The ancient Greek philosophers considered some notions and applications to be of divine nature. Principles like Moderation, the Golden Mean and Proportion were subjected to in depth analysis.
The Greeks were the first to understand, use and teach those principles by studying the rules of nature in an attempt to please their gods and then applied them not just in every work and product, but also in their behaviour towards the fellow man and oneself. According to their teaching, man acquires in life a character of integrity and virtue by following faithfully the principles of Moderation and Proportion. The Greeks also regarded as divine all mathematic formulas where those principles applied, such as the golden ratio (φ) = 1.618:1 which lead them in miraculous results. This particular number is the secret behind works like the Parthenon, the statues and the ancient utensils exhibited at the museum displays.
Centuries later, that golden number characterized the timeless pattern of the harmonious human body designed by Leonardo Da Vinci.
By definition the term “archetype” denotes the initial pattern, the model. A column may look like a wooden, stone or metal “stick” which supports a roof. It is dominant in the Egyptian, Persian and Etruscan architecture, where columns of different orders were employed.
Also Roman, Byzantine, Medieval and even contemporary architects regard columns with enthusiasm.
But what really makes a Greek marble column -in all three orders- the most influential in the aesthetics and evolution of architecture? What makes it an “archetype”?
Let’s take a good look at one column; forget its base -it could be missing anyway- and let’s not focus on the order, whether it is a frugal Dorian, an elegant Ionic or a sophisticated Corinthian; it is still a unique piece of sculpture! Special skills were required to make a simple column by joining smaller pieces of marble called “vertebrae”. To enhance the effects induced by light and shadow, the number of grooves along the surface should increase from 16 to 20. For the same reason, the grooves’ depth would vary or be deeper either at the lower or the upper region with either rounded or angular edges. The column diameter should decrease from bottom to the top, as it gets closer to heaven. Thus, the sides should look slightly inclined towards the column axis and the overall temple’s shape should look more like a pyramid than a rectangle. There should also be twice as many columns (plus one more) on the longer sides of the building… to name only but a few of the elements one may find while studying the Parthenon and the rest of the monuments in Athens…