Egyptian and Greek Architecture
Researchers and Egyptologists categorize Egyptian Architecture under three periods. In each period, various forms of architectural works were put up. The first period is known as the Ancient Empire architecture. It was experienced from the years 5000 B.C to about 3000 B.C and was initiated by King Menes. In this period, the Great Pyramids were put up at Giza and Saqqara. Bricks were used in the making of living houses and tombs. Hieroglyphs were used in the decoration of the architectural structures and works. The Ancient Empire Architecture was followed by the Middle Empire Architecture that was experienced from 3000 B.C to 1700 B.C. In this period, the rock-cut tombs were put up. The last period was the New Empire Architecture in which the various temples such as the Ammon, Karnak, Luxor, and Edfou were built. This period was experienced between the years 1700 B.C and 350 B.C (Strudwick & Strudwick 123). Architecture established in the New Empire is considered the greatest and has had immense influence on modern forms of architecture. Early Egyptian architecture had great influence on architectural forms that followed it.
Egyptian architecture was made possible by the immense knowledge levels of science the Egyptians had. For instance, knowledge in science enabled them to make colors that could last for millions of years without fading. By practicing geometry, chemistry and mechanics, they were able to move huge stones that were used in the making of the temples, monuments and the pyramids. It also allowed them to manufacture various types of glass. The Egyptians possessed immense levels of knowledge, as we are still not able to produce some of the colors and glass-types they produced and used in their architectural work.
Egyptian Architecture is considered unique and had a number of common and distinctive characteristics. First, Egyptian Architecture was unique in that it was gigantic in size and mass. In the making of the structures, the main materials used were stones and sun baked mud bricks. Wood was not commonly used due to its unavailability. Limestone, granite and sandstone were the main types of stones used in architectural work, as they were readily available and easy to work with. Stones were reserved for the tombs and temples while the mud bricks were used in the making of fortresses, temples walls, precincts and fortresses. Houses were made using mud that was collected from the River Nile. The Egyptians collected the mud, placed it in molds and dried it using the hot Egyptian sun. The hard bricks were used in the construction of the houses. The monuments were made of huge single stones that were at times as big twenty-five feet long (Dinsmoor & Anderson 147).
Egyptian architecture also had peculiar styles of columns. The architecture was also unique as it was entirely covered by great amounts of color and carvings. The Egyptians had various ways to decorate their buildings. For instance, they covered their buildings with pictures, symbols and designs that were made on all parts of the structure. They made carvings on the building that were mostly colored with crude primary colors. The interior and exterior walls were covered with hieroglyphic, pictorial frescoes and carvings painted in brilliant colors. The carvings and paintings made on the buildings represented the religion and rulers of the Egyptian people. The artwork was symbolic such as the scarab, vulture paintings and the solar disks. Other frequently occurring motifs included the papyrus plant, palm leaves, the sacred beetle and the buds and flowers of the lotus. Hieroglyphs that were made on building walls were made to decorate the buildings and record the major historical events and occurrences of the civilization.
Another major characteristic of Egyptian architecture is that the structures were made of beams and lintels. The beams and lintels that were made on doors, windows and other openings helped in the support of the massive structures. Finally, another major trait of Egyptian architecture was that the walls were made slanting and sloping, which allowed for the making of massive structures. The Egyptians believed that sloping structures offered the greatest strength compared to today where structure walls are upright. This was mainly used in the construction of religious monuments. The structures were made of flat roofs made of massive blocks that were supported by closely spaced columns.
Egyptian architecture had a number of influences. Religion was the main influence of Egyptian architecture. A great connection is experienced between the Egyptian religion and architecture. Egyptian religion was characterized by two main traits. Firstly, it had religious leaders that were very learned and had unlimited authority. Secondly, it had religious rites that were traditional, mysterious and fixed. Both of these traits were reproduced in both the tombs and temples. For instance, constructed temples were heavily closed up and access and use was by the kings and the priests. The monuments were massive and were meant to last forever. They believed in life after death through resurrection. This led to the wealthy and the ruler class building lordly tomb houses in preparation for the resurrection after death.
Egyptian architecture was also influenced by the geography of the land. Most of the monuments and structures are situated along the River Nile that is considered the lifeline of ancient Egypt. It allowed for the use of hardened bricks in architectural work, from the dried up mud collected from its banks. Egyptian geology also influenced the architectural work. Limestone from the Mokattam Hills, granite and sandstone from Aswan in the South were common and readily available in the region (Darling 165). Since they were readily available, they allowed the construction of the massive monuments. They were used for both construction and decoration work. The architecture was influenced by the climate. Flat roofs were made since Egypt is a dry area hence no drainage for rains was needed. The flat roofs helped serve as an insulation from the hot sun. The hot sun allowed for the drying up of bricks that were used in the construction work.
