Though it can be argued that on balance Corinth played as important a role as Athens in the evolution of monumental architecture in Greece, an analytical history of the distinctive character and contributions of Corinthian architecture has never been compiled. As a result, Corinthian architecture plays a deceptively and disproportionately minor role in general histories of Greek architecture and in our general conception of the nature and evolution of Greek architecture as a whole.
The essential nature of the earliest monumental architecture in Greece and, therefore, essential insights into the nature of fully-developed monumental Greek architecture can be discerned more clearly at Corinth than perhaps anywhere else in Greece. The ancients themselves and modern archaeology indicate Corinth as the birthplace of monumental temple architecture and as the originator of many of the critical features of the Doric order, including the stone geison and mutules and regulae and pediments; and the first canonical expression of the Doric order has traditionally been found in the sixth century B.C. temple of Apollo on Temple Hill in Corinth. The early Corinthian sphere was wide, including colonies and dependencies of great architectural significance and influence (such as Syracuse and Corfu and Thermon), and ancient Roman sources credit Corinth with the introduction of essential aspects of monumental architecture to the Etruscans in Italy. Corinth was crucial in developing the canonical Doric style of the mainland, but it also developed its own distinctive architectural language that included an influential proto-Doric style of monumental temple architecture, as well as specifically Corinthian forms of stoas and hero shrines and altars and temenos walls; it gave its name to a new style of Classical column capital that defined much of later Greek and Roman monumental architecture. From the fourth century B.C. on, an even more detailed influence of Corinth's architecture was propagated through its physical distribution beyond the borders of the Corinthia: the city developed an industry of quarried poros limestone blocks and prefabricated buildings that were exported to such significant religious and architectural centers as Epidauros and Delphi. Its final, profound influence came as a result of its sack in 146 B.C. by the Roman general Mummius. The consequent flooding of Rome with Corinthian art and antiquities radically and permanently altered the Roman conception and practice of monumental architecture.
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© Robin F. Rhodes 2007. All Rights Reserved.