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Ruins of ancient cities : with general and particular accounts of their rise, fall, and present condition (Volume 1) online

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it in the most essential points, though it is nearly of
double the size. Indeed, the Theseion impresses the
beholder more by its symmetry than its magni-
tude. It is now converted into a Christian church.
" On approaching the temple of Theseus," says La
Martine, "though convinced by what I had read
of its beauty, I was astonished to find myself quite
unmoved ; my heart sought to bestir itself ; my eye
sought to admire ; but in vain. I felt what one
always feels at the sight of a work without faults,
a negative pleasure, but as to a real, strong impres-
sion, a sense of powerful or involuntary delight, I
experienced nothing. This temple is too small ; it is
a kind of sublime plaything of art. It is not a monu-
ment for the gods ; nor even for men for ages. I felt
but one instant of ecstacy, and that was when, seated
at the western angle of the temple, on its last steps,

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my eye embraced, at one glance, the magnificent
harmony of its forms, the majestic elegance of its
columns, the empty and more sombre space of its
portico ; and on its internal frieze, the combats of the
Centaurs and the Lapithae ; and above, through the
opening of the centre, the blue and resplendent sky,
shedding a serene and mystical light on the cornices
and the projecting slopes of the bassi-rilievi, which
seem to live and to move." All this seems rather

" On your way from Piraeum to the city of Athens,"
says Lord Sandwich, " you pass all along the ruins
of Themistocles' wall. The road is in the middle of
a beautiful plain, covered with vineyards and olive
trees, which, being bounded on one side by moun-
tains, and on the other by the sea, affords a most
delightful prospect. Before your entrance into the
city, the first monument of antiquity that presents
itself to your view, is the temple of Theseus, built
by the Athenians, in honour of that hero, soon after
the battle of Marathon. This temple was allowed
the privilege of being a sanctuary for all fugitives, in
memory that Theseus, in his lifetime, protected the
distressed. It cannot be too much commended, both
on account of the beauty of the materials and regu-
larity of the architecture ; besides which, it has the
advantage of being in a manner entire, there being
nothing wanting to it but a small part of the roof."

In spite of its beauty, what says Monsieur La
Martine ? " No; the temple of Theseus is not worthy
of its fame ; it cannot be said to live as a monu-
ment. It is not suggestive of what it ought to be.
It is beautiful, no doubt ; but it is a kind of frigid,
dead beauty, of which the artist alone ought to go
and shake the shroud, and wipe the dust. As for
me, I admired unquestionably ; but quitted it without
any desire to see it again. The beautiful stones of

106 Hi" INS (.;

the columns of the Vatican, tin- majestic colossal
shadows of St. Peter's at Rome. ne\<-r MitVerctl mr to
leave them without regret, or the hope of return."
Can all this be real ? or is it merely an affectation (

" During our residence of ten weeks," says Sir
John Hobhouse, "there was not, I believe, a day of
which we did not devote a part to the contemplation
of the noble monuments of Grecian genius, that have
outlived the ravages of time, and the outrage of bar-
barous and antiquarian despoilers. The temple of
Theseus, which was within five minutes' walk of our
lodgings, is the most perfect ancient edifice in the
world. In this fabric, the most enduring stability,
and a simplicity of design peculiarly striking, are
united with the highest elegance and accuracy of
workmanship, the characteristics of the Doric style;
whose chaste beauty is not, in the opinion of the first
artists, to be equalled by the graces of any of the
other orders."

" That the Theseion was originally a tomb," says
Dr. Clarke, "like other Grecian temples, is scarcely
to be doubted. The building is believed to bear dato
from the event mentioned by Plutarch, when, after
the conquest of Scyros, the son of Miltiades arrived
in Athens, bearing the mouldering bones and weapons
he had discovered. This occurred during the. ar-
chonship of Apsepion; so that the Theseion has now
braved the attacks of time, of earthquakes, and of
barbarians, during a lapse of considerably above two
thousand years."

