Architecture represents the core values of the national culture and historical period. By comparing particular examples of Aegean, Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Byzantine architecture, this paper will explore the similarities and differences which can be found in works of architecture of different cultures and epochs.
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By comparing the Lion Gate in Mycenae dated back to 1250 as an example of Aegean architecture and the reconstruction of Ishtar Gate dated back to 575 BCE as an example of ancient Mesopotamian architecture, it can be stated that these gates serving for similar goals of protecting the cities reflected the influence of the Aegean and Mesopotamian cultures respectively. Thus, the Lion Gate is constructed of massive stones which however emphasize the strength of the lions placed in the center of the gate holding the gate on their backs. The influence of this work of Aegean architecture can be found in Richardson Ames Gate Lodge constructed in 19th century.
In contrast to the massive Lion Gate, Ishtar Gate is more exquisite made of glazed brick alternated with unglazed brick (Ishtar Gate). Similarly to the Lion Gate, this work of Mesopotamian art depicts lions demonstrating the force of the gate in protecting the entrance to the ancient city of Babylon. The lions are accompanied with bulls and dragons who are positioned in lines and look rather majestic than powerful if compared with the animals decorating incorporated into the Lion Gate. Along with the cultural differences, this disparity can be explained with the differences in the materials and constructions.
Comparing the three historical buildings, namely Temple of Hera I or Basilica dated to 530 BC as an example of Greek architecture, Temple of Fortuna Virilis dated to 2nd century as an example of Roman architecture and the Temple of Ramses II dated to 13th century BCE as an example of Egyptian architecture, it can be stated that there are certain similarities in the styles of Greek and Roman architecture which are entirely different from Egyptian architecture. The Temple of Hera consists of 18 columns with extreme tapering on their sides. The proportions of this temple are exaggerated which is characteristic of the archaic period of Greek architecture.
Similar columns can be found in the Temple Fortuna Virilis representing Roman architecture. The main difference in the use of columns in Greek and Roman architecture is the practicality of the latter including the raised podium approach and one set of stairs. Used for the same purpose of religious worship, the Egyptian rock-cut temple is different from Greek and Roman architecture. Cut of stone the Great Temple of Ramses contains the huge statues of gods and baboons an reflects the specifics of the Egyptian ancient architecture.
Comparing and contrasting the Temple of Aphaia at Aegina as an example of archaic period of Greek Architecture to Sta. Constanza in Rome as an example of early Christian period, it can be stated that regardless of the substantial break between the years when the buildings were created, a number of similarities can be found in their styles. For instance, Sta. Stanza contains 12 columns which can be interpreted as a heritage of earlier periods when the Roman architecture borrowed certain features of Greek architecture.
The forms and structures of these constructions differ in terms of their goals and values. Thus, Sta. Constanza represents a circle as a symbol of everlasting life and could be used for services. The Temple of Aphaia in its turn was used for the purpose of worship and was widely known for its Archaic reclining warriors. These symbolical elements included into the constructions clearly demonstrate the differences in the religious values reflected in architecture. The e exaggerated forms used in the archaic Greek construction is in contrast to the proportions of Byzantine construction which was carefully planned so that the building could be appropriately used for its purposes.
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Basilica of Constantine and San Vitale will be used for completing a Roman versus Byzantine comparison. Basilica of Constantine, completed under the guidance of the first Christian emperor Constantine, consisted of 3 coffered barrel vaults and the central aisle. Similarly to the Basilica of Constantine, San Vitale dated to 526 – 547 contained a barrel-vaulted ambulatory. This element resulted in very disorienting entrance to the building. The octagonal plan used in San Vitale allowed the visitors to focus on the altar. Thus, the Byzantines preserved certain elements of Roman architecture and reinterpreted it to create a new vision for Christianity.
In contrast to San Vitale, Basilica of Constantine included the statue of Christ in a small apse and a huge statue of Constantine. Therefore, the main emphasis was put on the emperor who was presented as a god-like creature. These elements reveal the values of the periods in which they were created with Roman architecture focusing on its emperors and Byzantines shifting the emphasis towards religious purpose of the construction.
As it can be seen from the analysis of the works of ancient architecture, the constructions belonging to different cultures and eras can share certain similarities. At the same time, the constructions used for similar purposes by different nations can have nothing in common due to the uniqueness of national culture.
Ishtar Gate. State Museum of Berlin. 575 BCE. Web.
“The Great Temple of Ramses II”. Bluffton University. Web.