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Der Polykratische Tempel im Heraion von Samos

April 2016 (120.2)

Book Review

Der Polykratische Tempel im Heraion von Samos

By Gottfried Gruben, edited by Hermann J. Kienast (Samos 27). Pp. xvi + 356, figs. 60, b&w pls. 123, Beilagen 5. Reichert Verlag, Wiesbaden 2014. €98. ISBN 978-3-95490-041-1 (cloth).

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This book is unfinished. Gruben’s untimely death left a quandary to Kienast, then-director of the Samos excavations. Gruben started at Samos in 1953, reconstructing the capitals of the second Temple of Hera for his dissertation. At many times during his distinguished career of scholarship on Greek architecture, he returned to Samos to prepare a comprehensive study of the monument. Concerted work starting in 1995 was cut short by his death in 2003. The unfinished manuscript might have been assigned to another scholar, at an inevitable loss of Gruben’s perspective, but instead, the temple’s bases were published by Nils Hellner (Die Säulenbasen des zweiten Dipteros von Samos: Grundlage für die Rekonstruktion des Tempels in seinen Bauphasen. Samos 26 [Bonn 2009]), and Kienast had the rest published under Gruben’s byline. This volume greatly increases our knowledge of the second dipteros at Samos, but the broader narrative is fragmented.

Kienast takes a very light editorial hand. The text is mostly Gruben’s, with editorial insertions for handwritten notes in his manuscript, and Kienast occasionally comments on the more controversial assertions. Because few citations have been updated, the text can feel very out-of-date. The presentation of the capitals and the necking ornament is largely unchanged from Gruben’s dissertation and does not cite literature after the 1950s. Other sections were composed more recently, but overall the text does not seriously engage recent scholarship. About four-fifths of the book is a catalogue, organized by the categories of material, with discussion following each type. The final chapter offers synthetic discussions of the sanctuary and comparanda.

Without introductory fanfare, the text launches into the fragments of the columns’ necking ornament. From the many small pieces, Gruben restores several types and proposes chronological brackets. The capitals come next. The volute capitals from the exterior are rare, while there is a complex typology of voluteless egg-and-dart capitals from the interior colonnades of the dipteros. Though the dates depend too heavily on Buschor’s outdated chronology for Samian anthemia, it is clear the temple was under construction from ca. 530 B.C.E., with work continuing over the next 50 years or so. A renewal of construction late in the fourth century fizzled, leaving the building incomplete except on its east facade, facing the altar. Plate 120 and Beilage 3 show this well and should become our standard illustrations in the classroom for this unfinished Ionic temple—to Herodotus, the greatest of the world. The catalogues then present the column shafts, skipping the almost 600 fragments of bases published separately by Hellner. It is a pity that the two studies could not converse with each other, but they come to similar conclusions about the construction sequence.

The reconstruction of the fragmentary anta capitals is impressive. Gruben unites the east antae, the pronaos colonnades, and two or three friezes to present a full picture of the ornament of the porch. The assignment of the friezes near the base and crown of the walls and door is uncertain, but more plausible than the alternatives. Gruben has already published this view of the pronaos (Griechische Tempel und Heiligtümer [Munich 2001] fig. 274), but it is justified here and reprinted at much higher quality (Beilage 2).

There is much valuable analysis within the catalogues. Gruben concurs with Hellner that there were probably columns inside the cella, eliminating the hypaethral configuration entertained until recently by other scholars. Elsewhere, Gruben documents variations in a group of anthemion necking moldings on columns of poros, concluding one well-crafted “master” was the paradigm, copied imperfectly by different “hands” of masons (24–5). While the material is inadequate for connoisseurship, the important conclusion is that separate teams were working simultaneously on individual columns. The evidence is not compiled systematically, but details, such as the rough dressing on the top of the cella capitals (58), indicate the entablature was likely wooden. Perhaps the original plan was for stone, but the construction of the colonnades never got far enough to replace the wooden architraves. Gruben maintains the theory that the terracotta tiles from the Rhoikos temple were reused in a hipped roof, also recently accepted by Ohnesorg (“Die Dachterrakotten aus dem Heraion von Samos,” AM 124 [2009] 19–167).

The text concludes with a synthetic chapter. It is incomplete and often strays from the Polykrates temple. Gruben sketches out his view of the sanctuary’s history and topography—one which Kienast finds doubtful. He theorizes about the early hekatompedon and altars, in relation to the old cult image, and the sacred Lygos, which he thought was the axis around which the archaic monuments were oriented. There is more solidly grounded discussion of the Rhoikos temple and why its site was moved so far to the southwest for the second dipteros, questions not addressed in Samos 25 (C. Hendrich and H.J. Kienast, Die Sa╠łulenordnung des ersten Dipteros von Samos [Bonn 2007]). The chapter closes with an excursus on the Ionian temples at Lokri and Syracuse. Their similarities to Samian ornament and design have long been observed, but Gruben goes as far as postulating that an atelier from Samos traveled to Syracuse to execute some of the work. He argues these two western buildings can be used to fill in the gaps in the remains from the Samian temple, and he has presumably used these comparanda when creating his reconstruction drawings. The book ends abruptly here, leaving many questions unanswered.

Despite their length and detail, the catalogues are also unfinished. There is no direct presentation of the foundations, walls, or superstructure. The section about the frieze refers to Freyer-Schauenburg’s catalogues (Bildwerke der archaischen Zeit und des strengen Stils. Samos 11 [Bonn 1974]) and cannot be understood without simultaneously consulting her volume. The catalogues vary greatly in quality and content, and Gruben clearly prepared them to different standards over the 50 years of study. Much of the material is catalogued in several places, which can be confusing. For example, a set of 16 poros drums found (without explanation) built into the temple’s own foundations are mentioned in one list (122) and apparently show up again in another list, this time numbered 701 to 716 (134). A bigger problem is how anyone hoping to reexamine the catalogued fragments could find them. There is no concordance, and for most items we can only guess whether they might be onsite, in the local magazines, or in the museums at Vathy or Berlin. Fortunately, the illustrations are excellent, thanks to the diligence of Irene Ring, who had worked with Gruben and finished them after his death.

The volume under review is a major contribution to the endeavor of Bauforschung, which aims to reconstruct ancient monuments and construction techniques in light of the archaeological and textual evidence, informed by fastidious documentation. The facts about the sixth-century architecture at Samos are now scattered across several works (notably Freyer-Schauenburg 1974; Hendrich and Kienast 2007; Hellner 2009; Ohnesorg 2009). But Gruben’s is the first attempt at a comprehensive presentation of Polykrates’ dipteros since Der Heratempel von Samos (O. Reuther [Berlin 1957]), which it significantly transforms. Nevertheless, Gruben’s book reflects archaeologists’ tendency to get bogged down in endless cataloguing, while never really getting to the bigger interpretive questions. This text is at its best precisely when it tries to transcend its format. Had Gruben’s life not been cut short, this book would surely have been the fitting culmination to a body of work remarkable for its detailed knowledge and incisive interrogation of the evidence toward a holistic understanding of Greek architecture, sculpture, and cult.

Philip Sapirstein
Department of Art & Art History
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Book Review of Der Polykratische Tempel im Heraion von Samos, by Gottfried Gruben, edited by Hermann J. Kienast

Reviewed by Philip Sapirstein

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 120, No. 2 (April 2016)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1202.Sapirstein

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