Phoenician Architecture

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Temples, Palaces and Shrines
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Origin of the architecture in rock dwellings

The architecture of the Phoenicians began with the fashioning of the native rock--so abundant in all parts of the country where they had settled themselves--into dwellings, temples, and tombs. The calcareous limestone, which is the chief geological formation along the Eastern Mediterranean coast, is worked with great ease; and it contains numerous fissures and caverns,[1] which a very moderate amount of labour and skill is capable of converting into fairly comfortable dwelling-places. It is probable that the first settlers found a refuge for a time in these natural grottos, which after a while they proceeded to improve and enlarge, thus obtaining a practical power of dealing with the material, and an experimental knowledge of its advantages and defects. But it was not long before these simple dwellings ceased to content them, and they were seized with an ambition to construct more elaborate edifices--edifices such as they must have seen in the lands through which they had passed. They could not at once, however, divest themselves of their acquired habits, and consequently, their earliest buildings continued to have, in part, the character of rock dwellings, while in part they were constructions of the more ordinary and regular type. The remains of a dwelling-house at Amrith,[2] the ancient Marathus, offer a remarkable example of this intermixture of styles. The rock has been cut away so as to leave standing two parallel walls 33 yards long, 19 feet high, and 2 1/2 feet thick, which are united by transverse party-walls formed in the same way.[3] Windows and doorways are cut in the walls, some square at top, some arched. At the two ends the main walls were united partly by the native rock, partly by masonry. The northern wall was built of masonry from the very foundation, the southern consisted for a portion of its height of the native rock, while above that were several courses of stones carrying it up further. At Aradus and at Sidon, similarly, the town walls are formed in many places of native rock, squared and smoothed, up to a certain height, after which courses of stone succeed each other in the ordinary fashion. It is as if the Phoenician builders could not break themselves of an inveterate habit, and rather than disuse it entirely submitted to an intermixture which was not without a certain amount of awkwardness.

A special article is dedicated to Phoenician's major role in the construction of King Solomon's Temple

Second style, a combination of the native rock with the ordinary wall

Another striking example of the mixed system is found at a little distance from Amrith, in the case of a building which appears to have been a shrine, tabernacle, or sanctuary. The site is a rocky platform, about a mile from the shore. Here the rock has been cut away to a depth varying from three to six yards, and a rectangular court has been formed, 180 feet long by 156 feet wide, in the centre of which has been left a single block of the stone, still of one piece with the court, which rises to a height of ten feet, and forms the basis or pedestal of the shrine itself.[4] The shrine is built of a certain number of large blocks, which have been quarried and brought to the spot; it has a stone roof with an entablature, and attains an elevation above the court of not less than twenty-seven feet. The dimensions of the shrine are small, not much exceeding seventeen feet each way.[5]

Later on, the use of the native rock, discarded

From constructions of this mixed character the transition was easy to buildings composed entirely of detached stones put together in the ordinary manner. Here, what is chiefly remarkable in the Phoenician architecture is the tendency to employ, especially for the foundations and lower courses of buildings, enormous blocks. When the immovable native rock is no longer available, the resource is to make use of vast masses of stone, as nearly immovable as possible. The most noted example is that of the substructions which supported the platform whereon stood the Temple of Jerusalem, which was the work of the Phoenician builders whom Hiram lent to Solomon.[6] These substructions, laid bare at their base by the excavations of the Palestine Exploration Fund, are found to consist of blocks measuring from fifteen to twenty-five feet in length, and from ten to twelve feet in height. The width of the blocks at the angles of the wall, where alone it can be measured, is from twelve to eighteen feet. At the south-west angle no fewer than thirty-one courses of this massive character have been counted by the recent explorers, who estimate the weight of the largest block at something above a hundred tons![7]

Employment of huge blocks of stone in the early walls

A similar method of construction is found to have prevailed at Tyre, at Sidon, at Aradus, at Byblus, at Leptis Major, at Eryx, at Motya, at Gaulos, and at Lixus on the West African coast. The blocks employed do not reach the size of the largest discovered at Jerusalem, but still are of dimensions greatly exceeding those of most builders, varying, as they do, from six feet to twenty feet in length, and being often as much as seven or eight feet in breadth and height. As the building rises, the stones diminish in size, and the upper courses are often in no way remarkable. Stones of various sizes are used, and often the courses are not regular, but one runs into another. A tower in the wall of Eryx is a good specimen of this kind of construction.[8]

Absence of cement and bevelling

Where the stones are small, mortar has been employed by the builders, but where they are of a large size, they are merely laid side by side in rows or courses, without mortar or cement of any kind, and remain in place through their own mass and weight. In the earliest style of building the blocks are simply squared,[9] and the wall composed of them presents a flat and level surface, or one only broken by small and casual irregularities; but, when their ideas became more advanced, the Phoenicians preferred that style of masonry which is commonly regarded as peculiarly, if not exclusively, theirs[10]--the employment of large blocks with deeply bevelled edges. The bevel is a depression round the entire side of the stone, which faces outwards, and may be effected either by a sloping cut which removes the right-angle from the edge, or by two cuts, one perpendicular and the other horizontal, which take out from the edge a rectangular bar or plinth. The Phoenician bevelling is of this latter kind, and is generally accompanied by an artificial roughening of the surface inside the bevel, which offers a strong contrast to the smooth and even surface of the bevel itself.[11] The style is highly ornamental and effective, particularly where a large space of wall has to be presented to the eye, unbroken by door or window.[12]

Occurrence of Cyclopian walls

Occasionally, but very rarely, and only (so far as appears) in their remoter dependencies, the Phoenicians constructed their buildings in the rude and irregular way, which has been called Cyclopian, employing unhewn polygonal blocks of various sizes, and fitting them roughly together. The temples discovered in Malta and Gozzo have masonry of this description.[13]

