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A History of Art for Beginners and Students

Choragic monument of lysicrates


One of the most wonderful things about Greek architecture is the way in which allowance was made for the deception of the eye by certain forms and lines. It is not easy to explain this fully, but it is too remarkable to be wholly passed over. If a column were cut so as to diminish regularly from the bottom to the top it would seem to the eye to hollow in, and to correct this the clever Greek architect made his columns swell out a little at the middle. This is called _entasis_, and is the best known of the means taken to make forms look as they should. Another case is that of long horizontal lines. If they are really level they appear to sag at the centre, therefore in Greek temples they are delicately rounded up a little, and so have the effect of being perfectly straight. These two examples may serve to show what I mean by saying that architectural forms were made one way so as to look another, and in nothing did the Greek architecture show more marvellous skill and taste than in this.

In other Grecian cities the architecture differed but little from that of Athens, and, indeed, the influence of Athenian art and artists was felt all over the Eastern world; it is therefore not necessary for our purpose to speak further of Greek temples.

Next in importance were the municipal buildings, of which we find but few traces at Athens. The monument of Lysicrates is so beautiful that it gives us a most exalted idea of what the taste in such edifices must have been (Fig. 53).

[Illustration: FIG. 53.--CHORAGIC MONUMENT OF LYSICRATES. _Athens._]

This monument was erected in the year 334 B.C. when Lysicrates was _choragus_; this officer provided the chorus for the plays represented at Athens for the year. It was expensive to hold this position, and its duties were arduous; the choragus had to find the men for the chorus, bring them together, and have them instructed in the music, and also provide proper food for them while they studied. It was customary to present a tripod to the _choragus_ who provided the finest musical entertainment, and also to build a monument upon which the tripod was placed as a lasting honor to him who had received it. There was a street at Athens called the "Street of the Tripods" because it passed a line of choragic monuments. These monuments were dedicated to different gods; this of Lysicrates was devoted to Bacchus, and was decorated with sculptures representing scenes in the story of that god, who was regarded as the patron of plays and theatres; indeed, the Greek drama originated in the choruses which were sung at his festivals.

The Greek theatres were very large and fine; the seats were ranged in a half circle, but as none remain in a sufficient state of preservation to afford a satisfactory picture, it would be impossible to give a clear description of them here.

[Illustration: FIG. 54.--THE MAUSOLEUM AT HALICARNASSUS (RESTORED).]

The ancient Greeks were not tomb-builders, and we know little of their burial-places. However, the Mausoleum built at Halicarnassus by Artemisia, in memory of her husband, Mausolus, was so important as to be numbered among the seven wonders of the world (Fig. 54). Mausolus was the King of Caria, of which country Halicarnassus was the chief city. He died about 353 B.C., and his wife, Artemisia, gradually faded away with sorrow at his death, and survived him but two years. But during this time she had commenced the erection of the Mausoleum, and the artists to whom she intrusted the work were as faithful in completing it as though she had lived, for the sake of their own fame as artists. This magnificent tomb may be described as an example of architecture as a fine art exclusively, for it cannot be said to have been useful, since the body of Mausolus was burned according to custom, and certainly a much smaller tomb would have been sufficient for the remaining ashes.


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