What is today considered the physical cultural heritage of humanity results from long developments and traditional transfer of know-how in particular societies, as well as of influences and 'cross fertilization' between different cultures and civilizations. The oldest urban settlements were founded in Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and China, forming the world's culturally richest region that extended over to the Mediterranean. In this context of early kingdoms and empires there was a basis for the development, consolidation, and diversification of particular artistic conceptions, and cultural inputs, techniques, and know-how.
Diffusion of influences came through various types of contacts and traditional links, conquests and commercial connections, such as the Silk Roads linking the Mediterranean with the Orient, or the pilgrimage routes in various parts of mediaeval Europe. While America received its first inhabitants from Asia over the Bering Strait, and developed its distinct cultures, Europe emerged from the classical world through the Middle Ages; later it developed technologies and methods of industrial production that allowed commercial benefit and ruling over traditional societies.
The built heritage is continuously subject to various types of deterioration, including weathering, the ageing process, and consumption by use. The degree of wear depends on the type of structure and material of the building; consequently, repair traditions may differ in different cultures and geographical regions. Buildings can also be modified due to changes in function, or due to changes in taste or fashion. Many of the areas with the richest and most creative cultures are subject to natural risks, such as earthquakes and floods, that have caused - and continue to cause - irreparable damage and destruction of historic buildings and works of art. Furthermore, armed conflicts, wars, revolutions, conquests, wilful damage, and demolition add to the long list of risks to heritage caused by humankind itself. Such damage was often repaired, or the build ings rebuilt, but excessive damage could result in the abandonment of entire cities and regions. Desertion could also be caused by the exhaustion of resources, or due to political decisions.
It is generally characteristic of old structures and of historic areas that they represent different stages and modifications rather than one single design phase. In the past, in contrast to modern times, the manner of building, materials, structural systems, and forms of ornaments were related to particular cultures, and only changed over long periods of time, thus giving a certain harmony and continuity to a place. Such architectural coherence could be seen in ancient towns, such as Miletus, attributed to Hippodamus (fifth cent. BC) who skilfully adapted the grid plan to the topography of the site (this adaptation was referred to as mimesis). There are examples where architectural ideas have had a coherent development through a building process that lasted centuries, as in the Egyptian case of the Great Temple of Ammon in Karnak, built by succeeding pharaohs from 1530 to 323 bc (Erder, 1986: 21ff).
In ancient Rome, there were specific regulations to guarantee that new buildings were designed in harmony within the existing built context. Good building practice and maintenance were some of the leading themes in De Architectura, the influential manual by Vitruvius in the first century bc. He empha
sized the importance of knowing all aspects of the site when designing a building or planning a town, and noted that buildings should conform with the nature and climate of each place (VI,i:1). He gave specific instructions on the orientation of particular rooms in a house so as to provide optimal conditions; for example, bedrooms and libraries should be oriented to the east to get morning light, and also because books would thus not decay. Similarly, there were instructions concerning repair in the case of rising damp (VII,iv:1). Such requirements, still according to Vitruvius, should be reflected in the education of the architect, who ought to have 'a wide knowledge of history' in order to be aware of the symbolic meaning of the elements used in the building (I,i:5). A well-educated architect would leave a more lasting remembrance in his treatises (I,i:4).