A peculiarity in Phoenician architecture, connected with the preference for enormous blocks over stones of a moderate size, is the frequent combination in a single mass of distinct architectural members; for instance, of the shaft and capital of pillars, of entire pediments with a portion of the wall below them, and of the walls of monuments with the cornice and architrave. M. Renan has made some strong remarks on this idiosyncrasy. "In the Grecian style," he says, "the beauty of the wall is a main object with the architect, and the wall derives its beauty from the divisions between the stones, which observe symmetrical laws, and are in agreement with the general lines of the edifice. In a style of this kind the stones of a wall have, all of them, the same dimension, and this dimension is determined by the general plan of the building; or else, as in the kind of work which is called 'pseud-isodomic,' the very irregularity of the courses is governed by a law of symmetry. The stones of the architrave, the metopes, the triglyphs, are, all of them, separate blocks, even when it would have been perfectly easy to have included in a single block all these various members. Such facts, as one observes frequently in Eastern Mediterranean, where three or four architectural members are brought out from a single block, would have appeared to the Greeks monstrous, since they are the negation of all logic."[14]

Several architectural members comprised in one block

In cannot be denied that the habit of preferring large to small blocks, even in monuments of a very moderate size, involved the Phoenician architects in awkwardnesses and anomalies, which offend a cultivated taste; but it should be remembered, on the other hand, that massiveness in the material conduces greatly to stability, and that, in lands where earthquakes are frequent, as they are along all the Mediterranean shores, not many monuments would have survived the lapse of three thousand years had the material employed been of a less substantial and solid character.

Among the Phoenician constructions, of which it is possible to give some account at the present day, without drawing greatly on the imagination, are their shrines, their temples, the walls of their towns, and, above all, their tombs. Recent researches in Phoenicia Proper, in Cyprus, Sicily, Africa, and the smaller Mediterranean islands, have brought to light numerous remains previously unknown; the few previously known remains have been carefully examined, measured, and in some cases photographed; and the results have been made accessible to the student in numerous well-illustrated publications. When Movers and Kenrick published their valuable works on the history of Phoenicia, and the general characteristics of the Phoenician people, it was quite impossible to do more than form conjectures concerning their architecture from a few coins, and a few descriptions in ancient writers. It is now a matter of comparatively little difficulty to set before the public descriptions and representations which, if they still leave something to be desired in the way of completeness, are accurate, so far as they go, and will give a tolerably fair idea of the architectural genius of the people.

Phoenician shrines

One very complete and two ruined shrines have been found in Phoenicia Proper, in positions and of a character which, in the judgment of the best antiquaries, mark them as the work of the ancient people. All these are situated on the mainland, near the site of Marathus, which lay nearly opposite the island of Ruad, the ancient Aradus. The shrine which is complete, or almost complete, bears the name of "the Maabed" or "Temple." Its central position, in the middle of an excavated court, and its mixed construction, partly of native rock and partly of quarried stone, have been already described. It remains to give an account of the shrine or tabernacle itself.[15] This is emplaced upon the mass of rock left to receive it midway in the court, and is a sort of cell, closed in on three sides by walls, and open on one side, towards the north. The cell is formed of four quarried blocks, which are laid one over the other. These are nearly of the same size, and similarly shaped, each of them enclosing the cell on three sides, towards the east, the south, and the west. The fourth, which is larger than any of the others, constitutes the roof. It is a massive stone,carefully cut, which projects considerably in front of the rest of the building, and is ornamented towards the top with a cornice and string- course, extending along the four sides.[16] Internally the roof is scooped into a sort of shallow vault. The height of the shrine proper is about seventeen feet, and the elevation of the entire structure above the court in which it stands appears to be about twenty-seven feet. M. Renan conjectures that the projecting portion of the roof had originally the support of two pillars, which may have been either of wood, of stone, or of metal, and notes that there are two holes in the basement stone, into which the bottoms of the pillars were probably inserted.[17] He imagines that the court was once enclosed completely by the construction of a wall at its northern end, and that the water from a spring, which still rises within the enclosure, was allowed to overflow the entire space, so that the shrine looked down upon a basin or shallow lake and glassed itself in the waters.[18] An image of a deity may have stood in the cell under the roof, dimly visible to the worshipper between the two porch pillars.

The Maabed and other shrines at Amrith

The two ruined tabernacles lie at no great distance from the complete one, which has just been described. One of them is so injured that its plan is irrecoverable; but M. Renan carefully collected and measured the fragments of the other, and thus obtained sufficient data for its restoration.[19] It was, he believes, a monolithic chamber, with a roof slightly vaulted, like that of the /Maabed/, having a length of eight feet, a breadth of five, and a height of about ten feet, and ornamented externally with a very peculiar cornice. This consisted of a series of carvings, representing the fore part of an uræus or basilisk serpent, uprearing itself against the wall of the shrine, which were continued along the entire front of the chamber. There was also an internal ornamentation of the roof, consisting of a winged circle of an Egyptian character--a favourite subject with the Phoenician artists[20]--the circle having an uræus erect on either side of it, and also of another winged figure which appeared to represent an eagle.[21] The monolithic chamber was emplaced upon a block of stone, ten feet in length and breadth, and six feet in height, which itself stood upon a much smaller stone, and overhung it on all sides. A flight of six steps, cut in the upper block at either side, gave access to the chamber, which, however, as it stood in a pool of water, must have been approached by a boat. The entire height of the shrine above the water must have been about eighteen feet.

Phoenician temples

Some other ruined shrines have been found in the more distant of the Phoenician settlements, and representations of them are common upon the /stelæ/, set up in temples as votive offerings. On these last the uræus cornice is frequently repeated, and the figure of a goddess sometimes appears, standing between the pillars which support the front of the shrine.[22] There is a decided resemblance between the Phoenician shrines and the small Egyptian temples, which have been called /mammeisi/, the chief difference being that the latter are for the most part peristylar.[23] M. Renan says of the /Maabed/, or main shrine at Amrith:--"L'aspect général de l'édifice est Egyptian, mais avec une certaine part d'originalité. Le bandeau et la corniche sur les quatre côtés de la stalle supériere en sont le seul ornement. Cette simplicité, cette sévérité de style, jointes à l'idée de force et de puissance qu'éveillent les dimensions énormes des matériaux employés, sont des caractères que nous avons déjà signalés dans les monumens funéraires d'Amrith."[24]

From the shrines of the Phoenicians we may now pass to their temples, of which, however, the remains are, unfortunately, exceedingly scanty. Of real temples, as distinct from shrines, Phoenicia Proper does not present to us so much as a single specimen. To obtain any idea of them, we must quit the mother country, and betake ourselves to the colonies, especially to those island colonies which have been less subjected than the mainland to the destructive ravages of barbarous conquerors, and the iconoclasm of fanatical populations. It is especially in Cyprus that we meet with extensive remains, which, if not so instructive as might have been wished, yet give us some important and interesting information.