This beautiful Doric temple*, more resembling in
the style of its architecture the temples of Pccstum,
than that of Minerva in the Acropolis, and the most
entire of any of the structures of ancient Greece,
were it not for the damage which the sculpture has
sustained, may be considered as still perfect. The


ruined state of the metopes and frieze has proved a
very fortunate circumstance ; for it was owing solely
to this that the building escaped the ravages which
were going on in the Parthenon. The entire edifice
is of Pentelican marble. It stands east and west,
the principal front facing the east ; and it is that kind
of building which was called by ancient architects,
as it is expressed in the language of Vitruvius and
explained by Stuart, a Peripteros ; that is to say, it
has a portico of six columns in each front, and on
each side a range of eleven columns, exclusive of the
columns on the angles. All these columns remain in
their original position, excepting two, that separated
the portico from the pronaos, which have been demo-
lished. Like all pillars raised according to the most
ancient Doric style of buildings, they are without
bases or pedestals; standing with inexpressible dignity
and simplicity upon the pavement of the covered
walk around the cell of the temple. Some of the
metopes represent the labours of Hercules; others
the exploits of Theseus ; and there are some which
were never adorned with any sculpture. Above the
antae of the pronaos is a sculptured frieze, the subject
of which cannot now be determined ; and the battle
of the Centaurs and Lapithae is represented upon a
similar frieze of the porticoes. In the tympanum of
the pediment, over the eastern front, Stuart observed
several holes in the marble, where metal cramps had
been fixed for sustaining sculpture in entire relief, as
over the eastern entrance to the Parthenon. The
action of the atmosphere in this fine climate upon the
marble has diffused over the whole edifice, as over
the buildings in the Acropolis, a warm ochreous tint,
which is peculiar to the ruins of Athens. It bears
no resemblance to the black and dingy hue, which is
acquired by all works in stone and marble, when
they have been exposed to the open air in the

108 lit INS OF AN( ir.NT CITIES.

more northern countries of Europe, and especially in
England. IVrliaps to this warm colour, so n mark-
ably ohanctaraiag the remains of ancient buildings
at Athens, Plutarch alluded in that beautiful pas-
sage, cited by Chandler, when he allinncd that the
structures of Pericles possessed a peculiar and unpa-
ralleled excellence of character. " A certain fresh-
ness bloomed upon them," says he, "and pn -erved
their faces uninjured, as if they possessed a never-
fading spirit, and had a soul insensible to age."

The monument of THRASTLLTTS, an elegant little
fabric, was erected 318 B.C. It is a structure of
Pentelic marble, simple, yet highly finished. Its
entire height is twcnty-nirie feet five inch. -.

" How majestic, and how perfect in its preser-
vation," says Dr. Clarke, " rises the Choragic mo-
nument of Thrasyllns ; and how sublime the whole
group of objects with which it is associated. At
the time of our visit, and before the work of dila-
pidation had commenced, the ancient sun-dial, the
statue of the god, the pillars for the tripods, the
majestic citadel ; the last of these has, indeed, de-
fied the desolating ravages of barbaric power ; but
who shall again behold the other objects in this af-
fecting scene as they then appeared ? or in what dis-
tant country and obscure retreat may we look for
their mutilated fragments?"

The monument of PHILOPAPPUS* stands upon the
hill of Musacus, where that celebrated poet is said to
have been buried. It is within the walls of the
ancient city, though at some distance from those of
the modern one ; and the view from it of the citadel
of 'Athens and the neighbouring territories is very
striking ; for, looking towards the sea, the eye com-
mands the ports of the Piru-us, Munychia, and Pha-
lerns ; the isles of Salamis and .fligina, and the


mountains of Peloponnesus, as far as the gulf of
Argos. It originally consisted of three compart-
ments between four Corinthian pilasters ; that is to
say, of an arched recess, containing a central sitting
figure, having a square niche on each side of it.
Below these appeared three superb sculptures in
relief. That in the centre, beneath the sitting statue,
exhibits Trajan in a car, drawn by four horses, as he
is represented on many monuments of that emperor.
On either side, in square compartments, were seen
the attendants, preceding and following the tri-
umphal car.

Philopappus' monument, says Mr. Dodwell, has
its faults and deficiencies ; but it is an elegant and
imposing object. In the interior of the basement
are some blocks of the grey Hymettian marble, and
the soft stone from the Piraeus. The superstructure
is of Pentelic marble.

