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Read the text and translate it into Ukrainian. Texts on Architecture

Part 3

Texts on Architecture

A. Styles of Architecture

Unit 10




The most ancient of all civilizations, that based on the Nile valley, only began to influence Europe after two thousand years and more — in its decadence, indeed, after the fall of the last dynasty. The Greeks and Phoenicians had trade relations with the Egyptians. Towards the end of the sixth century bc the Persians conquered the country and ruled over it for more than a century. In 332 bc, Alexander the Great included Egypt in his empire, claiming divine status for himself as the son of Ammon. There then followed the Ptolemaic dynasty, founded by Ptolemy of Macedon, despite six interfamily marriages of by no means pure Macedonian stock (in fact of equal parts Egyptian, Libyan, Nubian and Syrian). The last representative of this line, Cleopatra, literally fell, deviously draped in a sumptuous attire, at the feet of Caesar.

Rome made Egypt the granary of the Empire and received the Nilotic divinities into her own pantheon. During the Roman period, Egyptian art gradually ceased to influence that of the other Mediterranean civilizations, and the solemnly sealed doors of the royal tombs, which had withstood the ravages of time for so long, held no awe for the desert tribes who then and later overran the upper Nile valley. What archaeologists in more recent times have managed to preserve in museums is, notwithstanding its beauty and variety, only a partial record of splendours past. It is a testimonial to a faith, not devoid of terror, in a life beyond the grave.

In 1799, a lieutenant in Napoleon's army found, beneath the rubble of a destroyed house in the Delta area, the basalt slab that was later to become known as the Rosetta Stone. It bore the same inscription in three different forms of writing: hieroglyphs, Greek, and an ancient Egyptian demotic script. In 1822, the French archaeologist Jean Francois Champollion succeeded in partially deciphering the two Egyptian texts, using the Greek as a reference. This achievement represents the beginnings of scientifically conducted archaeological research in the Nile valley. The history of Egypt could now be properly recorded, and it was at last possible to gain some idea, more accurate than mere conjecture, of the purpose of ancient Egyptian monuments and their significance in relation to Egyptian concepts of the universe and the after life.

The daring size of Egyptian monuments was intended as an indestructible expression of royal might. For the peasant farmers along the river banks, as for all other subjects, these huge constructions affirmed the divine origins of every king since time immemorial. Who but a god could have shifted and raised so many stones — moved such mountains?

Apart from the irrigation system fed by the Nile, architecture was used exclusively in the service of kings, deities and the dead. There were indeed storehouses, archives and military buildings, but these were of little architectonic interest compared with the royal edifices. The king owned all the quarries in the rocky valleys, and kept an army of slaves. Yet the vast size of the buildings erected by the successive kings was dictated neither by this nor by some perverse whim. Rather, it reflects a desire to create a representation of the cosmos through a model of a spatio-temporal world having the Nile valley as its center.

In the third millennium bc, the star Alpha Draconis orbited the Pole, around which the fixed stars revolve night after night, with a deviation of less than three degrees. In summer in Lower Egypt this polar star of the pharaonic period stood thirty-three degrees above the horizon. The oblique shafts leading to the burial chambers are set at precisely this angle.

The sides of the pyramid of Cheops (each of which face one of the cardinal points) slope at an angle of fifty-two degrees — corresponding to the highest point of the brightest of the fixed stars, Sothis or, as we call it, Sirius. The perimeter of the base of the pyramid of Cheops relates to the length of the solar year: Egyptian architects used a unit of measurement which archaeologists call the "pyramid yard," equivalent to twenty-five inches (63.5cm.). One twenty-fifth of a pyramid yard made one pyramid inch. In length, the base of the same pyramid measures about 251 yards (230m.). Or course it is impossible to establish the exact length, as the outer facing slabs have disappeared. However, taking an approximate measurement of 252 yards (231 m.), that would make a total perimeter length of 36,524 pyramid inches. This figure corresponds to the exact length of the solar year (365.2422 days), at least to the fourth decimal point. Thus the dimensions of the pyramid of Cheops would appear to have both spatial and temporal connections with certain astronomical observations.

The mathematics of the pyramids is a subject of controversy, as no contemporary documents or drawings exist to support any particular theory. Nevertheless, the astronomical and mathematical expertise of the period remains indisputable, together with the very considerable knowledge of geometry displayed by Egyptian architects.

Tens of thousands of workers laboured for some twenty years to dress, move and raise the two and a half million blocks of stone, each weighing about fifty hundredweight (2540kg.), that go to make up the pyramid of Cheops (479ft., 146m., high).

Every ancient Egyptian building (whether cliff tomb, pyramid or temple) was conceived with astronomical concepts in mind as much as with aesthetic considerations. Finally, another determining element in the production of monuments of such vast size was the desire of the kings to express their own power. No wonder these gigantic works of architecture inspired a sense of wonder and awe. Huge flat façades stand guard before mysterious halls filled with forests of pillars. Only the elect could enter these halls, the walls of which were decorated with illustrated inscriptions, fully comprehensible to only a small minority. Common mortals could not begin to grasp the total scope of the Pharaoh's might.

