Greek architecture and Greek philosophy: two interwoven disciplines ।। Sayed Ahmed

It is really mysterious to find relationship between Greek architecture and Greek philosophy, but certainly there is! Again, it is also difficult to make people understand who do not belong to these two disciples. This article will try to touch the intangibility from a common platform.  Let’s begin. 

Like all other ancient civilizations, they also followed to imagine a cosmology and their architecture reflected such order. Once Plato said, proper orientation within the universe is imperative for aesthetics and virtue. East-west orientation of Greek temples reflects the importance of sun’s journey or movement of Apollo’s cart only for lighting convenience. But two of Apollo temples one at Epicurus (430 BC) and Another at Thermos (3rd century BC); are stretched toward the Milky Way’s northeast to south orientation. Why these exceptions in entry approach? In fact, it is the same orientation to Anaxagoras’s (died in 428 BC) imagination of Milky Way. And Apollo temple was always a center for unconventional thinking, only Corinthian order appeared here. If Ionic order is female and Doric order is male, then this composite type of order was combination of both, the divine theory of love inscribed by Plato in his book of Symposium. You cannot find Corinthian column exposed in any Greek architecture but Romans introduced them in elevations.

Now, Cella (core room of temple) is the darkest part and surrounded by walls. Again, the wall is enclosed by columns and again, columns are surrounded by steps- a perfect reflection of Parmenides’s seven layered bands of cosmogony. These are the examples how scientific thoughts shaped the myth and how myths shaped their architecture.

Sphere is Arial or heavenly and reflects Hera’s ability to birth. Cube reflects earth and concrete concept of Aidoneus’s (brother of Zeus) underworld. Thus Heaven and underworld captured in a single structure of Greek temple. Together, the cube (earth) and the sphere (air) form a dual pair, but in a perverted rectilinear form proportioned with golden section. Cylinder is the shape of planets and that’s why cylindrical columns reflect the movements of the series of planets around a cosmic core. Plato’s ideal objects those are only findable in shadows. Around the world, still 5 solids are imaginable and they are called platonic solids.

Agonistic Protagoras has been misjudged as he told; man is the measure of everything. Both Anaxagoras and Protagoras were close friend and contemporary to Pericles, the rebuilder of Acropolis after the battle of Salamis. Did these two philosophers inspired architects like Ictinus and Callicrates to take any decision urged by Pericles? It’s really possible.

Number 3 means the first true male number and number of harmony to Pythagoras. Again, the number 2 is the first even or female number and number of opinion. The number five is for marriage (2+3). Thus squares of 2 and 3 were adopted to construct their temples in such ratio 4:9.

What about theaters? ‘Allegory of cave’ was concept of Socrates later narrated by Plato, could be described as real and unreal at the same time. From timeline, when Greeks started to parody drama to humiliate Persians, Socrates was a child of 10 years. So, did the childhood experience of him let his mind to go for such imagination of landscape and architecture in a same ‘blenscape’?

Pythagorean numbers, Platonic ideal form, Aristotelian abstraction all are the same conception to constitute the Greek realm of architecture. That’s why Greek architecture remained relevant, ideal and classic over times and always will be.