It is a structure of white marble, says another
writer, built a proportionable height, something cir-
cular. In the middle was a large niche, with a
figure of marble sitting in it, and under his feet, in
large letters, " Philopappus, son of Epiphanes of
Besa." Whelcr found a still longer inscription, in
Latin, which he thus translates :

Caius, Julius, Philopappus, son of Caius, of the
tribe of Fabia, Consul, Frater Arvalis, chosen among
the Praetors by the most good and august Emperor
Cccsar, Nerva, Trajanus, who conquered the Germans
and Dacians.

Among the inscriptions in this city may be noted
one on a large marble stone, standing on end, in the
wall of a private house, relating to the sale of oil ;
and as it teaches many things we shall cite it, as
translated by Wheler :

The law edict of the God-like Hadrian.

" 'Let those that cultivate the oyl bring the third
part to the office, or those that possess the ground


of the Proconsul, which the .... has sold, their
eighth part, for they only have that riirht. Hut let
them bring it at the same time. * (Tin nn-

eight lines are imperfect, and then it followcth : )
* Let it be taken upon oath, how much hath l>vn
gathered in all, as well by his slaves as by his free-
men ; but if he selleth the fruit, the landlord or the
tenant, or the buyer of the crop, shall be written with
them ; and he that has sold it for transportation
shall give an account how much he has sold it for,
and to whom and whither bound. And let the mer-
chant write what he hath embarked, and of whom,
and whither he is bound. * * * But he that shall
be found to give false accounts, either of the receipt
of transportation, or concerning the country, their
freight shall be confiscated ; still those possessing the
lands of the proconsul excepted if they bring their
.... part.'" (Here half a dozen lines are defaced,
and, then he proceeds again : )" ' Let him retain the
half. But if he doth not receive half, let the public
take half. * * * And let the merchant write what
he hath transported, and how much of every body.
But if he shall be apprehended not to have given his
account, let him be stopped ; or if he sail away, let
his merchandise be forfeited. But if he shall avoid it
by hoisting sails, let them write to his country, or to
me, under the testimony of the commons; if any of the
ship shall allege it necessary, the preetor shall con-
vocate the senate the next day ; but if the matter
shall exceed fifty amphora?, let it be brought to the
congregation, and half given to the discoverer. But
if any one shall yet appeal to me or my proconsuls,
let the commons choose syndics, that all things
which are done against evil doers may be executed
without reproof.' ' Some lines more yet remain,
which are less preserved.

The majority of the Athenian churches* are
- Uodwell.


built upon the ruins of ancient temples, and are com-
posed of blocks of stone and marble, with a great
number of inscriptions, altars, pedestals, and archi-
tectural ornaments. " As we passed through the
town," says Dr. Clarke, " there was hardly a house,
that had not some little marble fragments of ancient
sculpture stuck in its front, over its door."

At Athens four ancient buildings* have been en-
tirely destroyed within these few years ; a small
Ionic temple in the Acropolis ; another temple, sup^
posed to be of Ceres, near the Ilissus, or bridge over
that stream, and the aqueduct of Antoninus Pius.
Part also of the propylsean columns have been
thrown down, with a mass of the architrave on the
western front of the Erectheion, and one of the
columns of the Olympeion. In fact, more than
forty of the temples and public buildingst, which are
mentioned by Pausanias, have so totally disappeared,
as not to leave a trace, by which it is possible to
identify their situation : and this leads us to the Par-
thenon, which we have purposely left to the last, be-
cause the wrong done to it of late years, by a noble-
man of Scotland, has been the means of introducing
to our own country a taste for the elegant and
beautiful, which it never enjoyed before.

" The Parthenon," says Mr. Dodwell, " at first
sight rather disappointed my expectations, and ap-
peared less than its fame. The eye, however, soon
becomes filled with the magnitude of its dimensions,
the beauty of its materials, the exquisite perfection
of its symmetry, and the harmonious analogy of its
proportions. It is the most unrivalled triumph of
sculpture and architecture that the world ever saw.
.The delight which it inspires on a superficial view is
heightened in proportion as it is attentively sur-
veyed. If we admire the whole of the glorious fabric,

" Dodwell. f Mem.

112 IM INS nr AM HIM- t I .

that admiration will be augmented by a minute in-
vestigation of all the ramified detail*. Every part
lias Been finished with such exquisite purity, that
not the smallest instance of negligence ean lie dis-
covered in the execution of those particulars, which
are the least exposed to observation : the most con-
cealed minutiae of the structure having been per-
fected, with a sort of pious scrupulosity.'

