Doric and Ionic columns
Roofs crammed with earth
"Ship", the most frequent noun in Homer's Iliad
Columns as oars
First three chapters
The chapter 4 is about Doric and Ionic columns, and about Corinthian capital. I wrote it as a communication, and I presented it to the XII Congress of the Sociedad Española de Estudios Clásicos, the 25 of October, in Valencia (Spain). The document in .pdf format, with figures and bibliography (in Spanish), can be downloaded from here:
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I could not believe it, so bizarre it was, and indeed I had only found a reference to this subjet. J. E. GORDON, in Structures or Why things don’t fall down (Pelican Books, 1978, pp. 216–18) says that roofs of Greek temples were completely crammed with a mixture of damp clay and earth, so that a roof might weigh some 3,000 tons (illustration at bottom). He supposes that the plaster filling was a protection against the rain. But such a pile of earth could not have the purpose of isolating the building from the rain. The roofs ot Greek houses were accurately waterproofed by means of beams and tiles. A more elaborated explanation arguess that “we must infer that this decision was taken on some moral or religious principle” (here). Here we are an obscura per obscuriora, which doesn’t explain anything, but keeps the problem unsolved.
As to myself, the only explanation I can find for this new anomaly in the temple architecture is not of a practical order, obviously, neither moral or religious. It is an iconic reason, connected with the nautical hypothesis of the origine of Greek architecture. Remember: a Greek temple intends to represent a boat overturned and stored upon support walls.
In ancient ships, such as the one of Ulubun shipwreck (s. XIV adC), the more frequent way of storing the cargo was to put it on a sand bed. So to speak, seamen sailed upon floating isles. If the temple is actually an overturned boat, its roof crammed with earth represents this mass of sand full of merchandise.
We can go further in the hermeneutics of the allegory that a Greek temple consists in. Both East and West pediments of the temple are the result of cutting the hull, so that they allow to see the inner cargo. What we find in the pediments are groups of statues. Exceptionally we will act as literal-minded and deduce that the boat figured in the temple ships a cargo of statues of gods, made in marmor or bronze.
Before the invention of coinage, the wealth was piled up as luxury objects, sometimes sculptures or ἀγάλματα. The Parthenon itself got its name from the group of sculptures of girls, πάρθενος, which were kept on the opisthodomos of the temple, and the treasuries of panhellenic sanctuaries expressed in the same way the wealth of the contributing cities. Temples themselves were nothing but recipients in which statues, some of them extremely expensive as the chysoelephantine ones made by Phidias, were exhibited.
Thus a boat full of statues of gods could have been for the Greeks the most complete image of wealth, and the most spectacular technique for making visible the superiority of a political system.
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Just a brief post to remind myself that this site is only on standby, but not dead. The next chapter to be published is the relative to the columns of the Greek temples. As you can imagine, I argue that the columns come from the oars of the galleys, with a little modification. The pole of an oar could be used to propel stone discs (i.e. a lenticular anchors) in order to pierce the hull of enemy ships. Here is a figure (by the author) on how it could be accompished.
Obviously I think that such a kind of weapon can be at the origin of doric columns. There are similar weapons in ancient naval iconography. I am alluding to the big fish that appears at the bow of cycladic boats (see bottom). In my oppinion these fishes are the precedents of the classic dolphins that merchant boats used as a defense (to know more).
But did there exist little dolphins, of human size?. Here at the bottom is an little statue of Zeus throwing a thunderbolt. Actually the thunderbolt has the shape of a particular kind of anchor. The iconography of the Zeus’ thunderbolt, usually represented on coins, ceramics and shields, is very puzzling. An anchor can be at the origin of this richly decorated object.
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I argue on my book that homeric kings, βασιλεῖς, are not exactly kings, but ship captains. This is not a piece of evidence, but a curiosity: a statistic research of all words used at the Iliad, made with the Perseus vocabulary tool, shows that the word for ship, ναῦς, is the most frequently used noun all over the Iliad, before other usual nouns as ἀνήρ and Ζεύς.