Temple of Paphos

The temple of Paphos, according to the measurements of General Di Cesnola,[25] was a rectangular building, 221 feet long by 167 feet wide, built along its lower corners of large blocks of stone, but probably continued above in an inferior material, either wood or unbaked brick.[26] The four corner-stones are still standing in their proper places, and give the dimensions without a possibility of mistake. Nothing is known of the internal arrangements, unless we attach credit to the views of the savant Gerhard, who, in the early years of the present century, constructed a plan from the reports of travellers, in which he divided the building into a nave and two aisles, with an ante-chapel in front, and a sacrarium at the further extremity.[27] M. Gerhard also added, beyond the sacrarium, an apse, of which General Di Cesnola found no traces, but which may possibly have disappeared in the course of the sixty years which separated the observations of M. Gerhard's informants from the researches of thelater traveller. The arrangement into a nave and two aisles is, to a certain extent, confirmed by some of the later Cyprian coins, which certainly represent Cyprian temples, and probably the temple of Paphos.[28] The floor of the temple was, in part at any rate, covered with mosaic.[29]

This large building, which extended over an area of 36,800 square feet, was emplaced within a sacred court, surrounded by a /peribolus/, or wall of enclosure, built of even larger blocks than the temple itself, and entered by at least one huge doorway. The width of this entrance, situated near a corner of the western wall, was nearly eighteen feet.[30] On one side of it were found still fixed in the wall the sockets for the bolts on which the door swung, in length six inches, and of proportionate width and depth. The peribolus was rectangular, like the temple, and was built in lines parallel to it. The longer sides measured 690 and the shorter 530 feet. One block, which was of blue granite and must have come either from Asia Minor or from Egypt, measured fifteen feet ten inches in length, with a width of seven feet eleven inches, and a depth of two feet five inches.[31] It is thought that the court was probably surrounded by a colonnade or cloister,[32] though no traces have been at present observed either of the pillars which must have supported such a cloister or of the rafters which must have formed its roof. Ponds,[33] fountains, shrubberies, gardens, groves of trees, probably covered the open space between the cloister and the temple, while well-shaded walks led across it from the gates of the enclosure to those of the sanctuary.

If we allow ourselves to indulge our fancy for a brief space, and to complete the temple according to the idea which the coins above represented naturally suggest, we may suppose that it did, in fact, consist of a nave, two aisles, and a cell, or "holy of holies," the nave being of superior height to the aisles, and rising in front into a handsome façade, like the western end of a cathedral flanked by towers. Through the open doorway between the towers might be seen dimly the sacred cone or pillar which was emblematic of deity; on either side the eye caught the ends of the aisles, not more than half the height of the towers, and each crowned with a strongly projecting cornice, perhaps ornamented with a row of uræi. In front of the two aisles, standing by themselves, were twin columns, like Jachin and Boaz before the Temple of Solomon. The aisles were certainly roofed: whether the nave also was covered in, or whether, like the Greek hypæthral temples, it lay open to the blue vault of heaven, is perhaps doubtful. The walls of the buildings, after a few courses of hewn stone, were probably of wood, perhaps of cedar, enriched with the precious metals, and the pavement was adorned with a mosaic of many colours, "white, yellow, red, brown, and rose."[34] Outside the temple was a mass of verdure. "In the sacred precinct, and in its dependencies, all breathed of voluptuousness, all spoke to the senses. The air of the place was full of perfumes, full of soft and caressing sounds. There was the murmur of rills which flowed over a carpet of flowers; there was, in the foliage above, the song of the nightingale, and the prolonged and tender cooing of the dove; there were, in the groves around, the tones of the flute, the instrument which sounds the call to pleasure, and summons to the banquet chamber the festive procession and the bridal train. Beneath the shelter of tents, or of light booths with walls formed by the skilful interlacing of a green mass of boughs, through which the myrtle and the laurel spread their odours, dwelt the fair slaves of the goddess, those whom Pindar called, in the drinking-song which he composed for Theoxenus of Corinth, 'the handmaids of persuasion.'"[35] Here and there in the precincts, sacred processions took their prescribed way; ablutions were performed; victims led up to the temple; votive offerings hung on the trees; festal dances, it may be, performed; while in the cloisterwhich skirted the peribolus, dealers in shrines and images chaffered with their customers, erotic poets sang their lays, lovers whispered, fortune-tellers plied their trade, and a throng of pilgrims walked lazily along, or sat on the ground, breathing in the soft, moist air, feasting their eyes upon the beauty of upspringing fountain and flowering shrub, and lofty tree, while their ears drank in the cadences of the falling waters, the song of the birds, and the gay music which floated lightly on the summer breeze.

