The tunnel which drains the Alban lake(18) presents the greatest resemblance to that of lake Copais. What are called Cyclopean ring-walls frequently occur in Italy, especially in Etruria, Umbria, Latium, and Sabina, and decidedly belong in point of design to the most ancient buildings of Italy, although the greater portion of those now extant were probably not executed till a much later age, several of them certainly not till the seventh century of the city. They are, just like those of Greece, sometimes quite roughly formed of large unwrought blocks of rock with smaller stones inserted between them, sometimes disposed in square horizontal courses,(19) sometimes composed of polygonal dressed blocks fitting into each other. The selection of one or other of these systems was doubtless ordinarily determined by the material, and accordingly the polygonal masonry does not occur in Rome, where in the most ancient times tufo alone was employed for building. The resemblance in the case of the two former and simpler styles may perhaps be traceable to the similarity of the materials employed and of the object in view in building; but it can hardly be deemed accidental that the artistic polygonal wall-masonry, and the gate with the path leading up to it universally bending to the left and so exposing the unshielded right side of the assailant to the defenders, belong to the Italian fortresses as well as to the Greek. The facts are significant that in that portion of Italy which was not reduced to subjection by the Hellenes but yet was in lively intercourse with them, the true polygonal masonry was at home, and it is found in Etruria only at Pyrgi and at the towns, not very far distant from it, of Cosa and Saturnia; as the design of the walls of Pyrgi, especially when we take into account the significant name ("towers"), may just as certainly be ascribed to the Greeks as that of the walls of Tiryns, in them most probably there still stands before our eyes one of the models from which the Italians learned how to build their walls. The temple in fine, which in the period of the empire was called the Tuscanic and was regarded as a kind of style co-ordinate with the various Greek temple-structures, not only generally resembled the Greek temple in being an enclosed space (-cello-) usually quadrangular, over which walls and columns raised aloft a sloping roof, but was also in details, especially in the column itself and its architectural features, thoroughly dependent on the Greek system. It is in accordance with all these facts probable, as it is credible of itself, that Italian architecture previous to its contact with the Hellenes was confined to wooden huts, abattis, and mounds of earth and stones, and that construction in stone was only adopted in consequence of the example and the better tools of the Greeks. It is scarcely to be doubted that the Italians first learned from them the use of iron, and derived from them the preparation of mortar (-cal[e]x-, -calecare-, from --chaliz--), the machine (-machina-, --meichanei--), the measuring-rod (-groma-, a corruption from --gnomon--, --gnoma--), and the artificial latticework (-clathri-, --kleithron--). Accordingly we can scarcely speak of an architecture peculiarly Italian. Yet in the woodwork of the Italian dwelling-house--alongside of alterations produced by Greek influence--various peculiarities may have been retained or even for the first time developed, and these again may have exercised a reflex influence on the building of the Italian temples. The architectural development of the house proceeded in Italy from the Etruscans. The Latin and even the Sabellian still adhered to the hereditary wooden hut and to the good old custom of assigning to the god or spirit not a consecrated dwelling, but only a consecrated space, while the Etruscan had already begun artistically to transform his dwelling-house, and to erect after the model of the dwelling-house of man a temple also for the god and a sepulchral chamber for the spirit. That the advance to such luxurious structures in Latium first took place under Etruscan influence, is proved by the designation of the oldest style of temple architecture and of the oldest style of house architecture respectively as Tuscanic.(20) As concerns the character of this transference, the Grecian temple probably imitated the general outlines of the tent or dwelling-house; but it was essentially built of hewn stone and covered with tiles, and the nature of the stone and the baked clay suggested to the Greek the laws of necessity and beauty. The Etruscan on the other hand remained a stranger to the strict Greek distinction between the dwelling of man necessarily erected of wood and the dwelling of the gods necessarily formed of stone. The peculiar characteristics of the Tuscan temple--the outline approaching nearer to a square, the higher gable, the greater breadth of the intervals between the columns, above all, the increased inclination of the roof and the singular projection of the roof-corbels beyond the supporting columns--all arose out of the greater approximation of the temple to the dwelling-house, and out of the peculiarities of wooden architecture.

Plastic Art In Italy

The plastic and delineative arts are more recent than architecture; the house must be built before any attempt is made to decorate gable and walls. It is not probable that these arts really gained a place in Italy during the regal period of Rome; it was only in Etruria, where commerce and piracy early gave rise to a great concentration of riches, that art or handicraft--if the term be preferred--obtained a footing in the earliest times. Greek art, when it acted on Etruria, was still, as its copy shows, at a very primitive stage, and the Etruscans may have learned from the Greeks the art of working in clay and metal at a period not much later than that at which they borrowed from them the alphabet. The silver coins of Populonia, almost the only works that can be with any precision assigned to this period, give no very high idea of Etruscan artistic skill as it then stood; yet the best of the Etruscan works in bronze, to which the later critics of art assigned so high a place, may have belonged to this primitive age; and the Etruscan terra-cottas also cannot have been altogether despicable, for the oldest works in baked clay placed in the Roman temples--the statue of the Capitoline Jupiter, and the four-horse chariot on the roof of his temple--were executed in Veii, and the large ornaments of a similar kind placed on the roofs of temples passed generally among the later Romans under the name of "Tuscanic works."

On the other hand, among the Italians--not among the Sabellian stocks merely, but even among the Latins--native sculpture and design were at this period only coming into existence.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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