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“the columns had a nautical significance (...); the dipteral colonnades around the naos, (...) are like a double row of oars propelling a ship”. (Hahn, p. 87).
I can’t read this book, by its thesis agrees with my own ideas: the relations between nautics, architecture and philosophy. Actually, I think that buildings made with overturned boats, the first temples, functioned as an image of the universe for the first philosophers, with the hull as a model of the starry sky.
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Tomorrow 25th August, in the Island of Cyprus, will start the Tropis 2005 Conference. I would like to be there, in the place where my work could be better received. And what if it is true? Sometimes I think that anyway
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Finally I post the first three chapters of the preliminary version of the book, in Spanish of course. There are 15 figures done by myself, but I do not include figures that do not belong to me to avoid problems with copyright laws. This image of example represents the board of a pentecontor, similar to the Phoenician ones, that could give rise to the entablature of the temple of ionic style (tourned over, of course).
These chapters treat on the naval origin of the Greek temple, and on the number of columns of this one, without entering to analyze their form and meaning.
I know that there are people who download the Plan of the book, but I do not receive any opinions on the work. Is somebody there? It has sense that I continue writing this work?
Download the first three chapters of the book:
Archivo: Capítulos 1, 2 y 3.pdf [736kB]
Español, 76 páginas, 15 figuras del autor. Descargas: 5332.
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I did find some ethnographic parallels that reinforce the nautical hypothesis, originally conceived to explain the Greek Architecture. Vikings and Polynesians were seafaring people, and built boat-shaped houses.
An expressive photograph can be viewed at the Ale Viking-Age Project. Jochen Komber, architect and archaeologist, argues: “Viking Age architecture is characterized by the boat-shaped longhouse, a house with convex outer walls and straight gable walls. (...) The most probable assumption (...) is that the boat-shaped form is not limited to the two-dimensional plane, but that these ground plans are projections of a boat-shaped architecture that entailed the buildings as a whole. This means that the roof was a kind of double curved shell, composed by curved rafters.” [here].
In Polynesian culture we find a specific architecture, the one of Tana Toraja, with the building called “tongkonan”. Some photographs can be seen at Indonesia Archaeology on the Net. Toraja legends claim that: “they arrived from the north by sea. Caught in a violent storm, their boats were so damaged as to be unseaworthy, so instead they used them as roofs for their new homes. The tongkonan, with their boat-shaped roofs, always face towards the north.”
The same origin can be assigned to the Balearian navetas “little ships”, a kind of building with ellongated horse-shoe plan dated on the Bronze Age (1600 to 1050 BC). To know more visit Arqueobalear.
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Welcome to Pompilos. The purpose of this site is to spread the book entitled The Nautical Origin of Greek Architecture and Sculpture, which is still in progress. The main thesis of the book, the nautical hypothesis, argues that the Greek temple, and Greek public buildings in general, originated from boats stored and turned over upon supports, with the space under them being used to bivouac, to meet, to banquet and to store gear and commercial products. As the meeting point for the captains of a fleet, ὁ ναὸς οἶκoς (“the arsenal”) became ὁ ναός (“the temple”). On the other hand, the statue of the god venerated in temple originated from the ἱερὰ ἄγκυρα or “sacred anchor”, the one for desperate situations. This anchor was used in naval battles as a throwable weapon (δελφίς), propelled from the top of a pole into the enemies’ boats. Thus it became the ensign of the king, of the fleet and finally of the nation. The naval hypothesis sheds new light on the study of the symbols of the royalty, and so to the study of the classical and other ancient cultures.
In the download section I will make the chapters of the book available to download as I finish them. Presumably I will post articles sporadically in the progress section, because my main purpose is writing the book.
Ἀνερρίφθω κύβος · Alea iacta esto. Men. 65.4.
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