Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Classical Masonry

by W.M.Don Falconer
Lodge Endeavor No 429
The United Grand Lodge of New South Wales, Australia

(continued from Monumental Masonry)

The emergence of Greece as a colonising nation and centre of learning, art, and religious thought in the western Mediterranean, from around 1,100BC, heralded the era of classical masonry. Their first stone temples were erected at Corinth and Isthmia before 650BC, whence the Doric order originated, followed by the temples at Corfu and Ephesuswithin the next hundred years, whence the Ionic order originated. The Corinthian order was first used in Delphi around 390BC. Until the ascendancy of Rome, even in Rome itself, Greek architecture prevailed around the Mediterranean and temples proliferated. Without doubt the most famous classical Greek structures are the Parthenon at Athens and its surrounding structures, built between 447BC and 432BC. The emphasis which the Greeks placed on the ancient Mysteries in classical times must have been a significant influence on speculative masonic thought, still being reflected in some masonic ceremonials. This influence continued into the turbulent period of Roman rule.

Rome began to expand her territory by taking Carthage and Corinth in 146BC and Pergamum in 133BC. By 100BC Rome's territory nearly encircled the Mediterranean and by 117AD the Roman empire was at its greatest in strength and extent. During this period Rome developed cities and constructed amphitheatres and temples apace throughout its region of influence, particularly in the Middle East. Of the Roman era, the two most celebrated structures probably are the Colosseum in Rome and the temple complex at Baalbek in Lebanon, between Beirut and Damascus in Syria. The temple complex was built on the podium of an ancient temple, progressively over a period of almost 300 years, being completed around 260AD. When it became part of Ptolemy's Egyptian empire in 332BC, until the Roman occupation around 30BC, Baalbek was known as Heliopolis in Phoenicia and was the religious centre of the region. Baalbek is remarkable for its size and architectural finish, many foundation blocks being 4 metres square in section and 20 metres long, weighing up to 800 tonnes. Many of the columns were monolithic, of pink Aswan granite and having an overall height of 19.6 metres.

(continued at Cathedral Masonry)

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