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The Arch and the Vault in Greek Architecture

Thomas D. Boyd
American Journal of Archaeology
Vol. 82, No. 1 (Winter, 1978), pp. 83-100
DOI: 10.2307/503797
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/503797
Page Count: 18
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The Arch and the Vault in Greek Architecture
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Abstract

Though long recognized as a structural form utilized in Greek architecture, the true arch has never been studied in sufficient detail. An issue of fundamental importance is to determine the date and circumstances of the introduction of the arch into the Greek world. An examination of the archaeological and historical evidence indicates that there are no examples of the true arch in the Greek world which can be dated with certainty to a period earlier than the late fourth century B.C. At that time a new type of burial chamber was introduced in Macedonia, the barrel-vaulted tomb. It can be demonstrated that Macedonian political and military influence was present at each of the sites where the early examples of arched construction occur. It is proposed that Macedonian military engineers were instrumental in introducing the true arch into Greek architecture, and furthermore that these engineers learned of this structural form in Mesopotamia, where the arch and the vault had been known for at least two preceding millennia, during and after the campaigns of Alexander the Great. Structural details of the arch and its related form, the barrel-vault, are examined in the light of extant monuments and remains, as are the variants in configuration from the simple true arch. Both structural and decorative applications of the arch and the vault are assessed, and attention is paid also to the development by Greek builders of more sophisticated forms such as groin-vaulting.

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