The Greek, in his own way, was a very religious man. In his temple, he was doing his utmost to set forth the majesty of his God, and if it was necessary for this purpose he was even prepared to sacrifice his principles as an artist, to ignore the scale of his interior and the rhythmic harmony of his design, by the introduction of gigantic figures. The chryselephantine figure of Zeus at Olympia, made by Pheidias, is supposed to have been some thirty-five feet high, and to have reached nearly to the roof, passing the double tier of columns and the gallery above the aisles of the cella. Moreover, this god was represented as seated on his throne, so that by no possibility could it have been in scale with the building so far as the architecture was concerned. Even the gigantic temple of Zeus at Agrigentum with its external columns 61 ft. 9 in. in height, and large enough for a man to stand within one of the flutings of the columns, could hardly have stood up to figures on such a scale as this. Such a violent contrast in scale broke the principle of συμμετρία [symmetria], that strict relation of the part to the whole which the Greek artists maintained elsewhere with scrupulous care. Artists with such a consummate sense of proportion as the Greeks possessed would hardly have made a mistake here, and the conclusion one comes to is that where their religion was in question, everything had to give way. Indeed, one can imagine the tremendous effect of this colossal figure seen dimly in the half-light of the cella, filling the whole temple with its presence. The same anomaly in scale occurred in the Akropolis at Athens, where the vast figure of Athene Promachos must have reduced the beautiful Caryatides of the Erechtheum to insignificance.

Home of Ellopos Blog