architecture

Architecture of the Ancient World

In Egyptian architecture, to which belong some of the earliest extant structures to be called architecture (erected by the Egyptians before 3000 B.C.), the post-and-lintel system was employed exclusively and produced the earliest stone columnar buildings in history. The architecture of W Asia from the same era employed the same system; however, arched construction was also known and used. The Chaldaeans and Assyrians, dependent upon clay as their chief material, built vaulted roofs of damp mud bricks that adhered to form a solid shell.

After generations of experimentation with buildings of limited variety the Greeks gave to the simple post-and-lintel system the purest, most perfect expression it was to attain (see Parthenon; orders of architecture). Roman architecture, borrowing and combining the columns of Greece and the arches of Asia, produced a wide variety of monumental buildings throughout the Western world. Their momentous invention of concrete enabled the imperial builders to exploit successfully the vault construction of W Asia and to cover vast unbroken floor spaces with great vaults and domes, as in the rebuilt Pantheon (2d cent. A.D.; see under pantheon).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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