Throughout history, there have been numerous factors that have influenced the development of western architecture. The most influential factor of classical architecture was humanism. The ideology of humanism is an attitude centered chiefly in the values, interests, and potential of human beings (Webster’s II New Riverside Dictionary 205). Humanism is what leads to the development of the Classical World as we know it.
In the Classical World, that is ancient Greek and Rome, the ideology of humanism had a big impact in these civilizations. Humanism strongly influenced these civilizations arts, and especially their architecture. For example, most ancient Greek buildings have been built to honor the Greek Pantheon, of gods and goddesses. One of the most important Greek buildings is the Parthenon, which was built between 447 and 438 BC. The Parthenon was designed by Phidias, and built by Ictinus on the Acropolis of Athens with the purpose to honor the goddess Athena and the people that honored her. Also, the Parthenons frieze and pediment are further evidence that prove the immense influence humanism had on Greek architecture. The Parthenons frieze (a horizontal band that runs above the doorways or windows, and that can also be decorated with designs and carvings) is thought to represent the Panathenaic Procession (“Parthenon Frieze”).
This was a festival that was celebrated on the 28th day of a month called Hekatombaion, and everyone in Athens, including non-residents and slaves (up to a point), was able to participate in numerous activities ranging from musical contests to athletic competitions where men would show off their abilities. This shows that humanism plays a role even in festivals celebrated in that time period. This holiday was believed to honor the goddess Athena as the city’s patron divinity (Religious Life). In addition, the Parthenons east pediment describes the birth of Athena, and the west pediment describes the story of when Athena defeats Poseidon for control over Athens. Furthermore, the Parthenon was turned into a Christian church in the 5th Century AD. The Parthenon was designed to be aesthetically perfect to the human eye. The golden ratio is when the length over width equals to about 1.6, and this forms the golden rectangle (“Golden Ratio”).
These golden rectangles can be found between the columns of the Parthenon. These strongly relates to humanism because, even though this temple was built to honor the gods, the way it was built was to show off the human ability that the ancient Greeks had (Laisné 119-135). Moreover, the Temple Nike, built to honor the goddess Athena, was built right after the Persian War to celebrate the victory of the Greek city-states over Persia. Even the columns of this building become more beautiful when humanism gets stronger. The columns on the Temple Nike are from the Ionic order, and they differ from the Parthenons Doric-order columns because they have volutes and are thinner (Laisné 138). This idea of making buildings more perfect is the main influence that the ideology of humanism had on Ancient Greece. However, this civilization has not been the only that was influenced by humanism.
In Ancient Rome, humanism influenced this civilizations architecture. However, when Constantine became Romes Emperor, he accepted Christianity as Romes official religion, and this had a large impact on Romes architecture as well. The importance of beauty in the buildings was still critical during this time period. For example, the original Pantheon was built during the 1st Century BC, by Agrippa, to honor all the Greek gods. Later on, their names would be changed to more Roman names. It is also important to point out that the columns in the Pantheon are from the Corinthian order, which is the more detailed and ornate out of the three columns.
The painting Interior of the Pantheon, by Giovanni Paolo Panini, gives us an idea of how the interior of the Pantheon looked like when light came through the oculus (Ramage 219-222). Humanism not only influenced in the building of the Pantheon, but the Roman Baths were also based in this ideology. The Roman baths were part of a day-to-day life in Ancient Rome. The local bath complex was a gathering point and served a very useful community and social function. Here people could relax, keep clean and keep up with the latest news. Also, the larger baths included statues to the gods, and many Romans viewed the springs as sacred and threw valuable items into the springs to please the gods. However, even though the baths were used to honor the gods, the idea of making the baths luxurious and beautiful to the eye is definitely done for people to enjoy. In addition, altar was also built at some baths so that priests could sacrifice animals to the gods.
The water from the baths gained a reputation as being able to cure illnesses (Ramage 290-292). The architecture, so beautiful and intricate, of these two buildings, shows the strong impact that humanism had in Ancient Rome. The Pantheon and the Roman baths were created not only to honor the gods, but to please the human eye and serve the Roman citizens, elevating the peoples importance. Furthermore, the ideology of humanism was not the only influence in Roman architecture. The rise of Christianity radically changed the development of Romes architecture. First, the Pantheon was turned into a church by the early 7th century, after the fall of Rome, which is the reason of why it has remained in such a good condition.
In conclusion, numerous factors have strongly influenced the development of architecture throughout the ages. Humanism has been the most influential factor in the development of classical architecture. The ideology of humanism shaped the architecture of the Classical World in a unique way that has survived all the way to modern day society.
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