Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2016.12.38 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2016.12.38

Jacques des Courtils (ed.), L’architecture monumental grecque au IIIe siècle a.C. Mémoires, 40.   Bordeaux:  Ausonius Éditions, 2015.  Pp. 357.  ISBN 9782356131447.  €60.00.  


Reviewed by Cornelie Piok-Zanon, University of Pittsburgh (corneliezanon@gmail.com)

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of this review.]

This volume presents the collected proceedings from three workshops organized by Jacques des Courtils between 2011 and 2013. Taking as departure point the architecture of Lycia—specifically the Letoon at Xanthos—, the workshops expanded their scope to study the emergence of regional third-century BCE style(s) around the Aegean. Sites discussed include Delphi, Sikyon, and the Peloponnese on the mainland; Samothrace and Thasos in the Northern Aegean; Delos in the Cyclades; Rhodes and Kos in the Dodecanese; Limyra and Pergamon in Asia Minor; and Alexandria and Ptolemaic Jordan. Papers are gathered in three groups: Part One includes specific site studies, Part Two focuses on broader regional developments, and Part Three addresses issues of building technique and decoration. Apart from the table of contents, this structure is neither apparent nor consistent: building technique and style are also intrinsic , even dominating, elements of the monuments and sites discussed in sections One and Two. This review, therefore, will adopt a different grouping of studies in order to highlight some of the underlying themes.

Several essays focus on an international sanctuary. Two papers (Laroche and Partida) examine the architectural development of the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi in the 3rd century, noting its direct relationship to the changed political climate of the period: two big players, the Aetolians and the Attalids of Pergamon, manifested their rise to power with two large stoas cutting through the peribolos on either side. Given the very limited space for building in the sanctuary, Laroche observes a preference for columnar (honorific) monuments, sacrificing footprint for height, another solution to marking one’s spot in an already crowded environment. Likewise, Partida notes an increase of exedras and niches along the Sacred Way perhaps motivated by the same effort to gain visibility. Both papers successfully navigate through a wealth of, sometimes new, material, to describe the altered character of the sanctuary from one of communal to individual display. Although the essays read well on their own, it seems that an opportunity was missed to develop a single cohesive study of the sanctuary’s third-century evolution.

Moretti sets himself the challenging task of navigating through the complex site of Delos, which experienced a building boom in the 3rd century. He distinguishes three different agencies engaged in the build-up of the site: the local public or sacred treasury, Hellenistic kings, and individual donors. With the exception of the Temple of Apollo, Choma, and Hypostyle Hall, construction financed through the local treasury shifted from the central plain to the periphery with the creation of multiple new sanctuaries and shrines. Theater, gymnasium, and stadium developed around the urban perimeter; only fountain houses remained dispersed throughout the residential quarters. State-funded construction thus was strictly guided by civic needs. The Sanctuary of Apollo was taken over by the grand dynastic dedications, the Neorion, Stoa of Antigonos Gonatas, Stoa of Philip V, and South Stoa (Attalid?). Moretti’s close study of building materials, types, techniques, and finishes yields that whereas state-funded monuments consistently followed a local Delian/Cycladic style, the large- scale dynastic dedications applied local materials and craftsmanship to an imported (Macedonian?) design. Moretti’s reassessment of third- century Delos thus identifies selective use of building styles as expression of the different political operatives on the site. His study of the individual monuments demonstrates, however, that more work needs to be done to better define and situate those styles within the period’s architecture.

The Sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothrace counts among the best-known third-century sites. Wescoat reassesses the sanctuary’s building history and seeks to place its decorative language within a broader Mediterranean context. The first part of her paper focuses on firming up the chronology of the sanctuary’s Doric monuments, specifically the placement of the Altar Court and Hieron in relation to more precisely dated structures, like the Dedication of Philip III and Alexander IV and the Rotunda of Arsinoe. On the basis of close reading of architectural details and comparison with contemporary monuments both local and abroad, Wescoat proposes a date for the Hieron in the first quarter of the 3rd c. and a mid-third-century date for the Altar Court. Part two focuses on recently uncovered Ionic building-fragments which she assigns to the Milesian Dedication, a yet to be identified columnar monument near the East Stoa, and the Ionic porch attached to the Dedication of Philip III and Alexander IV. Her study of the fragments suggests close relationships to other monuments in the sanctuary and links them to Macedonian architectural traditions. Wescoat moreover shows that at third-century Samothrace, the Corinthian order was a firm part of the architectural canon, enabled by the selective use of marble. Identifying two marble sources, nearby Thasos and remote Prokonnesos, she sheds light on the sanctuary’s far-reaching networks. Wescoat’s paper is an exemplary model of how much can be gained from reexamining well-published monuments and painstaking examination of the decorative detail.

