Megaron

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Schematic plan of a megaron complex. 1: anteroom, 2: hall (main room), 3: columns in portico and hall
Foundation of the Megaron complex at Mycenae, view from the main hall (circular hearth visible in foreground) through the anteroom and porch.

The megaron (/ˈmɛɡəˌrɒn/; Ancient Greek: μέγαρον, [mégaron]), plural megara /ˈmɛɡərə/, was the great hall in ancient Greek palace complexes.[1] Architecturally, it was a rectangular hall that was surrounded by four columns, fronted by an open, two-columned portico, and had a central, open hearth that vented though an oculus in the roof.[2] The megaron also contained the throne-room of the wanax, or Mycenaean ruler, whose throne was located in the main room with the central hearth.[3] Similar architecture is found in the Ancient Near East though the presence of the open portico, generally supported by columns, is particular to the Aegean.[4] Megara are sometimes referred to as "long-rooms", as defined by their rectangular (non-square) shape and the position of their entrances, which are always along the shorter wall so that the depth of the space is larger than the width.[5] There were often many rooms around the central megaron, such as archive rooms, offices, oil-press rooms, workshops, potteries, shrines, corridors, armories, and storerooms for such goods as wine, oil and wheat.[6]

Structure[edit]

Rectilinear halls were a characteristic theme of ancient Greek architecture.[7] The Mycenaean megaron originated and evolved from the megaroid, or large hall-centered rectangular building, of mainland Greece dating back to the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age.[1][7] Furthermore, it served as the architectural precursor to the Greek temples of the Archaic and Classical periods.[8] With respect to its structural layout, the megaron includes a columned entrance, a pronaos and a central naos (cella) with early versions of it having one of many roof types (i.e., pitched, flat, barrel).[5] The roof, specifically, was supported by wooden beams[9] and since the aforesaid roof types are always destroyed in the remnants of the early megaron, the definite roof type is unknown.[5] The floor was made of patterned concrete and covered in carpet.[10] The walls, constructed out of mud brick,[11] were decorated with fresco paintings.[8] There were wood-ornamented metal doors, often two-leaved,[12] and footbaths were also used in the megaron as attested in Homer's Odyssey where Odysseus's feet were washed by Eurycleia.[13] The proportions involving a larger length than width are similar structurally to early Doric temples.[14]

Purpose[edit]

The megaron was used for sacrificial processions,[15] as well as for royal functions and court meetings.[4]

Examples[edit]

A famous megaron is in the large reception hall of the king in the palace of Tiryns, the main room of which had a raised throne placed against the right wall and a central hearth bordered by four Minoan-style wooden columns that served as supports for the roof.[5] The Cretan elements in the Tiryns megaron were adopted by the Mycenaeans from the palace type found in Minoan architecture.[5] Frescoes from Pylos show figures eating and drinking, which were important activities in Greek culture.[15] Artistic portrayals of bulls, a common zoomorphic motif in Mycenaean vase painting,[16] appear on Greek megaron frescoes such as the one in the Pylos megaron where a bull is depicted at the center of a Mycenaean procession.[15] Other famous megara include the ones at the Mycenaean palaces of Thebes and Mycenae.[17] Different Greek cultures had their own unique megara; for example, the people of the Greek mainland tended to separate their central megaron from the other rooms whereas the Cretans did not do this.[18]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b Biers 1996, p. 69: "Perhaps the most conspicuous and distinctive feature of Mycenaean architecture is the central hall, or megaron, which is found not only in the palaces but in private houses as well. A typical mainland form, traceable at least to Early Helladic and perhaps to Neolithic predecessors [...]"
  2. ^ Pullen 2008, p. 37.
  3. ^ Kleiner 2016, "Chapter 4 The Prehistoric Aegean", p. 94; Neer 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Megaron". Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d e Müller 1944, pp. 342−348.
  6. ^ Pentreath 2006, "Pre-Classical Beginnings".
  7. ^ a b Hitchcock 2010, pp. 200–209.
  8. ^ a b Cartwright 2019.
  9. ^ Werner 1993, p. 16; Rider 1916, pp. 179–180.
  10. ^ Diehl 1893, p. 53.
  11. ^ Werner 1993, p. 23.
  12. ^ Rider 1916, p. 180.
  13. ^ Rider 1916, p. 183; Homer. Odyssey, XIX.316.
  14. ^ Rider 1916, p. 140.
  15. ^ a b c Wright 2004, pp. 161–162.
  16. ^ Wright 2004, p. 160 (Footnote #116).
  17. ^ Werner 1993.
  18. ^ Rider 1916, p. 127.

Sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Homer's Odyssey contains detailed references to the megaron of Odysseus.
  • Hopkins, Clark (1968). "The Megaron of the Mycenaean Palace" (PDF). Studi Micenea ed Egeo-Anatolici. 6: 45−53.
  • Konsolaki-Yannopoulou, Eleni (2004). "Mycenaean Religious Architecture: The Archaeological Evidence from Ayios Konstantinos, Methana". In Wedde, Michael (ed.). Celebrations: Sanctuaries and the Vestiges of Cult Activity (PDF). Papers from the Norwegian Institute at Athens 6. Athens. pp. 61–94.
  • Vermeule, Emily (1972). Greece in the Bronze Age. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

External links[edit]

  • Lee, Stephanie (2007). "Megaron". JIAAW Workplace: Archaeologies of the Greek Past. Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World (Brown University).