Glossary
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BUILDING MATERIALS USED AT DELPHI


The recycling of building materials from previous structures was a common occurrence. However, in sanctuaries, materials were of critical importance to the architects, priests and officials who would have been highly aware of the statement such structures would make. At Delphi, the sanctuary of Apollo was no different. The buildings constructed at and in direct conjunction with this sanctuary were of utmost importance as they represented not only the city of Delphi, but also Greece, its city-states, and gods.

Priests directed architects in almost every aspect of the design and construction of sacred spaces. Architects were responsible not only to the priests and possibly previous foundational limitations, they also had to take into consideration the demands of benefactors as well. Creative elements dictated by an architect, if expressed at all, were restricted to the interior of a building through the use of detail and varied coloration of materials (Winter 1982, 389).

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At Delphi, quarries for limestone and Pentelic marble were local and therefore easily accessible materials for construction (Morgan 209). Although limestone was more affordable than marble, marble was a necessary component of all temples (Middleton 314). Materials were frequently imported, especially for the construction of important structures. The use of rare stones, like Parian marble, was a recognizable excess that would have obtained favorable attention, especially from travelers (Morgan 209). When sections of limestone were not large enough to meet the requirements of a structural plan, pieces were sometimes placed together, with or without cement, and covered with stucco which would have hid these junctions as well as any defects in lower quality stones (Middleton 316).

Stucco was often used on the surfaces of buildings and columns. Basic stucco was made from varying sizes of crushed marble, lime, some form of gluten-like substrate, and water (Vitr. De Arch. 7.6). Sometimes stucco was stained with colors, such as red or reddish browns (Nielson 10). Colors such as these would have matched the roof tiles that were commonly imported to Delphi from Corinth.

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Corinthian terra-cotta tiles and clay from beds in Corinth were used in sanctuaries as roofing materials on temples and other sacred buildings after the 5th century B.C.E. Continuity in architectural devices such as this would have been used throughout Greece to convey a sense of the sacred to citizens and travelers. Clay and tile samples collected from Delphi indicate that these materials were almost identical to those from beds in Corinth (Roebuck 47-9).

In addition to various marbles, limestones, and clays, other building materials would have been used by the ancient Greeks. Cement and mudbrick were common in structural construction and natural gypsum was used in plastering and whitewashing the exterior of buildings. Any technique or material that would have displayed the wealth of the city and benefactors would have been exploited (Winter 1982, 398).

Expression through the use of varying construction materials and attention to detail in the ornamentation in architectural elements helped alleviate strain on an architect due to outside restrictions. Where as an architect may have had to overcome limitations presented from previous structural foundations or standards enforced by priests or benefactors, their presence was still integrated into each building they constructed. Wealth and prestige were persistent themes in homages to the gods; and the structures that were created during this period were shining examples of the prominence held by Greece in the ancient world.

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In Delphi, the Temple of Apollo was believed to have taken many forms over time. Pausanius reports that the earliest temples dedicated to Apollo were made of Apolline bay leaves and branches and bees wax and the wings of birds (Paus. 10.3). These mythological structures were testaments to Delphi's faith in its patron god Apollo. The third temple was said to have been made of bronze. Sirens perched atop the bronze monument but their song was so sweet that worshipers were unable to leave, causing Zeus and Poseidon to destroy the temple (Lloyd-Jones 64). The first four buildings fell to natural disasters such as lightning, fires, or earthquakes, and the fifth temple that was erected was therefore solidified with more lasting and feasible materials.

The Temple of Apollo which is still preserved today was built on the foundations of the previous four temples and dates to ca. 540 B.C.E. (Middleton 314). The Alemaeonidae family became the primary benefactors of this temple in gratitude to Apollo for granting them return to Delphi after being exiled (Hdt. 5.62). Despite contracts that called for local limestone for specific elements, the Alemaeonidae family instructed that the facade be made of rare Parian marble as a tribute to Apollo (Hdt. 5.62). While the façade was in fact made of this rare marble, the remainder of the exterior remained as planned.

Excavations in 1875 revealed that the columns of the temple of Apollo were constructed from siliceous limestone from local quarries at Mount Parnassus (Middleton 310). Remains of stucco cling to the limestone indicating that the columns would have appeared free from imperfection, perhaps to do justice to the rare marble used on the facade. In the fashion of the time, a bronze grill door would have led a worshiper into the temple past the pronaos wall which would have been inlaid with gold inscriptions dedicated to the gods (Middleton 290). In the interior, the floors of the adyton were constructed of St. Elias limestone pavement blocks (Holland L. 907). The walls of the temenos were constructed of large smoothed limestone pieces that curved and fit so snuggly that cement was not necessary for mortar (Middleton 320). It was said that the artist Austoclides even painted frescoes throughout the temple (Pliny HN 35.31).

The Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia, also known as the Marmian tholos, was built in the classical Doric style by the architect Theodoros of Phokaia (Pedley 151). The “tholos” featured twenty lightly colored, unusually thin, marble columns encircling the sanctuary space, each positioned on a stylobate of dark marble wedge shaped slabs of identical size (Charbonnaeux 58, Winter 1982, 387-8). The pale exterior and interior columns and light marble orthostates, threshold, and walls contrasted sharply with the dark marble used to construct the stylobate, floors, and the facing of the ledge supporting the interior Corinthian columns (Winter 1982, 388). The roof could have been made of Corinthian terra-cotta tiles or of clay imported from Corinth as this material was quite common in roofing during the 4th century, primarily in sanctuary structures such as this (Roebuck 49).

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Clamp

The use of terra-cotta tiles on the roof of the Treasury of the Athenians is also probable (Klein 341). The Athenian Treasury was erected after the battle of Marathon and was dedicated to this in an inscription cut into its limestone foundation (Walsh 322). The treasury was the “most expensive and richly ornamented buildings that Athens ever built before the Parthenon.” (Morgan 209) The most prestigious architects and materials were implemented in the construction of the treasury. While Pentelic marble would have been the most common material to use, the architect chose rare Parian marble, not only for accents, but also as the basic building blocks of the structure (Morgan 209). This show of “extravagance” and wealth would not have been unnoticed by Athenians and travelers to the sanctuary (Morgan 209). The spoils of the battle of Marathon would have been thought to be great by the presence of the treasury alone.

The gymnasium at Delphi, dating to the 4th century B.C.E., was quite similar to very early outdoor exercising areas. The earliest meeting grounds were formed slightly away from the main city around a patch of flat ground surrounded by trees and a nearby water source, like a stream, for cleansing after exercise (Yegül 9). Architects did not stray too far from these early concepts. The gymnasium at Delphi consisted of a dirt floor wrestling arena called the palaestra which was surrounded by a marble portico or porch-like walkway and walls of local limestone and mudbrick (Mildner 279, Nielson 10). The gymnasium may have had a roof of terra-cotta tiles as it was a structure connected with the sanctuary which would have utilized these materials to create unity, but it is uncertain since no tiles remain to substantiate this theory.

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Door jam

The bath connected to the gymnasium was one of the last roofless circular plunge baths built in the later part of the 4th century B.C.E. (Gill 29, Nielson 10). This bath was housed beside one of the limestone and mudbrick walls of the gymnasium that would have supported ten marble basins with lion’s head spouts (Yegül 21, Nielson 10). The lion’s head spouts are almost identical to others found in Corinth that were made of limestone, so it is conceivable that the spouts at Delphi were similar in material (Yegül 427). The Delphi spouts would have had pipes of bronze coming from their mouths that would have distributed water into the marble basins and then onto the waterproofed cement floor, thereby draining into the circular plunge bath in the center of the enclosure (Gill 29). The bath itself was made of limestone, more than likely from local quarries, and was initially constructed of four ring-like slabs although currently only three remain (Gill 29). Because there are no indicators that there was any sort of covering over the bath, it is widely held that it was left uncovered (Gill 29).

At Delphi the xystos was positioned behind the gymnasium and would have been made of tramped soil (Nielson 10). While records from Delphi call for amounts of “white earth” to be distributed at the stadium track and leading scholars to believe that the track would have been covered in a white sand, recent studies have shown that the quantities decreed were too small to have covered the area (Miller 1980, 164-5). It is now suggested that “white earth” referred to lime that was easily attainable from local sources, and that it was used as a means to mark the lanes of the track to separate competing athletes (Miller 1980, 164). These lime lines would have clearly marked lanes between the posts that would have been positioned at either end of the track. Stone foot props to equalize the starting position of each athlete and socket cuttings were found at Delphi. The socket cuttings were for eighteen posts, if doubled on the other side - thirty-six, that would have been used as a pivoting point for a runner (Miller 1980, 163).

Design and function were important factors to the ancient Greeks in choosing materials for a building. The material used in each building would not have gone unnoticed by the citizens of Athens or travelers to the city; the statement made would have indicated the position and magnificence of the city of Athens and of Greece.


Megan Levacy, Arkansas State University