Adjuncts to temples

Phoenician temples had sometimes adjuncts, as cathedrals have their chapter-houses and muniment rooms, which were at once interesting and important. There has been discovered at Athiénau in Cyprus--the supposed site of Golgi--a ruined edifice, which some have taken for a temple,[36] but which appears to have been rather a repository for votive offerings, a sort of ecclesiastical museum. A picture of the edifice, as he conceives it to have stood in its original condition, has been drawn by one of its earliest visitants. "The building," he says,[37] "was constructed of sun-dried bricks, forming four walls, the base of which rested upon a substruction of solid stone-work. The walls were covered, as are the houses of the Cypriot peasants of to-day, with a stucco which was either white or coloured, and which was impenetrable by rain. Wooden pillars with stone capitals supported internally a pointed roof, which sloped at a low angle. It formed thus a sort of terrace, like the roofs that we see in Cyprus at the present day. This roof was composed of a number of wooden rafters placed very near each other, above which was spread a layer of rushes and coarse mats, covered with a thick bed of earth well pressed together, equally effective against the entrance of moisture and against the sun's rays. Externally the building must have presented a very simple appearance. In the interior, which received no light except from the wide doorways in the walls, an immovable and silent crowd of figures in stone, with features and garments made more striking by the employment of paint, surrounded, as with a perpetual worship, the mystic cone. Stone lamps, shaped like diminutive temples, illumined in the corners the grinning /ex-votos/ which hung upon the walls, and the curious pictures with which they were accompanied. Grotesque bas-reliefs adorned the circuit of the edifice, where the slanting light was reflected from the white and polished pavement-stones."[38] In length and breadth the chamber measured sixty feet by thirty; the thickness of the basement wall was three feet.[39] Midway between the side walls stood three rows of large square pedestals--regularly spaced, and dividing the interior into four vistas or avenues, which some critics regard as bases for statues, and some as supports for the pillars which sustained the roof.[40] Two stone capitals of pillars were found within the area of the chamber; and it is conjectured that the entire disappearance of the shafts may be accounted for by their having been of wood,[41] the employment of wooden shafts with stone bases and capitals being common in Cyprus at the present time.[42] Against each of the four walls was a row of pedestals touching each other, which had certainly been bases for statues, since the statues were found lying, mostly broken, in front of them. The figures varied greatly in size, some being colossal, others mere statuettes. Most probably all were votive offerings, presented by those who imagined that they had been helped by the god of the temple to which the chamber belonged, as an indication of their gratitude. The number of pedestals found along one of the walls was seventy-two,[43] and the original number must have been at least three times as great.

Treasure chambers of Curium

Another Cyprian temple, situated at Curium, not far from Paphos, contained a very remarkable crypt, which appears to have been used as a treasure-house.[44] It was entered by means of a flight of steps which conducted to a low and narrow passage cut in the rock, and giving access to a set of three similar semi-circular chambers, excavated side by side, and separated one from another by doors. Beyond the third of these, and at right angles to it, was a fourth somewhat smaller chamber, which gave upon a second passage that it was found impossible to explore.[45] The three principal chambers were fourteen feet six inches in height, twenty-three feet long, and twenty-one feet broad. The fourth was a little smaller,[46] and shaped somewhat irregularly. All contained plate and jewels of extraordinary richness, and often of rare workmanship. "The treasure found," says M. Perrot, "surpassed all expectation, and even all hope. Never had such a discovery been made of such a collection of precious articles, where the material was of the richest, and the specimens of different styles most curious. There were many bracelets of massive gold, and among them two which weighed a pound apiece, and several others of a weight not much short of this. Gold was met with in profusion under all manner of forms--finger-rings, ear-rings, amulets, flasks, small bottles, hair-pins, heavy necklaces. Silver was found in even greater abundance, both in ornaments and in vessels; besides which there were articles in electrum, which is an amalgam of silver with gold. Among the stones met with were rock-crystals, carnelians, onyxes, agates, and other hard stones of every variety; and further there were paste jewels, cylinders in soft stone, statuettes in burnt clay, earthen vases, and also many objects in bronze, as lamps, tripods, candelabra, chairs, vases, arms, &c. &c. A certain amount of order reigned in the repository. The precious objects in gold were collected together principally in the first chamber. The second contained the silver vessels, which were arranged along a sort of shelf cut in the rock, at the height of about eight inches above the floor. Unfortunately the oxydation of these vessels had proceeded to such lengths, that only a very small number could be extracted from the mass, which for the most part crumbled into dust at the touch of a finger. The third chamber held lamps and fibulæ in bronze, vases in alabaster, and, above all, the groups and vessels modelled in clay; while the fourth was the repository of the utensils in bronze, and of a certain number which were either in copper or in iron. In the further passage, which was not completely explored, there were nevertheless found seven kettles in bronze."[47]

Walls of Phoenician towns

In the construction of the walls of their towns, especially of those which were the most ancient, the feature which is most striking at first sight is that on which some remarks have already been made, the attachment of the lower portion of the wall to the soil from which the wall springs. At Sidon, at Aradus, and at Semar-Gebeil, the /enceinte/ which protected the town consisted, up to the height of ten or twelve feet, of native rock, cut to a perpendicular face, upon which were emplaced several courses of hewn stone. The principle adopted was to utilise the rock as far as possible, and then to supplement what was wanting by a superstructure of masonry. Large blocks of stone, shaped to fit the upper surface of the rock, were laid upon it, generally endways, that is, with their smallest surface outwards, their length forming the thickness of the wall, which was sometimes as much as fifteen or twenty feet.[48] The massive blocks, once placed, were almost immovable, and it was considered enough to lay them side by side, without clamps or mortar, since their own weight kept them in place. It was not thought of much consequence whether the joints of the courses coincided or not; though care was taken that, if a coincidence occurred in two courses, it should not be repeated in the third.[49] The elevation of walls does not seem to have often exceeded from thirty to forty feet, though Diodorus makes the walls of Carthage sixty feet high,[50] and Arrian gives to the wall of Tyre which faced the continent the extraordinary height of a hundred and fifty feet.[51]

If we may generalise from the most perfect specimens of Phoenician town-walls that are still fairly traceable, as those of Eryx and Lixus,[52] we may lay it down, that such walls were usually flanked, at irregular intervals, by square or rectangular towers, which projected considerably beyond the line of the curtain. The towers were of a more massive construction than the wall itself, especially in the lower portion, where vast blocks were common. The wall was also broken at intervals by gates, some of which were posterns, either arched or covered in by flat stones,[53] while others were of larger dimensions, and were protected, on one side or on both, by bastions. The sites of towns were commonly eminences, and the line of the walls followed the irregularities of the ground, crowning the slopes where they were steepest. Sometimes, as at Carthage and Thapsus, where the wall had to be carried across a flat space, the wall of defence was doubled, or even tripled. The restorations of Daux[54] contain, no doubt, a good deal that is fanciful; but they give, probably, a fair idea of the general character of the so-called "triple wall" of certain Phoenician cities. The outer line, or {proteikhisma}, was little more than an earthwork, consisting of a ditch, with the earth from it thrown up inwards, crowned perhaps at top with a breastwork of masonry. The second line was far more elaborate. There was first a ditch deeper than the outer one, while behind this rose a perpendicular battlemented wall to the height, from the bottom of the ditch, of nearly forty feet. In the thickness of the wall, which was not much less than the height, were chambers for magazines and cisterns, while along the top, behind the parapet, ran a platform, from which the defenders discharged their arrows and other missiles against the enemy. Further back, at the distance of about thirty yards, came the main line of defence, which in general character resembled the second, but was loftier and stronger. There was, first, a third ditch (or moat, if water could be introduced), and behind it a wall thirty-five feet thick and sixty feet high, pierced by two rows of embrasures from which arrows could be discharged, and having a triple platform for the defenders. This wall was kept entirely clear of the houses of the town, and the different storeys could be reached by sloping ascents or internal staircases. It was flanked at intervals by square towers, somewhat higher than the walls, which projected sufficiently for the defenders to enfilade the assailants when they approached the base of the curtain.