Styles changed little throughout the long history of Egyptian architecture. Some temple façades, such as those at Karnak and Edfu, are built according to exactly identical principles and differ remarkably little in detail, although one was built over a thousand years after the other. The shape, once set, did not alter. The same was true of the style. Echoes and repetition symbolized an eternal reality.

Building his future tomb was the center point of the Pharaoh's life. If Fate gave him a long, peaceful reign, the construction could reach gigantic size. Often it was enlarged even further by the next Pharaoh, when the various available chambers did not suffice for all the treasures that were to accompany the dead Pharaoh's soul on its journey through the afterlife. As is well known, death and the afterlife were constantly in the minds of the ancient Egyptians. However, there exist very few indications of the cult procedure for ordinary people when they died. Nor indeed is much known about the way of life of the masses. A secretly written text in one royal tomb allows us a glimpse of the divide between the nobility and hoi polloi: "Those who have cut the hard stone, those whose fine work has produced a room in the pyramid, those who have erected a steep sloping obelisk — their places of sacrifice are as bare as those of the weary who die on the banks of the Nile unremembered by anyone." In a somewhat different vein, the inscription for the king reads: "The gate of heaven is open to you, the heavy fetters have been taken from you. The Sun god holds you by your hand, is guiding you and placing you on the throne of Osiris, lord of the underworld. You do as he does. You cause your house to flourish after you, and you keep your children from care."

In January 1960, President Nasser of Egypt pressed a button which set off ten tons of high explosives — and work started on the Aswan dam. Since the dam was completed, the level of the Nile has risen by about 330 feet (101 m.), overflowing roughly 250 miles (400km.) of the old river banks. The necropolises and temples between Aswan (Philae) and Wadi Haifa would have been irretrievably lost had it not been for the intervention of Unesco, which organized a world-wide rescue operation that succeeded in saving al but a few monuments. Using all the available resources of technology and archaeological expertise, it was possible to dismantle and reassemble in safe places superb examples of ancient Egyptian architecture.


The Aegean

At a time when the Egyptians were building with precisely dressed stones, walls were being thrown up in the Peloponnese, on the Aegean islands and on Crete, using enormous blocks of stone piled crudely one on top of another. The excavated foundations of the first citadels indicate that they were laid ad hoc without any thought-out plan, with no considerations of prestige or self-expression in mind. But with the first colonnaded courtyards, conceived within the discipline of a four-sided surface area, with rooms all around, a certain rational element appears. Individual details reflect the influence of the Middle East and Egypt, yet the structural differences already constitute a style quite other than that of the vast structures of Egypt—a style (to our eyes at least) geared to human beings rather than to Sirius. And although built in honour of the gods, or to the specifications of those in the highest social positions (i.e. the priests and princes), these buildings seem closer to our own sensibility and to human reason. "Right" size and proportion became more important than sheer size for its own sake.

In the early stages of Aegean civilization, walls were still built to Cyclopean dimensions, as if by and for giants, and they have a kind of overbearing massiveness. The buildings erected on the islands to begin with resembled no others: they bear no architectural reference to any other style. Eastern influences came in, to a limited extent, later, but only in decoration, not in actual form.

The style that grew up in the Aegean and on Crete is known as Minoan, after the mythical king Minos, son of Zeus and the Phoenician princess Europa (according to the myth, Zeus assumed the shape of a bull and carried Europa off across the sea to Crete). Minos ruled over many islands—so the legend goes. The sea god Poseidon sent up a bull from the ocean, demonstrating his power. Minos was supposed to sacrifice this bull, but wishing to keep such a magnificent beast sacrificed a bull from his own herds instead. As revenge for this deception, Poseidon made the king's wife, Pasiphae, fall in love with the bull. Pasiphae then commissioned from Daedalus, an architect and sculptor based on the mainland (tributary lands of Minos), a hollow wooden cow, into which she climbed to have intercourse with the bull. The product of this union was the Minotaur, a man-eating monster with a bull's head and a human body, for whom Daedalus built the Labyrinth — a palace with endless rooms and corridors. Greek in origin, this savage legend perhaps expresses the revenge of Attica for the humiliations suffered under the Cretan domination: the Athenians under the Cretan yoke had every nine years to send seven youths and seven maidens to Crete as food for the Minotaur. In the end the hero Theseus managed to kill the monster.

In the Iliad, Crete is portrayed as a rich, powerful island with a hundred towns. This and other passages from Homer's epic provided Heinrich Schliemann with vital clues in his search for evidence of ancient civilizations. Schliemann (1822-90), from Mecklenburg, Germany, was a born archaeologist. A businessman by profession, he did so well in St Petersburg and Amsterdam that he was able to spend the second part of his life living out his boyhood dream, immersed in early Greek antiquity — or more precisely in the pre­history of what we generally call classical antiquity. Homer was his guiding star. For him the old myths were history in poetic form.