Pedersen’s reevaluation of third-century Kos concludes the exploration of panhellenic sanctuaries in this volume. It continues his series of papers on the "Ionian Renaissance", a building style he first identified in the architecture of Western Asia Minor from the 4th through the early 2nd century BCE. It is characterized by rational and systematic designs of both cities and monuments and, stylistically, by archaizing details and inclusion of richly patterned surface décor. Technical innovations include ornamental dovetail clamps and the "peculiar Karian-Ionian lewis". Pedersen notes all of these features in the architecture of the Sanctuary of Asklepios on Kos suggesting strong ties between the island and the coastal areas of Asia Minor, especially Hecatomnid Karia. As a site of international focus, he proposes that the Hellenistic monuments on Kos furthered the evolution of the Ionian Renaissance as an architectural building style, an idea that merits additional scrutiny. Caliò’s work on Hellenistic Kos and Rhodes expands on the notion of a third-century style in the Dodecanese. Whereas Pedersen emphasizes architectural detail, Caliò focuses on urban design, especially the creation of the urban theater as a means of producing monumentality and increasing visibility.

Third-century style is also the focus of the respective essays by Sioumpara and Cavalier: The former studies the evolution of Doric temple architecture on the Peloponnese, revealing great variety and inventiveness in both plan and detail, and a carefree interpretation of traditional Doric design-principles. A dominant element in the Peloponnesian Hellenistic temple plan, she notes, was its pseudodipteral layout thus tying this region to the grand pseudodipteroi of the Hellenistic East. This connection is reinforced by the mixture of Ionic features in the Doric elevations, also a trait of Asia Minor Doric. Cavalier’s paper seeks to situate the Corinthian capital from the interior of the Temple of Leto at Xanthos within the development of the Corinthian order in the Mediterranean. Through systematic and detailed examination of the capitals’ design elements and review of each monument’s construction date, he proposes a chronology for third-century Corinthian capitals, a welcome reference to anyone working on Hellenistic architecture.

As the only paper in this collection with a focus on a single structure, G. Stanzl’s essay on the so-called Heroon of Limyra is a bit of an outlier. It provides, however, an excellent overview of the monument’s excavation history and a convincing reconstruction based on the recovered fragments. Association of the monument with the Ptolemies seems likely and is suggested both by the decorative detail and the nearby recovery of a marble head identified as Ptolemy III. This would suggest a construction date in the late 3rd century, but Stanzl favors a date in the reign of Ptolemy II, around 280-70, based on the structure’s stylistic affinities to monuments from the early century. Given the heroon’s excellent preservation, Stanzl’s systematic and comprehensive presentation of its design makes this a valuable contribution to the study of Hellenistic architecture in any case.

Ptolemaic building in the 3rd century is also the focus of the essays by Étiennne and Fragaki. Étiennne reappraises Ptolemaic palace designs, known mostly through textual evidence, by comparison with Macedonian palace architecture and the well-preserved structure at Iraq al-Amir (Jordan). Fragaki seeks to define characteristics and trends in third-century Alexandrian architecture by studying the city’s fragmentary remains – mostly tombs – in conjunction with the literary sources on the period. Her reading of the decorative detail hints at the emergence of a local style characterized by an increasing rigidity in the Doric canon and an almost exuberant playfulness in Ionic and Corinthian designs. She further notes a free interpretation of the traditional orders and preference for hybrid forms. Her effort to situate this local style within a broader Hellenistic context is mostly limited to comparison with textual descriptions of Alexandrian architecture but bears potential for further research.