" I pass delicious hours," says M. La Martine,
"recumbent beneath the shade of the Propylsea:
my eyes fixed on the falling pediment of the Par-
thenon, I feel all antiquity in what it has pro-
duced of divine ; the rest is not worth the language
that has described it. The aspect of the Parthenon
displays, better than history, the colossal grandeur
of a people. Pericles ought not to die. "What su-
perhuman civilization was that which supplied a
great man to command, an architect to conceive, a
sculptor to decorate, statuaries to execute, workmen
to cut, a people to pay, and eyes to comprehend and
admire such an edifice ! Where shall we find such
a people, or such a period ? No where ! "

44 Lot us, in idea, rebuild the Parthenon," continues
the same writer; " it is easily done ; it has only
lost its frieze, and its internal compartments. The
external walls, chiselled by Phidias, the columns, and
fragments of columns, remain. The Parthenon was
entirely built of Pcntelic marble, so called from the
neighbouring mountain of that name, whence it was
taken. It consists of a parallelogram, surrounded by
a peristyle of forty-six Doric columns ; one column
is six feet in diameter at the base, and thirty-four
feet high. The columns are placed on the pavement
of the temple itself, and have no bases. At each
extremity of the temple exists, or did exist, a portico
of six columns. The total length of the edifice is
two hundred and twenty-eight feet; its width,
two hundred feet; its height, sixty-six feet. It


only presents to the eye the majestic simplicity of
its architectural lines. It was, in fact, one single
idea expressed in stone, and intelligible at a glance,
like the thoughts of the ancients."

This recalls to our recollection what Plutarch says
in respect to Pericles. " The Parthenon was con-
structed witli such admirable judgment, such soli-
dity of workmanship, and such a profound know-
ledge of the architectural art, that it would have
indefinitely defied the ravages of time, if they had not
been assisted by the operations of external violence.
It is an edifice that seems to have been constructed
for eternity. The structures which Pericles raised
are the more admirable, as, being completed in so
short a time, they yet had such a lasting beauty ; for,
as they had, when new, the venerable aspect of anti-
quity, so, now they are old, they have the freshness
of a modern work. They seem to be preserved from
the injuries of time by a kind of vital principle,
which produces a vigour that cannot be impaired,
and a bloom that will never fade."

These words of Plutarch were applicable to the
Parthenon little more than a century ago, and would
still have been so, if it had not found enemies in the
successive bigotry of contending religions, in the
destruction of war, and the plundering mania of
artists and amateurs. The high preservation of
those parts, which are still suffered to remain, is truly
astonishing ! The columns are so little broken, that
were it not for the venerable reality of age, they
would almost appear of recent construction.

These observations naturally carry us back to the
period in which the Parthenon was built. That
which was the chief delight of the Athenians, and the
wonder of strangers, was the magnificence of their
edifices ; yet no part of the conduct of Pericles moved
the spleen of his adversaries more than this. They

VOL. i. j


insisted that he had brought tin-
upon the Athenians, by removing the trva-ur.
Greece from Delos, and taking them into his own
custody ; that he had not left himself even the spe-
cious apology of having caused the money tu In
brought to Athens for its greater security, ami to
keep it from being seized by the Barbarians ; that
Greece would consider such an attempt as a manifest
tyranny; that the sums they had received from them,
upon pretence of their being employed in tin- war.
were laid out by the Athenians in gilding and em-
bellishing their city, in making magnificent statues,
and raising temples that cost millions. Nor did
they amplify in the matter ; for the Parthenon alone
cost 145,000. Pericles,* on the contrary, remon-
strated to the Athenians, that they were not obliged
to give the allies an account of the money they had
received; that it was enough they defended them
from the Barbarians, whilst the allies furnished nei-
ther soldiers, horses, nor ships. He added, that as
the Athenians were sufficiently provided with all
things necessary for war, it was but just that they
should employ the rest of their riches in edifices and
other works, which, when finished, would give im-
mortal glory to their city, and the whole time they
were carrying on give bread to an infinite number
of citizens : that they themselves had all kinds of
materials, as timber, stone, brass, ivory, gold, ebony,
and cypress wood ; and all sorts of artificers capable
of working them, as carpenters, masons, smiths,
stone -cutters, dyers, goldsmiths ; artificers in ebony,
painters, embroiderers, and turners ; men fit to con-
duct their naval affairs, as merchants, sailors, and
experienced pilots ; others for land carriage, as cart-
wrights, waggoners, carters, rope-makers, paviors,
Sec. fee. : that it was for the advantage of the state