Early Egyptian architecture greatly influenced architectural works in other societies that followed it up. One of the most significant impacts of Egyptian architecture on Greek architecture was the establishment of basic principles elements of the column. The Egyptians put up the fundamental design of a column, which was made up of three main parts. The parts were a pedestal column, the main column, and the capital column. The Greeks imitated this basic Egyptian design and used to in their architectural work. It formed a basis in the development of the three classical ranks of architecture. These Doric, Ionic and Corinthian styles were widely used in their work. These approaches are differentiated from each other by the style of the capitals used, shape and size of the columns.
Egyptian Architecture had immense influence on Greek Architecture. It is notable that in both Greece and Egypt, architecture replicated the worldviews and fundamental principals in the societies. Just like in Egypt, Greece architecture was based on chronometer concepts. Structures were made to serve the perpetual existence of the human spirit. This was observed in some of the earliest constructions such as the Parthenon in Athens. Geometry and mathematical principals was used in archeological work by the Egyptians. The Greeks then perfected and used this in the construction of temples. Just like in Egypt, stones were fitted together to make desired structures. This was observed in the Parthenon that is described to have a perfect geometrical and mathematical precision in the dimensions of its width and length (Darling 74).
Just like in Egypt, architectural work in Greece was meant to honor the Kings and gods. For instance, in Greece, the Parthenon Temple was made in honor of the Parthenon, the Greek goddess of wisdom. To show how Egyptian culture influenced Greece architecture, The Temple of Karnak at Luxor and the dodekatheon provide a good analysis. Both structures were enormous in size. They were meant to represent and provide a place where the gods would live. They both had flat roofs that were raised and supported by a number of Columns. For instance, the Karnak had 134 columns. Decorations in both temples were made using raised relief carvings. The reliefs carvings made on the temples were meant to represent ideological and religious functions. For instance, on both temples, important records on war were made. These provided an avenue for event preservation and historical
The influence of Egyptian culture is observed on the construction of temples. The main similarity is observed in the construction of the walls. The external walls of the temple looked like a fortress separating the temple from its surrounding areas. The walls were made in such a way to take any strains by the environment. Similarly, in Greece, the temple walls were designed and built in such a way to take maximum shocks from the surrounding environment and landscape. Just like in the Egyptian Temple, decorations were made on the outer walls and courtyards to symbolize the ability of the rulers to fight evil powers. Similarly, in Greece, decorations represented achievements of rulers (Arnold 47). Just like in Egypt where temples had raised floors, the temples in Greece has also had raised floor and platforms. The temples had large gates that were made of two tapering towers. The pylons were carved and painted with the scenes of kings and gods to symbolize the king’s authority. In front of the pylons were two obelisks and statues of the Pharaohs. The inner court was made of a large hall with the decorations of the kings and gods. There were pylons that led to a Hypostyle hall deeper in. In both temples, the halls were fully roofed. Only the central aisle was lit by the use of windows. Carvings were made walls representing the scenes of various religious rituals.
Another comparison can be made between Parthenon of Athens built between 490 B.C and 488 B.C. and the Great Pyramid of Egypt to show how Egypt architecture influenced that of Greece. The Great Pyramid was made to bring out visual harmony between man and his environment gotten from the use of complex geometry. The Parthenon also made use of complex geometry to represent perfect harmony achieved using architectural work. Just like in Egypt where architecture was meant to honor gods, the Parthenon of Athens was meant honor local deity and goddess Athena. Both structures were made using the same material. The Greeks also used limestone that had been used by the Egyptians in the construction of the Great pyramid of Egypt. Just in the Great Pyramids, stone used in the construction had to be carried from a distance away at Mount Pentelicus to the construction site.
The Temple of Hephaestus and the Parthenon of Athens are Doric Order Temples in Greece. Research showed that the origin of the Doric order temples was Egypt. It showed that Doric order was first used at Beni-Hassan near the River Nile. Archeological research shows that the site was made up of polygonal stone pillars underneath an abacus capital. Other Evidence of the Doric order was observed in the south at Deir-el-Bahari, which was outside Thebes and Karnak. The sites in Egypt had a delicate association between the bend of the stylobate, the taper in the naos walls and the slight bulge of the columns as they became longer. The cigar-shaped columns in the Parthenon in Greece had been observed in archeological sites in Egypt. Just like the Doric temples, a bit of the same principles used in the construction of ionic temples in Greece, were observed in some Egyptian Temples early. This includes the Temple of Isis in Philae. The principles can be observed in the Ionic construction of Erechtheum, the Temple of Apollo at Didyma and the Temple of Athena Nike (Darling 132). In conclusion, Egypt architectural work can be said to have greatly influenced that of Greece.
Arnold, Dieter. The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egyptian Architecture. New York, NY: I. B. Tauris, 2003. Print.
Darling, Janina. Architecture of Greece. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004. Print.
Dinsmoor, William, and James Anderson. The Architecture of Ancient Greece: An Account of its Historic Development. Princeton, NJ: Biblo & Tannen Publishers, 1993. Print.
Strudwick, Helen, and Nigel Strudwick. The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egyptian Architecture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003. Print.