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7 Use of Exceptions to the System

Published onApr 22, 2021
7 Use of Exceptions to the System
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The Sacred Precinct of Demeter Malophoros at Selinus, Sixth Century B.C.

The sacred precinct of Demeter Malophoros is at Gaggera, on the western slope of the river valley, opposite the city hill of Selinus (Fig. 114). The origin of the precinct is uncertain.1 Koldewey and Puchstein distinguished three important periods of building activity. They attributed the temple, the small altar (between sight lines f and g in Fig. 112), and the votive stele within the propylon to the sixth century B.C.; the propylon to the fourth century B.C.; the three-sided rectangular structure (S in Fig. 112) and the room marked Z on the plan to a much later period.2 Their opinions must be somewhat revised, however, following the later discovery by Italian archaeologists of the boundary wall and two more buildings to the southwest. As there is no clear picture of the site at any particular period, it seems that the only feasible method is to study the layout as a whole, without reference to the time at which it was planned or completed.

Organization of the Site. The propylon establishes the position of the entrance, and point A lies on its axis midway between the centers of two columns.

SIGHT LINES FROM POINT A

a to left comer of the three-sided rectangular structure (S on the plan)

b to right corner of the rectangular structure (considered by the original excavators to be a “sitting area”);3 left corner of the great altar; left (southeast) corner of the southwestern building

c to left (southeast) comer of the square building to the southwest; right (northwest) corner of the southwestern building

d to left (southeast) corner of the temple; right (northwest) corner of the square building

e to right corner of the great altar; right (northeast) comer of the room marked Z on the plan

f to left corner of the small altar

g to right corner of the small altar.

ANGLES OF VISION FROM POINT A

Angle ag = 90° = 180°/2.

From point A the four western buildings can be seen above the altar as a single sequence; no gaps appear between them, and none of them overlaps another.

The path to the megaron passes between sight lines e and f along the open field of vision between the line of structures and the small altar; it leads due west.4

Works Consulted by the Author

Gábrici, Ettore. “II Santuario della Malophoros,” Monumenti Antichi 32, 1927, pp. 6–419.

Hulot, Jean, and Fougères, Gustave. Sélinonte: La ville, l’acropole et les temples. Paris, 1910.

Koldewey, Robert, and Puchstein, Otto. Die griechischen Tempel in Unteritalien und Sicilien. 2 vols. Berlin, 1899.

Additional References

Santangelo, Maria. Selinunte. Translated by G. H. Railsback. Rome, 1953.

White, Donald. “The Post-Classical Cult of Malophoros at Selinus,” American Journal of Archaeology 71, 1967, pp. 335–352.


111   Selinus, Sacred Precinct of Demeter Malophoros. Reconstruction from the east. (Hulot and Fougères.)


112   Selinus, Sacred Precinct of Demeter Malophoros. Plan.


113   Selinus. Sacred Precinct of Demeter Malophoros. Plan. (Koldewey and Puchstein.)


114   Selinus. General plan of the city. (Hulot and Fougères.)


115   Selinus, Sacred Precinct of Demeter Malophoros. Plan. (Hulot and Fougères.)

The Sacred Precinct of Athena at Sounion, Fifth Century B.C.

The present condition of the sacred precinct of Athena at Sounion (Fig. 116) permits only an assessment of the layout in the post-Persian period, although we know that even in the time of Homer there existed a holy Sounion.5 The earliest structure known is a small temple of Athena that was destroyed by the Persians in 480 B.C. The Athenians then built a new, larger temple. The cella was erected first, and a few years later an Ionic colonnade was built round two sides, but both were designed at the same time.6 It also appears that the earlier small temple of Athena was rebuilt, and it is probable that both temples stood next to one another for a number of years.7

It appears that the large altar of Athena was erected at the same time as the new temple, the eastern boundary wall, and the ramp, which shows the position of the entrance to the precinct.8

Organization of the Site, 480–450 B.C. The new plan, prepared in 480 B.C. and completed by 450 B.C., paid careful attention to earlier structures (Fig. 117).

One entrance is known; it leads from the ramp at the end of the eastern boundary wall. I have endeavored to identify it as precisely as possible on the site (point A).

SIGHT LINES FROM POINT A

a to left corner of the large altar of Athena (B on the plan, Fig. 117)

b to middle corner of the large altar

c to right corner of the large altar

d to left (southeast) corner of the large temple of Athena

e to right (northeast) corner of the large temple of Athena (C″ on plan); left (southwest) corner of the small témple of Athena

f to right corner of the small, old altar to Athena.

ANGLES OF VISION FROM POINT A

Angle ad = 30° = 180°/6.
Angle de = 90° = 180°/2.
Angle ef = 30° = 180°/6.