Phoenician tombs

The tombs of the Phoenicians were, most usually, underground constructions, either simple excavations in the rock, or subterranean chambers, built of hewn stone, at the bottom of sloping passages, or perpendicular shafts, which gave access to them. The simpler kinds bear a close resemblance to the sepulchres of the Jews. A chamber is opened in the rock, in the sides of which are hollowed out, horizontally, a number of caverns or /loculi/, each one intended to receive a corpse.[55] If more space is needed, a passage is made from one of the sides of the chamber to a certain distance, and then a second chamber is excavated, and more /loculi/ are formed; and the process is repeated as often as necessary. But chambers thus excavated were apt to collapse, especially if the rock was of the soft and friable nature so common in Phoenicia Proper and in Cyprus; on which account, in such soils, the second kind of tomb was preferred, sepulchural chambers being solidly built,[56] either singly or in groups, each made to hold a certain number of sarcophagi. The most remarkable tombs of this class are those found at Amathus, on the south coast of Cyprus, by General Di Cesnola. They lie at the depth of from forty to fifty-five feet below the surface of the soil,[57] and are square chambers, built of huge stones, carefully squared, some of them twenty feet in length, nine in breadth, and three in thickness, and even averaging a length of fourteen feet.[58] Two shapes occur. Some of the tombs are almost perfect cubes, the upright walls rising to a height of twelve or fifteen feet, and being then covered in by three or four long slabs of stone. Others resemble huts, having a gable at either end, and a sloping roof formed of slabs which meet and support each other. A squared doorway, from five to six feet in height, gives entrance to the tombs at one end, and has for ornament a fourfold fillet, which surrounds it on three sides. Otherwise, ornamentation is absent, the stonework of both walls and roofs being absolutely plain and bare. Internally the chambers present the same naked appearance, walls and roofs being equally plain, and the floor paved with oblong slabs of stone, about a foot and a half in length.

Excavated chambers

The grouped chambers are of several kinds. Sometimes there are two chambers only, one opening directly into the other, and not always similarly roofed. Occasionally, groups of three are found, and there are examples of groups of four. In these instances, the exact symmetry is remarkable. A single doorway of the usual character gives entrance to a nearly square chamber, the exact dimensions of which are thirteen feet four inches by twelve feet two inches. Midway in the side and opposite walls are three other doorways, each of them three foot six inches in width, which lead into exactly similar square chambers, having a length of twelve feet two inches, and a width of ten feet nine.[59]

Chambers built of masonry

Chambers of the character here described contain in almost every instance stone sarcophagi. These are ranged along the walls, at a little distance from them. The chambers commonly contain two or three; but sometimes one sarcophagus is superimposed upon another, and in this way the number occasionally reaches to six.[60] Mostly, the sarcophagi are plain, or nearly so, but are covered over with a sloping lid. Sometimes, however, they are elaborately carved, and constitute works of art, which are of the highest value. An account will be given of the most remarkable of these objects in the chapter on Phoenician Æsthetic Art.

Groups of chambers and colonnaded tomb

Another distinct type of Phoenician tomb is that which is peculiar to Nea-Paphos, and which is thought by some to have been employed exclusively by the High Priests of the great temple there.[61] The peculiarity of these burial-places is, that the sepulchral chambers are adjuncts of a quadrangular court open to the sky, and surrounded by a colonnade supported on pillars.[62] The court, the colonnade, the pillars, the entablature, and the chambers, with their niches for the dead, are all equally cut out of the rock, as well as the passage by which the court is entered, at one corner of the quadrangle. The columns are either square or rounded, the rounded ones having capitals resembling those of the Doric order; and the entablature is also a rough imitation of the Doric triglyphs, and guttæ. The entrances to the sepulchral chambers are under the colonnade, behind the pillars;[63] and the chambers contain, beside niches, a certain number of bases for sarcophagi, but no sarcophagi have been found in them. The quadrangle is of a small size, not more than about eighteen feet each way.

Sepulchral monuments

Thus far we have described that portion of the sepulchral architecture of the Phoenicians which is most hidden from sight, lying, as it does, beneath the surface of the soil. With tombs of this quiet character the Phoenicians were ordinarily contented. They were not, however, wholly devoid of those feelings with respect to their dead which have caused the erection, in most parts of the world, of sepulchral monuments intended to attract the eye, and to hand on to later ages the memory of the departed. Well acquainted with Egypt, they could not but have been aware from the earliest times of those massive piles which the vanity of Egyptian monarchs had raised up for their own glorification on the western side of the valley of the Nile; nor in later days could such monuments have escaped their notice as the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus[64] or the Tomb of the Maccabees.[65] Accordingly, we find them, at a very remote period, not merely anxious to inter their dead decently and carefully in rock tombs or subterranean chambers of massive stone, but also wishful upon occasions to attract attention to the last resting-places of their great men, by constructions which showed themselves above the ground, and had some architectural pretensions. One of these, situated near Amrith, the ancient Marathus, is a very curious and peculiar structure. It is known at the present day as the Burdj-el-Bezzâk,[66] and was evidently constructed to be, like the pyramids, at once a monument and a tomb. It is an edifice, built of large blocks of stone, and rising to a height of thirty-two feet above the plain at its base, so contrived as to contain two sepulchral chambers, the one over the other. Externally, the monument is plain almost to rudeness, being little more than a cubic mass, broken only by two doorways, and having for its sole ornament a projecting cornice in front. Internally, there is more art and contrivance. The chambers are very carefully constructed, and contain a number of niches intended to receive sarcophagi, the lower having accommodation for three and the upper for twelve bodies.[67] It is thought that originally the cubic mass, which is all that now remains, was surmounted by a pyramidical roof, many stones from which were found by M. Renan among the débris that were scattered around. The height of the monument was thus increased by perhaps one-half, and did not fall much short of sixty-five feet.[68] The cornice, which is now seen on one side only, and which is there imperfect, originally, no doubt, encircled the entire edifice.