Lolos and Marc both study third-century town planning under Macedonian influence at the sites of Sikyon and Thasos respectively. Lolos presents a summary of the city’s development in the Hellenistic period. A brief historical placement of the city’s re-foundation through Demetrios Poliorketes is followed by a discussion of building materials, locally harvested rock, and the city’s layout. His main focus are the monuments in the city-center, the theater and adjacent stadium, the agora and its framing monuments (Temple of Apollo (?), Temple of Artemis (?), gymnasium, bouleuterion, and South Stoa). Lolos’ systematic analysis provides an excellent picture of the Hellenistic city and retraces the thought and expenditure that went into the creation of “new” Sikyon as a major dynastic creation of the early Hellenistic period. Marc applies an equally methodical approach to his study of third-century Thasos, providing an overview of the site’s historical situation before discussing the city’s urban restructuring and refurbishing with new civic and religious institutions. Particularly insightful is his reconstruction of the city’s military installations near the harbor, including the well-known Gate of Zeus and Hera. His study reveals that Thasos thrived under Macedonian hegemony: the city expanded its marble exports which accounts for both the city’s building boom and the innovative character of its furnishings.

Weber’s study on mason’s marks is the most technical paper in this volume and focuses on the early third-century Temple of Meter at Mamurt Kale, near Pergamon, and the late third-century Stoa of Philip V on Delos. He identifies the letters as assembly marks, defining the location of each block within the building, thus suggesting that a process of precise planning preceded construction. He maintains that the marks of the Meter Temple were applied to facilitate local assembly and argues against its prefabrication elsewhere. Given the sanctuary’s remote location and the expense involved in supporting a large workshop far off Pergamon for an extended period, this stance should perhaps be reconsidered.

This volume present a welcome addition to the study of Hellenistic architecture, covering a wide territory both geographically and thematically. Papers share interest in uncovering local languages to convey ownership, increase visibility, and point to interregional networks. In many instances, the formulation of a distinctly regional vocabulary has been linked successfully to historical narratives. The essays collected here document both the shifts of power that took place around the Aegean with the emergence of the new Hellenistic dynasties and to what extent monuments served as visual markers of these developments. Arguments are enhanced by the publication’s exceptional illustrations, which include many high-quality photographs and architectural drawings. Equally invaluable are the essays’ up-to-date bibliographies. J. des Courtils’ introduction thematizes the 3rd century as a period of formation and experimentation and addresses the difficulty in defining the era’s architecture within a single style. One misses, however, a synthesis of individual papers and overarching themes, leaving it to the reader to draw connections and conclusions. This point ties into the question of editing: many papers are poorly checked for spelling, grammar, and punctuation, which detracts from the authors’ scholarly contributions and devalues the collection as a whole. Notwithstanding these shortcomings, the volume’s rich collection of data will prove of great value to any scholar of Hellenistic architecture.

Table of Contents

Auteurs
Préface, par Jacques des Courtils
Introduction, par Jacques des Courtils
Études de sites
Didier Laroche, L’architecture à Delphes au IIIe s. a.C.
Elena Partida, Architectural elements and historic circumstances that shaped the Sanctuary of Delphi during the so-called "Age of the Warriors"
Yannis Lolos, L’architecture à Sicyone pendant la haute époque hellénistique.
Jean-Charles Moretti, L’architecture publique à Delos au IIIe s. a.C.
Bonna Daix Wescoat, Recalibrating Samothracian Architecture
Poul Pedersen, The Ionian Renaissance and the Hellenistic Architecture of Kos
Günther Stanzl, Das Ptolemaion von Limyra
Études regionals
Elisavet P. Sioumpara, Doric innovations on the conservative landscape of Peloponnese during the Hellenistic period.
Luigi Maria Caliò, Space and architecture in Hellenistic Dodecanese
Roland Étienne, Architecture palatiale ptolémaïque au IIIe s. a.C.
Hélène Fragaki, L’architecture alexandrine du IIIe s. a.C.: caracteristiques et tendances
Techniques et décors
Ulf Weber, Building with assembly marks: prefabrication of architectural blocks on building sites at Delos and Pergamon in the IIIrd c. a.C.
Laurence Cavalier, Chapiteaux corinthiens de Grèce et d’Asie Mineure au IIIe s. a.C.
Jean-Yves Marc, Thasos et la Macédoine au IIIe s. a.C.
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