Styles of Greek masonry follow a defined chronological order starting with dry-rubble construction prior to the 6th century B.C. up to Ashlar masonry ending in the second century B.C. (Scranton 33, 145). All styles, including Lesbian, Polygonal, Trapezoidal, and Ashlar can be found at sites in Delphi. Each style of masonry presents its own challenges and benefits. As time goes on the technology used to build the walls of some of the greatest Greek monuments becomes more complex and the walls themselves become stronger and more refined.
As stated, the earliest form of wall building was dry-rubble building. Essentially this method is just stacking of rocks to form a rudimentary and somewhat unstable wall (Scranton 145). The earliest style of wall building using cut stone with surface treatment is called the Lesbian style. This style was popular in the 6th century B.C. and can be found in most archaic communities including Athens, Eleusis and Delphi (Scranton 33). No evidence of Lesbian masonry has been found that post dates the Persian Wars (Scranton 33). The Lesbian style is so named because some of the best examples of it are found at the Isle of Lesbos. It is also popular in Eastern Greece, the Aegean Islands, and Asia Minor (Scranton 27). The style consists of entirely curved joints with mostly a quarry faced surface (no work on face), a tooled surface (plain flat face), or a pointed surface (flat face with 3-5 tiers of grooves vertical or slanted) (Scranton 21-25). This style of work appears somewhat random without any defined courses and does not use mortar or clamps. The stones are carved to fit the ones around them. Examples of Lesbian Masonry can be found at Delphi in several locations. The lower terrace of the Temple, parts of the wall in front of the Siphnian Treasury, and a later wall at the Marmaria dating to 520-505 B.C. are all in the Lesbian style (Scranton,36).
Polygonal masonry is of a similar style to Lesbian masonry; however the stone is cut into blocks with straight sides, typically more than 4 and non-parallel, and has defined angles (Scranton 45). The joints for this type of masonry are extremely tight, almost invisible, but are occasionally beveled to show the pattern of the stones. An example of this beveling can be found at the Kerameikos in Athens where the joints are beveled to 5 centimeters forming a V-shape (Scranton 48).
Polygonal masonry is well represented in Southern Greece and the Peloponnesos with some examples in Asia Minor and from Thessaly and Macedonia (Scranton 51). It generally dates from the 5th century B.C. to the 3rd century B.C. with its most finished expression found in the 5th century (Scranton 68). The Polygonal Wall at Delphi behind the Stoa of the Athenians dates to the second half of the 6th century B.C.. The wall at Delphi has a tooled surface with inscriptions, but quarry faced surfaces are also very popular. There are occasional occurrences of coursed polygonal masonry where the polygonal shapes are laid out in defined courses such as at Asine and Mycenae (Scranton 52).
Trapezoidal masonry is the only other style that does not use mortar or metal ties to hold the blocks together (Lawrence 226).
It is created with rectangular blocks with slanted vertical joints. Two opposite sides of the block are parallel and the other two sides are not (Scranton 71). Prior to the full evolution of trapezoidal masonry existed irregular trapezoidal work which is an in between point of polygonal masonry and true trapezoidal masonry. Due to the fact that irregular trapezoidal masonry exists at the same time period of polygonal masonry it is difficult to accurately date when or where it starts (Scranton 80). However, according to Scranton rough dates for Trapezoidal Isodomic (courses all of the same height) work with quarry surface fall between 425 and 375 B.C. (85). Trapezoidal masonry shows examples of all surface types including, quarry face, hammer work (intentionally roughened), and broached work (quarry face with chiseled grooves) with fewer examples found of tooled work, pointed work and furrowed work (entire face covered in short grooves) (Scranton 76). Broached work is believed to date from the mid 4th century (Scranton 89). A tooled faced trapezoidal isodomic wall can be found at the Helleniko (main peribolos) at Delphi and dates to 373 B. C. (Scranton 93). Another example at Delphi includes a section of the precinct wall that is built using the trapezoidal style, but the blocks are not laid horizontally (Scranton 80). Trapezoidal masonry also uses the pseudo-isodomic (courses of different heights) style to create variation in design with most examples dating to the 3rd century B.C. (Scranton 93).
The most common type of masonry used for temples and other monumental buildings is Ashlar masonry (Scranton 99). This type of masonry was generally restricted to temples and monumental buildings because of cost (Lawrence 225). The rectangular blocks are held together using horizontal ties (clamps) on the upper face and fastened to the course below using dowels (Plommer 154). Dowels and clamps were most often made of iron, sometimes bronze, and soldered together with lead (Lawrence 255). Ashlar structures can be dated using either the surface decoration of the blocks or the style of clamp used to hold them together.
Ashlar masonry is known to date to the Mycenaean Period, but further develops under Attic influence (Scranton 107). Most styles of Ashlar masonry are isodomic with a few examples of pseudo-isodomic using only two sizes of coursing (Scranton 101). Dates for the various surfaces of isodomic-ashlar are as follows- quarry or hammer face from 425 B.C. to 375 B.C.; hammer face with drafted joints (2-6 centimeter band dressed on stone around joint area) from the Archaic period (550 B.C.) to Hellenistic or Roman times; pointed or tooled surface dates to the Hellenistic Period, roughly 460 B.C. to 330 B.C.; tooled surface with drafted joints from 370 B.C. to 320 B.C.; and tooled surface with beveled edge dates from 320 B.C. to 300 B.C. (Scranton 112-131). Pseudo-Isodomic work is found in early archaic examples and generally dates to the 3rd and 2nd century B.C. (Scranton 134). One example at Delphi of isodomic-ashlar masonry is the Marmaria which shows both drafted joints with a plain central panel and drafted joints with a bush tooled central panel. Scranton believes these differences account for primary building around 370 B.C. and repairs made at a later date using the tooled panel (131).