The Kabr Hiram

The other constructions erected by the Phoenicians to mark the resting- places of their dead are simple monuments erected near, and generally over, the tombs in which the bodies are interred. The best known is probably that in the vicinity of Tyre, which the natives call the Kabr-Hiram, or "Tomb of Hiram."[69] No great importance can be attached to this name, which appears to be a purely modern one;[70] but the monument is undoubtedly ancient, perhaps as ancient as any other in Phoenicia.[71] It is composed of eight courses of huge stones superimposed one upon another,[72] the blocks having in some cases a length of eleven or twelve feet, with a breadth of seven or eight, and a depth of three feet. The courses retreat slightly, with the exception of the fifth, which projects considerably beyond the line of the fourth and still more beyond that of the sixth. The whole effect is less that of a pyramid than of a stelé or pillar, the width at top being not very much smaller than that at the base. The monument is a solid mass, and is not a square but a rectangular oblong, the broader sides measuring fourteen feet and the narrower about eight feet six inches. Two out of the eight courses are of the nature of substructions, being supplemental to the rock, which supplies their place in part; and it is only recently that they have been brought to light by means of excavation. Hence the earlier travellers speak of the monument as having no more than six courses. The present height above the soil is a little short of twenty-five feet. A flight of steps cut in the rock leads down from the monument to a sepulchral chamber, which, however, contains neither sepulchral niche nor sarcophagus.

The two Méghâzil

But the most striking of the Phoenician sepulchral monuments are to be found in the north of Phoenicia, and not in the south, in the neighbourhood, not of Tyre and Sidon, but of Marathus and Aradus. Two of them, known as the Méghâzil,[73] form a group which is very remarkable, and which, if we may trust the restoration of M. Thobois,[74] must have had considerable architectural merit. Situated very near each other, on the culminating point of a great plateau of rock, they dominate the country far and wide, and attract the eye from a long distance. One seems to have been in much simpler and better taste than the other. M. Renan calls it "a real masterpiece, in respect of proportion, of elegance, and of majesty."[75] It is built altogether in three stages. First, there is a circular basement story flanked by four figures of lions, attached to the wall behind them, and only showing in front of it their heads, their shoulders, and their fore paws. This basement, which has a height of between seven and eight feet, is surmounted by a cylindrical tower in two stages, the lower stage measuring fourteen and the upper, which is domed, ten feet. The basement is composed of four great stones, the entire tower above it is one huge monolith. An unusual and very effective ornamentation crowns both stages of the tower, consisting of a series of gradines at top with square machicolations below.

The other monument of the pair, distant about twenty feet from the one already described, is architecturally far less happy. It is composed of four members, viz. a low plinth for base, above this a rectangular pedestal, surmounted by a strong band or cornice; next, a monolithic cylinder, without ornaments, which contracts slightly as it ascends; and, lastly, a pentagonal pyramid at the top. The pedestal is exceedingly rough and unfinished; generally, the workmanship is rude, and the different members do not assort well one with another. Still it would seem that the two monuments belong to the same age and are parts of the same plan.[76] Their lines are parallel, as are those of the subterranean apartments which they cover, and they stand within a single enclosure. Whether the same architect designed them both it is impossible to determine, but if so he must have been one of the class of artists who have sometimes happy and sometimes unhappy inspirations.

Both the Méghâzil are superimposed upon subterranean chambers, containing niches for bodies, and reached by a flight of steps cut in the rock, the entrance to which is at some little distance from the monuments.[77] But there is nothing at all striking or peculiar in the chambers, which are without ornament of any kind.

Tomb with protected entrance

Another tomb, in the vicinity of the Méghâzil, is remarkable chiefly for the care taken to shelter and protect the entrance to the set of chambers which it covers.[78] The monument is a simple one. A square monolith, crowned by a strong cornice, stands upon a base consisting of two steps. Above the cornice is another monolith, the lower part squared and the upper shaped into a pyramid. The upper part of the pyramid has crumbled away, but enough remains to show the angle of the slope, and to indicate for the original erection a height of about twenty feet. At the distance of about ten yards from the base of the monument is a second erection, consisting of two tiers of large stones, which roof in the entrance to a flight of eighteen steps. These steps lead downwards to a sloping passage, in which are sepulchral niches, and thence into two chambers, the inner one of which is almost directly under the main monument. Probably, a block of stone, movable but removed with difficulty, originally closed the entrance at the point where the steps begin. This stone ordinarily prevented ingress, but when a fresh corpse was to be admitted, or funeral ceremonies were to be performed in one of the chambers, it could be "rolled"[79] or dragged away.

Phoenician ornamentation, pillars and their capitals

Phoenician architects were, as a general rule, exceedingly sparing in the use of ornament. Neither the pillar, nor the arch, much less the vault, was a feature in their principal buildings, which affected straight lines, right-angles, and a massive construction, based upon the Egyptian. The pillar came ultimately to be adopted, to a certain extent, from the Greeks; but only the simplest forms, the Doric and Ionic, were in use, if we except certain barbarous types which the people invented for themselves. The true arch was scarcely known in Phoenicia, at any rate till Roman times, though false arches were not infrequent in the gateways of towns and the doors of houses.[80] The external ornamentation of buildings was chiefly by cornices of various kinds, by basement mouldings, by carvings about doorways,[81] by hemispherical or pyramidical roofs, and by the use of bevelled stones in the walls. The employment of animal forms in external decoration was exceedingly rare; and the half lions of the circular Méghâzil of Amrith are almost unique.

