in Arabic as the Khasne (‘treasury’). As one emerges from the gorge the whole tomb is gradually revealed (Figure 11.18).

An enormous monument over 40 metres high, it has two storeys, the lower with six columns, four of them supporting a triangular pediment, the central pair widened for the doorway. The upper storey has a circular tholos in the middle of a massively broken pediment. The four outer columns supporting the ends of the pediment correspond to those of the lower storey and the entablature is exactly horizontal.

Furthermore, the urn at the top of the tholos is precisely where it would be if the pediment were unbroken. The dates for this tomb range widely, but most recent studies tend towards a date at the end of the first-century bc.10 Beyond the Khasne the gorge widens to reveal a large rock-cut theatre, probably dating to the first-century ad. Further on, a collonaded street ran through the centre of the city (Figure 11.19).

Along it ranged the principal monuments of Petra: on the south side, the markets and the ‘Great Temple’, and on the north, the ‘Royal Palace’ and the temple of the ‘Winged Lions’. The street terminated in a triple gate. Beyond the gate was a tall, 28-metre-square Nabataean temple known as the Qasr al-Bint (‘the palace of [Pharaoh’s] daughter’), which dates to before the beginning of the first-century ad. With four columns

Figure 11.18  Petra (Jordan), the Khasne, late first-century bc.

Figure 11.19  Petra (Jordan), the Deir, first-century ad

between the antae, the building was divided internally into three almost equal areas, porch, cella and triple shrine. The outside of the rear wall had an arrangement of half-, segmental and triangular pediments, supported on pairs of pilasters. High up the mountain at the west end of the site is the Deir (‘monastery’) which has already been discussed. Another rock-cut tomb, larger than the Chase, is 50 metres wide and nearly 45 metres high, but of a similar style (Figure 11.20). It is usually dated later than the Chase, to the first-century ad.

Jerash became prosperous as a result of the caravan trade. The city was sited in the valley of the river Chrysorhoas which flowed through the town. The flattish eastern bank of the river probably contained the residential quarter and on the western bank most of the public monuments (Figure 11.21). The long straight cardo, lined with Corinthian colonnades along its full length, runs almost parallel to the river along a roughly N/S axis (Figure 11.22).

On the rising ground to the west is situated the imposing second century ad Sanctuary of Artemis and the adjacent half-domed nymphaeum. In the depressions to the north and south of the Sanctuary run two documents, the southern one being carried over the river by the Southbridge. The intersection between the cardo and the northern decumanus is marked by a tetra pylon.

The intersection with the southern decumanus is marked by a tetrakionia set in the middle of a circular piazza, 43 metres in diameter. The southern part of the cardo terminates in an obliquely aligned oval piazza dominated from the SW by the Temple of Zeus. Jerash had three theatres, the South Theatre, c. 76 metres in diameter; a smaller north theatre (probably a roofed odeum), 59.25 metres in diameter; and outside the city a little cult theatre, known as the Birketein theatre. Outside the south gate were the circus and the Hadrianic arch.

The Sanctuary of Artemis was a masterpiece of planning (Figure 11.23). The Northbridge across the river led up two flights of steps to an arched gate which opened into a short stretch of collonaded street. At the end of the collonaded street was a trapezoidal courtyard, its far end aligned with the east side of the main collonaded street. On the west side of the street

Figure 11.20  Petra (Jordan), colonnaded street, terminating in the triple or temenos gate, with the Qasr el Bint beyond.

Figure 11.21  Gerasa (Jerash, Jordan): general plan.

Figure 11.22  Gerasa (Jerash, Jordan), colonnaded street.

Figure 11.23  Gerasa (Jerash, Jordan), Sanctuary of Artemis: plan.

was the Propylaea of the Sanctuary marked by four giant order columns. The actual temple would have been invisible from the collonaded street as it was masked by a 7-metre-high retaining wall against which was built a row of shops. Beyond the propylaea seven flights of steps led up to a large forecourt, and running its entire width were three further flights of steps which led into the massive (121 × 161 metres) collonaded temenos. The temple itself had twice as much space in front of it as behind and was raised on a 4.32-metre-high podium. Two flights of seven steps led up to its cella around which were 6 × 11 Corinthian columns.

Finally, mention should be made of the magnificent theatre at Bostra (Bosra) which owes its splendid state of preservation to the Ayyubids who turned it into a fortress in 1202–1253 (Figure 2.8). It was a medium-sized theatre, 88.30 metres in diameter with a capacity of about 8,300. It was built of black basalt, partly on hollow substructures and partly excavated into the ground (the orchestra is 5.5 metres lower than the surrounding ground level).

The scaenae frons is extremely well-preserved apart from the two upper levels of the columnated which have been robbed. The seating is almost entirely intact, as is much of the porticus at the top of the cavea. It is arguably the best-preserved theatre in the whole Roman empire.

 

 

SEE MORE:

Leave a Comment