to employ these different artificers and workmen,
who, as so many separate bodies, formed, when
united, a kind of peaceable and domestic army, whose
different functions and employments diffused gain
and increase throughout all ages and sexes : lastly,
that, whilst men of robust bodies, and of an age fit
to bear arms, whether soldiers or mariners, and those
who were in the different garrisons, were supported
with the public moneys, it was but just that the rest
of the people who lived in the city should also be
maintained in their way: and that as all were mem-
bers of the same republic, they should all reap the
same advantages, by doing it services, which, though
of a different kind, did, however, all contribute to its
security or ornament. One day as the debaters were
growing warm, Pericles offered to defray the expense
of all these things, provided it should be declared in
the public inscriptions, that he only had been at the
charge of them. At these words, the people, either
admiring his magnanimity, or fired with emulation,
and determined not to let him engross that glory,
cried, with one voice, that he might take out of the
public treasury all the sums that were necessary for
his purpose.

Historians expatiate greatly on the magnificent
edifices and other works ; but it is not easy to say
whether the complaints and murmurs raised against
him were ill-founded or not. According to Cicero,
such edifices and other works only are worthy of
admiration as are of use to the public, as aqueducts,
city walls, citadels, arsenals, sea-ports ; and to these
must be added the work, made by Pericles, to join
Athens to the port of Pirseus.

Mons. de La Martine speaks of the only two figures

that now adorn the Parthenon thus : " At the

Parthenon there remain only the two figures of

Mars and Venus, half crushed by two enormous



fragments of cornice, which have glided over their
beads ; but these two figures are to me wortb more
than all I have seen in sculpture in my life. Tin v
live as no other canvas or marble has ever lived,
One feels that the chisel of Phidias trembled, burned
in his hand, when these sublime figures started into
bfin^r under his fingers."

The following observations in regard to colour are
by Mr. Williams : " The Parthenon, in its present
corroded state, impresses the mind with the idea of
its thousands of years. The purity of marble has
disappeared ; but still the eye is charmed with
the varied livery of time. The western front is rich
in golden hues, and seems as if it had absorbed the
evening beams*; little white appears, except the
tympanum and part of the entablature. But the
brightest orange colour, and grey and sulphury hues,
combine in sweetest harmony. The noble shafts of
the huge columns are uniformly toned with yellow, of
a brownish cast, admitting here and there a little
grey. Casting the eye to the inner cell, we see dark
hues of olive mixed with various tints, adorning the
existing frieze and pillars ; and these, opposed to bril-
liant white, afford a point and power of expression,
which never fails to please."

Sir J. C. Hobhouse says, Lord Elgin's injuries
were these ; the taking off the metopes, the statue
over the theatre of Bacchus, and the statues of the
west pediment of the Parthenon ; and the carrying
away one of the Caryatides, and the finest of the
columns of the Erectheum. *' No other," continues

* It is generally nupposed," continue* Mr. Williams, "the
marble temples are white ; but, with the exception of the temple of
Minerva at Cape Colonna, (which is built of Parian marble,) this it
not the case. The marble of Prtitelicu*, with whicli nil the tem-
ple" at Athena were built, throws out an oxide of iron of the richest
yellow, and this certainly makes them infinitely more picturesque
than if they were purely white."


Sir John, " comes, I believe, within the limits of cen-
sure no other marbles were detached."

The monuments, now called the Elgin marbles,
were chiefly obtained from the Erectheum, the Pro-
pylsea, and the Parthenon, more especially the last.
We must here give room to the observations, vin-
dicative of this proceeding : " Perhaps one of the
most judicious measures of government, with reference
to the advancement of the arts in this country, was
the purchase of these remains. We may go farther,
and add, that the removal of them from Athens,
where their destruction was daily going forward, to
place them where their merits would be appreciated,
and their decay suspended, was not only a justifiable
act, but one which deserves the gratitude of England

Online LibraryCharles BuckeRuins of ancient cities : with general and particular accounts of their rise, fall, and present condition (Volume 1) → online text (page 9 of 36)