Cornices and mouldings, mosaic and alabaster

In internal ornamentation there was greater variety. Pavements were sometimes of mosaic, and glowed with various colours;[82] sometimes they were of alabaster slabs elaborately patterned. Alabaster slabs also, it is probable, adorned the walls of temples and houses, excepting where woodwork was employed, as in the Temple of Solomon. There is much richness and beauty in many of the slabs now in the Phoenician collection of the Louvre,[83] especially in those which exhibit the forms of sphinxes or griffins. Many of the patterns most affected are markedly Assyrian in character, as the rosette, the palm- head, the intertwined ribbons, and the rows of gradines which occur so frequently. Even the Sphinxes are rather Assyrian than Egyptian in character; and exhibit the recurved wings, which are never found in the valley of the Nile. In almost all the forms employed there is a modification of the original type, sufficient to show that the Phoenician artist did not care merely to reproduce.

On the whole the architecture must be pronounced wanting in originality and in a refined taste. What M. Renan says of Phoenician art in general[84] is especially true of Phoenician architecture. "Phoenician art, which issued, as it would seem, originally from mere troglodytism, was, from the time when it arrived at the need of ornament, essentially an art of imitation. That art was, above all, industrial; that art never raised itself for its great public monuments to a style that was at once elegant and durable. The origin of Phoenician architecture was the excavated rock, not the column, as was the case with the Greeks. The wall replaced the excavated rock after a time, but without wholly losing its character. There is nothing that leads us to believe that the Phoenicians knew how to construct a keyed vault. The monolithic principle which dominated the Phoenician and Eastern Mediterranean art, even after it had taken Greek art for its model, is the exact contrary of the Hellenic style. Greek architecture starts from the principle of employing small stones, and proclaims the principal loudly. At no time did the Greeks extract from Pentelicus blocks at all comparable for size with those of Baalbek or of Egypt; they saw no use in doing so; on the contrary, with masses of such enormity, which it is desired to use in their entirety, the architect is himself dominated; the material, instead of being subordinate to the design of the edifice, runs counter to the design and contradicts it. The monuments on the Acropolis of Athens would be impossible with blocks of the size usual in the Eastern Mediterranean."[85] Thus there is always something heavy, rude, and coarse in the Phoenician buildings, which betray their troglodyte origin by an over-massive and unfinished appearance.

There is also a want of originality, more especially in the ornamentation. Egypt, Assyria, and Greece have furnished the "motives" which lie at the root of almost all the decorative art that is to be met with, either in the mother country or in the colonies. Winged disks, uræi, scarabs, sphinxes, have been adopted from Egypt; Assyria has furnished gradines, lotus blossoms, rosettes, the palm-tree ornament, the ribbon ornament, and the form of the lion; Greece has supplied pillars, pediments, festoons, and chimæras. Native talent has contributed little or nothing to the ornamentation of buildings, if we except the modification of the types which have been derived from foreign sources.


Finally, there is a want of combination and general plan in the Phoenician constructions where they fall into groups. "This is sensibly felt," according to M. Renan, "at Amrith, at Kabr-Hiram, and at Um-el- Awamid. In the remains still visible in these localities there are many fine ideas, many beautiful details; but they do not fall under any general dominant plan, as do the buildings on the Acropolis of Athens. One seems to see a set of people who are fond of working in stone for its own sake, but who do not care to arrive at a mutual understanding in order to produce in common a single work, since they do not know that it is the conception of a grand whole which constitutes greatness in art. Hence the incompleteness of the monuments; there is not a tomb to which the relations of the deceased have deemed it fitting to give the finishing touches; there is everywhere a certain egotism, like that which in later times prevented the Mussulman monuments from enduring. A passing pleasure in art does not induce men to finish, since finishing requires a certain stiffness of will. In general, the ancient Phoenicians appear to have had the spirit of sculptors rather than of architects. They did not construct in great masses, but every one laboured on his own account. Hence there was no exact measurement, and no symmetry. Even the capitals of the columns at Um-el-Awamid are not alike; in the portions which most evidently correspond the details are different."[86]