FIELD OF VISION FROM POINT A

Standing at point A and looking from left to right, we would see

the large temple of Poseidon on the neighboring hill
a free field of vision
the large altar of Athena
a second, very small, open view
the large temple of Athena
the small temple of Athena
the small altar

It is worth noting that, if the narrow field of vision between the large altar and the large temple (lines c and d) was in fact free, its orientation was almost directly toward the west (10° north of west). It is also striking that the angle of vision between the right corner of the temple of Poseidon and the left corner of the temple of Athena is 60° = 180°/3. In other words, we find a planned connection not only between the buildings on the site itself but also between important visual elements in the environment.

116   Sounion, Sacred Precinct of Athena. View from point A, 1969.


117   Sounion, Sacred Precinct of Athena. Plan.


118   Sounion, Sacred Precinct of Athena. Plan. (Staïs.)


119   Sounion. View of temple of Poseidon from the Precinct of Athena, 1969.

The Sacred Precinct of Demeter at Priene, Fourth Century B.C.

The entire layout seems to have been designed and built at the time of the rebuilding of the city in 350 B.C. (Fig. 120). Only the altar (B on the plan) dates from the Roman period.9

Organization of the Site, 350 B.C. Point A was taken in the center of the entrance A, on a line with the inner surface of the walls.

SIGHT LINES FROM POINT A

a to right (northwest) corner of the enclosure to the left of the entrance; left (southeast) corner of the temple

b to left (southeast) comer of the temple porch

c to right (northeast) corner of the temple porch

d to left (southwest) corner of the enclosure to the right of the entrance.

ANGLES OF VISION FROM POINT A

Angle bc = 18° = 180°/10.
Angle ad = 36° = 180°/5.

The frontage of the temple thus occupies half the angle of vision, as in the temple of Zeus at Priene.

When the altar (B on the plan) was built in the Roman era, the existing field of vision was taken into account, and it was located within the only available angle of vision, approximately between lines c and d.


120   Priene, Sacred Precinct of Demeter. Plan.

The Sacred Precinct of the Egyptian Gods at Priene, Third Century B.C.

About the middle of the third century B.C., when Ptolemy III of Egypt ruled over Ionia, Egyptian religious cults were introduced into the city of Priene. The first sacred precinct of the Egyptian gods was built during this period (Fig. 121); it was a rectangular courtyard with a propylon (A on the plan) to the east, a great altar in the middle, and perhaps a second entrance in the west wall.10 Unfortunately, only the foundations of this precinct remain, so that the exact position of the entrances cannot be determined.

Somewhat later, but still in the Hellenistic period, a square propylon (B on the plan) was built in the north wall, and a stoa was erected along the west side of the precinct. This does not necessarily mean that there were formerly entrances at points B and C. It is in fact possible that there was originally only one entrance (A), as in the sacred precinct of Zeus in Priene (Fig. 93).

Organization of the Site. In the first period the main entrance was through the propylon (A on the plan), and it is possible that there were also entrances at B and C.

In the second period the precinct was entered from the propylon A, the propylon B,11 and the gateway C.

SIGHT LINES FROM POINT A

Point A lies on the axis of the propylon in the center of the oblique line of the propylon frontage, where the door would be.

a to left (southeast) corner of the great altar

b to right (northeast) corner of the great altar.

ANGLES OF VISION FROM POINT A

Angle ab = 90° = 180°/2.

SIGHT LINES FROM POINT B

Point B lies on the axis of the propylon along the inner face of the wall.

b to left (northeast) comer of the great altar

c to right (southwest) comer of the great altar

c′ to middle (northwest) comer of the great altar.

ANGLES OF VISION FROM POINT B

Angle bc = 45° = 180°/4.

Line c′ divides this angle equally into two angles of 22.50°.

Hence 180°/8 + 180°/8 = 180°/4.

SIGHT LINES FROM POINT C

Point C is taken in the center of the entrance on a line with the inner face of the boundary wall.

d to left (northwest) comer of the great altar

e to right (southeast) comer of the great altar.

ANGLES OF VISION FROM POINT C

Angle de = 44° (45° = 180°/4).

FIELD OF VISION

Two major changes occur in the second period. First, the importance of sight line a is enhanced because it leads to the junction of the new western stoa with the south wall of the precinct. Second, the angle between the sight lines from entrance B is no longer 45° but, because the position of point B has moved to B′ with the building of the propylon,12 has become 50°.

It may be added that the angle of 45° (i.e., the division of the total space into eight parts) is encountered nowhere else in Greek layouts. The only other sacred precinct I know of in which it is used is the temple of Isis at Pompeii (Fig. 122), which is also a temple of an Egyptian cult.


121   Priene, Sacred Precinct of the Egyptian Gods. Plan.


122   Pompeii, Sacred Precinct of Isis. Plan.

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