Several types of clamps can be found dating from Egyptian times through the Roman period. The earliest style, the archaic dovetail or swallow tail, can be found in Egyptian masonry of wood (Dinsmoor 175). However, this style was used right through the first century and is not a good indicator of the date of a building (Fowler 107). Other styles are more easily dated. The earliest style found in Greek masonry is the R-clamp. This is found in buildings of the sixth and early fifth century B.C. and is formed by bending the ends of a bar to form a lower case R shape (Fowler 107). Another type is the Double-T or H-clamp used primarily in the Classical period.
H-clamps were more expensive to make because the ends were welded on instead of being simply bent (Fowler 107). A third type is the Hook-clamp which sits vertically into the blocks instead of laying on top. Hook-clamps were used for the longest time and can be found at the treasury of the Syracusans at Olympia, were popular in the fourth century and later adopted by the Romans (Fowler 107). Hook-clamps can be found at Delphi in the Aegospotami monument that dates to 405 B.C. (Dinsmoor 235). Clamps were also used to hold marble statuary to the frieze as at the Erechtheum (Dinsmoor 192). Occasionally, clamps and dowels were also used in arch construction, but this was not standard and seems to be left to the discretion of the architect. An example of clamps and dowels in arches can be found in the groin-vaulted exedra at Delphi (Boyd 96-97).
Prior to clamps and dowels being fitted in the blocks pry bars were used to tighten the blocks horizontally. Pry holes were carved into the lower course of wall to insert a crowbar to push the upper course together. Sometimes more than one pry hole had to be carved to get a tight fit and can be seen in rows on the lower block. Shift holes were also carved in the top and bottom of a block in order to move the block horizontally to line up precisely with the one next to it (Fowler 103-104).
Orlandos points out that in the sixth and fifth century preliminary dowels may have been used for the same purpose. At the Parthenon small dowels were found to be at an angle to a block to hold it tightly to its neighbor (Orlandos 175).
Most dowels, however, are not inserted at an angle and are used to join two courses together. Dowels are rectangular, about three inches long, one inch wide, and two inches deep into each the upper and lower block (Fowler 104).
A pour hole for the metal of the dowel could be placed on the lower block, in the upper block, or at the corner of the upper and lower block. A horizontal pour channel in the lower block was used primarily in the fourth century (Fowler 105-106).
Dowels were also used to hold column drums together. At the axis of a column a wood or bronze pivot was inserted that the drum could be turned on until it made a perfect joint with the drum below (Fowler 107-108). The fourth century Temple of Apollo at Delphi has only 10-11 carved flutings and the rest are in stucco to hide the vertical dumb-bell clamps that are used to reinforce the wooden dowels in the columns (Droop 364). Grooves carved in the radius of the drums for lead joggles to hold the pivot of the joint is characteristic after the fourth century B.C. (Fyfe 127).
Iron beams were also used in building construction, most often as a cantilever to support pediment statues or hidden within marble ceiling beams to lessen the weight of the roof (Dinsmoor 156-157). Dinsmoor states “that the Greeks were timid with regard to stone contraction, and erred on the side of safety, is a fact that has long been apparent” (154). As an example he points out that iron beams were used in the marble ceiling beams for the peristyle ceiling at the Temple at Bassae dating to 450 B.C., although he believes the ceiling could have held itself if it was entirely marble (Dinsmoor 156). He also shows a detailed example of iron beams used as cantilevers at the Parthenon. The beams were laid directly atop the cornice and run back under the tympanum about 12-16 inches.
A groove of about 2 ½ inches was cut into the cornice in case the pediment was too heavy and had to give a little. The cantilevers here were most likely exposed but may have been sealed with lead (Dinsmoor 156-158). At the temple of Zeus at Acragas iron beams were laid across the column capitals to support the architrave. Also at the Propylaea at Athens 3 foot iron beams were inserted into the architrave between columns to disperse the weight of the ceiling beams (Dinsmoor 151-152). At Delphi, however, iron beams were found to be used in the foundation of the Theban Treasury. The bars were 41 feet long on each flank and 18 ½ feet long at each end and overlapped at the corners. Each bar was 3 ¼ inches high and 4 inches wide and is believed to be used in both the first and second course of the foundation (Dinsmoor 149).
Before any construction could take place though blocks of stone had to be quarried and transported to the building site. To get the blocks from the quarry to the site they were either pushed on rollers or fitted with temporary axels around the outside of the block and rolled (Fowler 98-99).
Ropes and pulleys were used to hoist soft stones by cutting grooves at the end to place a rope under, grooves around the stone to wrap the rope, a loop cut was sometimes made in the center, or crossbars could be used in under grooves to catch hold to the block (Fowler 99).
Tong grooves could be carved into either the side of the block or on the top. The Greek lewis was also frequently used to hoist blocks especially for placing the last stone in a course (Fowler 100).
Dressing the stone took place in three stages. First the stone was roughly cut to size at the quarry, and then it was further shaped at the building site, and completely finished once it was in place (Fowler 101). Often to avoid damaging the edges of the stone bevels were made on one or all the sides of the block. These bevels could either be left as decoration, made so small as to not be seen except up close, or finished for a smooth joint (Hodge 334). Hodge believes the side of the block the bevel is on indicates in what direction the stones are laid. Generally, buildings were started at opposite corners by two crews and finished on the corresponding opposite corner (Hodge 333). He uses as examples of this theory two small treasuries behind the Athenian Treasury at Delphi (Hodge 336).
Joints were also made tight by anathyrosis. Anathyrosis is the shaping of the end of a block to a concave form so that only the edges of the block are touching. This is used in most Greek buildings and the concept is also applied to column drums.