In 1870 Schliemann began digging on the hill of Hissarlik in north-west Asia Minor, excavating the ancient city of Troy. With the help of Wilhelm Dörpfeld (who was to become his friend and who carried on the venture), he discovered one city on top of another in layers. The sixth, he concluded, was the Ilium of the Trojan legend. Some years later he went to Greece to search for the palace of Agamemnon, the attacker of Troy. He started digging at Mycenae and at nearby Tiryns, and in so doing unearthed another thousand years and more of Greek history. Schliemann had always maintained, almost as an article of faith, that the old legends were historical accounts written up in poetry, and his excavations bore him out.

In 1886 he sailed to Crete to look for the palace of Minos. He believed he would find it beneath an olive grove concealing a mass of ruins. However, he was unable to agree a price with the owner of the property, and was thus prevented from crowning his long career with the discovery of the Minoan treasures. He died in Naples in 1890.

Ten years later, the British archaeologist Arthur Evans (1851-1941) started excavating the town of Knossos, with its palace built by the legendary son of a mythical princess. He thought the work would last one year. After twenty-five years he was still digging, having unearthed some seven and a half acres of ruins. Archaeologists discovered foundation walls and the remains of large settlements, together with what must have been splendid palaces, some dating from before 3000 bc (i.e. the end of the neolithic era), along the southern coast of the island, as well as at Knossos in the north.

Little is known about early Aegean culture. No historical facts survive. Only through myths and legends are we able to guess the power of the overlords of these islands. Remnants of wall paintings still give a colourful impression of life at court there in the heyday of Aegean civilization. Scenes of acrobats with bulls depict activities midway between religious ceremonial and sport.

At first sight the ground plan of the palace of Knossos is confusing. It seems literally like a labyrinth, lacking any geometrical order. It is impossible to identify axes or lines of alignment. Ostentation appears to have been unimportant in the conception of the building. Essentially made up of corridors, all cutting across each other at right angles, there are few really big rooms. Even the throne room is of modest size. Many parts are illuminated by light wells. The narrow storerooms in the western section of the palace, where the pithoi (large pottery jars for the storage of oil or grain) were kept, were dark.

The massive columns in the courtyards are like enormous posts rammed into the ground by giants. The ponderous capitals appear as if squashed beneath the load they bear. The walls of the royal apartments were painted: slim figures walk through meadows strewn with lilies, within framework of wave-like lines and stylized floral motifs enclosed in turn in complex patterns of intertwining cuttlefish tentacles.

Around 1700 bc, disaster struck Crete — possibly connected with the invasions of the Iranian Hyksos. No legible records of this event exist, either on papyrus or on stone. Knossos was rebuilt later, but in 1400 bc was totally destroyed, burnt and sacked.

The downfall of Crete may possibly have been linked with the so-called Doric migration, although no corroborative evidence of this exists. The Dorians invaded the Greek mainland from the north and pushed right down to the Aegean. By the time they reached Crete, however, Knossos had quite probably already fallen.

We tend to think of the Dorians as a race of heroes, great conquerors and supreme creators of a new order. Certainly, the language they brought, or which they were responsible for spreading, Greek, that is, was the medium of this new order — a new mode of existence, no less, which came to fruition in the period we know as classical antiquity, and with which the concepts of beauty and harmony and perfection will forever be coupled.

After crude and barbaric beginnings (in certain aspects at least) a definite style emerged. This style, the first to exercise a fascination and formative influence on every successive age, is known, together with the order of temple architecture characteristic of it, as Doric.


Read the text and translate it into Ukrainian.

2. Answer the following questions:

1. When did Alexander the Great include Egypt in his empire?

2. What did French archaeologist Jean Francois Champollion succeed in 1822?

3. What was architecture in Egypt like?

4. What does the pyramid of Cheops look like?

5. What was every ancient Egyptian building conceived with?

6. How did the styles change throughout the history of Egyptian architecture?

7. What do the excavated foundations of the first citadel on the Aegean islands indicate?

8. What does Minoan style mean?

9. How are we able to guess the power of the overlords of Aegean islands?

10. What is the palace of Knossos famous for?


3. Give Ukrainian equivalents of the following words and phrases:

to influence

to claim divine status

sumptuous attire

solemnly seal doors

scientifically conducted archaeological research

indestructible expression

vast size of the buildings

to establish the exact length

approximate measurement

to remain indisputable

determining element

to inspire the sense of wonder and awe

to differ remarkably little in detail

to erect a steep sloping obelisk

overbearing massiveness

to excavate the ancient city

to depict activities

to identify axes and lines of alignment

corroborative evidence


4. Give English equivalents of the following words and phrases:

поступово втрачати вплив

витримувати руйнівну дію часу

демотичний рукописний шрифт

частково розшифрований

підтверджувати боже походження

встановлювати точну довжину


сучасні документи та малюнки

величезні рівні фасади

згідно з принципами

вічна реальність

бути непоправно загубленими

відображати вплив

незначний ступінь

життєво важливий хід думок

бути нездатним погодити ціну

складний візерунок

схилятися до думки


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