[1] Perrot et Chipiez, /Histoire de l'Art dans l'Antiquitè/, iii. 101.
[2] See Renan, /Mission de Phúnicie/, p. 92, and Planches, pl. 12.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Renan, /Mission de Phènicie/, pp. 62-68.
[5] Ibid. Planches, pl. 10.
[6] 1 Kings v. 17, 18.
[7] /Our Work in Palestine/, p. 115. Warren, /Recovery of Jerusalem/, i. 121.
[8] See the /Corpus. Inscr. Semit./ Pars I. Planches, pl. 29, No. 136.
[9] As at Sidon in the pier wall, and at Aradus in the remains of the great wall of the town.
[10] M. Renan has found reason to question the truth of this view. Bevelling, he thinks, may have begun with the Phúnicians; but it became a general feature of Eastern Mediterranean architecture, being employed in the Eastern Mediterranean as late as the middle ages. The enclosure of the mosque at Hebron and the great wall of Baalbek are bevelled, but are scarcely Phúnician.
[11] See Renan, /Mission de Phènicie/, Planches, pl. vi.
[12] Compare the enclosure of the Haram at Jerusalem, the mosque at Hebron, and the temples at Baalbek (Perrot et Chipiez, /Histoire de l'Art/, iii. 105, No. 42; iv. 274, No. 139, and p. 186, No. 116).
[13] See Perrot et Chipiez, iii. 108, 299, &c.
[14] Renan, /Mission/, p. 822.
[15] See Renan, /Mission/, pp. 62-68; and compare Perrot et Chipiez, /Histoire de l'Art/, iii. 242, 243.
[16] See Renan, /Mission de Phènicie/, p. 64.
[17] See Renan, /Mission de Phènicie/, pp. 63, 64.
[18] Ibid. p. 65.
[19] See the volume of Plates published with the /Mission/, pl. ix. fig 1.
[20] Di Cesnola, /Cyprus/, p. 110; pl. xxxv. fig. 20; xxxvi. fig. 7; xxxvii. figs. 10, 11; Perrot et Chipiez, /Histoire de l'Art/, iii. pp. 124, 428, 533, &c.
[21] Renan, /Mission/, Planches, pl. ix. fig. 3.
[22] See Perrot et Chipie, /Histoire de l'Art/, iii. 253, No. 193; p. 310, No. 233.
[23] See the author's /History of Ancient Egypt/, i. 237.
[24] /Mission de Phènicie/, pp. 64, 65.
[25] See Di Cesnola's /Cyprus/, pp. 210-212.
[26] The temple of Solomon was mainly of wood; that of Golgi (Athiènau) was, it is thought, of crude brick (Di Cesnola, /Cyprus/, p. 139).
[27] See the plan in Perrot et Chipiez, /Histoire de l'Art/, iii. 267, No. 200. Explorations are now in progress, which, it is hoped, may reveal more completely the plan of the building.
[28] As being the most important temple in the island.
[29] Di Cesnola, /Cyprus/, p. 211.
[30] Ibid. p. 210.
[31] Ibid.
[32] Perrot et Chipiez, iii. 269.
[33] In M. Gerhard's plan two circular ponds or reservoirs are marked, of which General Di Cesnola found no trace.
[34] Di Cesnola, /Cyprus/, p. 211.
[35] Perrot et Chipiez, iii. 322.
[36] As Di Cesnola, and Ceccaldi.
[37] Ceccaldi, as quoted by Perrot et Chipiez, iii. 275.
[38] Ceccaldi, /Monuments Antiques de Cypre/, pp. 47, 48.
[39] Di Cesnola, /Cyprus/, p. 139.
[40] Di Cesnola, /Cyprus/, p. 149; Perrot et Chipiez, /Histoire de l'Art/, iii. 274; Ceccaldi, l.s.c.
[41] Di Cesnola, p. 139.
[42] Ibid. p. 140.
[43] Ibid. Compare Perrot et Chipiez, l.s.c.
[44] The only original account of this crypt is that of General Di Cesnola, /Cyprus/, pp. 303-305.
[45] Mephitic vapours prevented the workmen from continuing their excavations.
[46] The length of this room was twenty feet, the breadth nineteen feet, and the height fourteen feet (Di Cesnola, /Cyprus/, p. 304).
[47] Perrot et Chipiez, /Histoire de l'Art/, iii. 285.
[48] See the woodcut representing a portion of the old wall of Aradus, which is taken from M. Renan's /Mission/, Planches, pl. 2.
[49] In some of the ruder walls, as in those of Banias and Eryx, even this precaution is not observed. See Perrot et Chipiez, /Histoire de l'Art/, iii. 328, 334.
[50] Diod. Sic. xxxii. 14.
[51] Arrian, /Exp. Alex./ ii. 21, ß 3.
[52] Perrot et Chipiez, /Hist. de l'Art/, iii. 331, 332, 339.
[53] Perrot et Chipiez, /Hist. de l'Art/, iii. pp. 333, 334.
[54] See his /Recherches sur l'origine et l'emplacement des Emporia Phèniciens/, pl. 8.
[55] Compare Renan, /Mission de Phènicie/, pls. 7, 16, 18, &c.; and Di Cesnola, /Cyprus/, p. 224.
[56] Di Cesnola, /Cyprus/, p. 256, 260; Perrot et Chipiez, /Hist. de l'Art/, iii. 219-221.
[57] Di Cesnola, /Cyprus/, p. 255.
[58] Di Cesnola, /Cyprus/, pp. 255, 256.
[59] See Di Cesnola, /Cyprus/, p. 260; and compare Perrot et Chipiez, /Hist. de l'Art/, iii. 219, No. 155.
[60] Di Cesnola, p. 259.
[61] Perrot et Chipiez, iii. 224.
[62] See Ross, /Reisen nach Cypern/, pp. 187-189; and /Archologische Zeitung/ for 1851, pl. xxviii. figs. 3 and 4.
[63] They are not shown in Ross's representation, but appear in Di Cesnola's.
[64] See Sir C. Newton's /Halicarnassus/, pls. xviii. xix.
[65] 1 Macc. xiii. 27-29.
[66] Renan, /Mission de Phènicie/, p. 80.
[67] Renan, /Mission de Phènicie/, p. 81.
[68] Ibid. pp. 82, 85.
[69] See Robinson, /Researches in Palestine/, iii. 385.
[70] Renan, /Mission de Phènicie/, p. 599.
[71] Perrot and Chipiez remark that "the general aspect of the edifice recalls that of the great tombs at Amrith;" and conclude that, "if the tomb does not actually belong to the time of Solomon's contemporary and ally, at any rate it is anterior to the Greco- Roman period" (/Hist. de l'Art/, iii. 167).
[72] See the section of the building in Renan's /Mission/, Planches, pl. xlviii.
[73] Renan, /Mission de Phènicie/, p. 71.
[74] Ibid. Planches, pl. 13.
[75] Ibid. p. 72.
[76] Perrot et Chipiez, /Histoire de l'Art/, iii. 153.
[77] Renan, /Mission de Phènicie/, pp. 71-73.
[78] "Ce que ce tombeau offre de tout ¦ fait particulier c'est que l'entrèe du caveau, ou, pour mieux dire, l'escalier qui y conduit, est couvert, dans sa partie antèrieure, par un ènorme bloc règuliËrement taillè en dos d',ne et supportè par une assise de grosses pierres" (Perrot et Chipiez, /Hist. de l'Art/, iii. 154).
[79] Mark xvi. 3, 4.
[80] Perrot et Chipiez, /Hist. de l'Art/, iii. 334.
[81] Perrot et Chipiez, /Hist. de l'Art/, iii. 126, No. 68.
[82] Di Cesnola, /Cyprus/, pp. 211, 301.
[83] See Perrot et Chipiez, /Histoire de l'Art/, iii. 129-134.
[84] /Mission de Phènicie/, p. 822.
[85] Renan, /Mission de Phènicie/, p. 822.
[86] Renan, /Mission de Phènicie/, p. 829.

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