Current research has shown that there were many approaches to the repair of ancient temples after damage by fire, earthquake, use, or building activity. Sometimes, the original type of material and style of the old building were maintained, although this cannot be taken as a general rule. In other cases buildings could be relocated as a result of environmental changes, but new constructions could also be adapted to allow for the survival of ancient structures. After a fire in the first century bc, the Erechtheum of Athens was repaired and rebuilt. In this operation, many parts, such as pediments or ceilings, were dismantled and reconstructed in the same form as before; the original style was kept in the new columns replacing the old. The conservation architect responsible for the Acropolis, Manlios Korres, has concluded that the aim was not merely to repair the Erechtheum, but 'to restore it as a monument of high artistic worth' (Korres, 1997:199). He has supported this notion by drawing attention to the admirable quality of newly carved decoration in the west doorway. On close inspection, however, it is possible to see a difference in this carving, the new work being slightly less accurate than the original. This would not result from a conscious attempt to distinguish new work from the old; rather, it can be taken as an inherent cultural difference from the fifth to the first century (BC). Korres notes that it might have been possible to use more of the original material remaining after the fire if the builders had so desired; instead, the aim in this 'restoration' seems to have been mainly aesthetic, which coincides with the conclusions of other research as well.1
The concept of a memorial was well known in the ancient world: the mastabas and pyramids of Egypt transmitted the memory of the pharaohs; the ancient Persian tombs of Naqsh-i-Rustam were built to commemorate the Achaemenid kings. In many cases, such tombs have been subject to destruction in subsequent centuries; robbers entered the Egyptian pyramids soon after their construction. In other
Figure 1.3 The tomb of Darius the Great (late sixth century bc) is one of the four monumental tombs of Achaemenid kings built in rock in Naqsh-i-Rustam, close to Persepolis. Inscribed there is a prayer to God Ahuramazda for blessing the king's good deeds, people and land
Figure 1.4 The tomb of Cyrus the Great in Pasargadae (sixth century BC). Alexander the Great paid his respects to Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire, and had the tomb repaired
Figure 1.3 The tomb of Darius the Great (late sixth century bc) is one of the four monumental tombs of Achaemenid kings built in rock in Naqsh-i-Rustam, close to Persepolis. Inscribed there is a prayer to God Ahuramazda for blessing the king's good deeds, people and land periods, however, they were subject to respect and veneration. In Egypt, the broken right arm and leg of a monumental statue of Ramses II in the Great Temple of Abu Simbel were repaired - by order of a successor - keeping the original fragments in place, supported on simple stone blocks. During the Persian wars, before the battle of Platae in 479 bc, the Athenians took an oath not to rebuild the destroyed sanctuaries, but to leave them as 'memorials of the impiety of the barbarians' (Dinsmoor, 1975:150). In fact, the Acropolis monuments remained in ruins for more than thirty years; later some of the blocks were built into the north wall of the Acropolis as a memorial of the war.
When Pausanias wrote his Description of Greece, around ad 170, he gave the history of
Figure 1.4 The tomb of Cyrus the Great in Pasargadae (sixth century BC). Alexander the Great paid his respects to Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire, and had the tomb repaired places, and the significance of ruins, and he even indicated objects that had disappeared. In Olympia, he noted the remaining wooden pillars of the house of Oenomaus, which were protected and preserved as a memorial, and marked with a bronze tablet indicating their meaning (V,xx:6-8). When Alexander the Great conquered Persia, he discovered that the tomb of Cyrus had been plundered. He is said to have searched for the offenders to punish them, and to have ordered the tomb to be repaired.2 Plutarch, in his 'Life of Alexander', mentions that the inscription on the tomb made a deep impression on him, and he had it also inscribed in Greek letters: 'O man, whoever you are and wherever you come from, for I know you will come, I am Cyrus who won the Persians their empire. Do not therefore grudge me this little earth that covers my body'.
The Greek word for 'monument' T07, deriving from memory, mneme) was related to memory, a 'memorial', while the corresponding Latin word (monumentum, deriving from moneo) encompassed political and moralistic issues, intended to admonish and remind the spectator of the power of the governors. Often there was respect for the original builder even when the material form of the building was changed or the structure completely rebuilt. When Hadrian 'restored', or indeed rebuilt, the Pantheon in a new form in the second century AD, he had an inscription placed on the front as if the building were still the construction by the first builder 150 years earlier: 'Miarcus] Agrippa L[uci] f[ilius] co[n]s[ul] tertium fecit. When Procopius described 'restorations' by Emperor Justinian in the sixth century (Buildings), he made it clear that the general aim was to improve both the function and the aesthetic appearance of the buildings whilst remembering their original name and significance. However, often this meant an entirely new construction, and in a different form from the original.
Coinciding with the introduction of Christianity, the Roman Empire faced serious political and governmental problems. Already in 277, it was necessary to build massive defence walls for Rome, and, from the fifth century through the Middle Ages, the city became a target for invaders from all parts of the empire - perhaps partly due to its symbolic value. After the Christianization of the Roman Empire, in the fourth century, spoils started being used from older monuments in new construction. This was the case even with important public monuments; the Arch of Constantine was built with sculptures and reliefs taken from several monuments of previous centuries, such as a triumphal arch in honour of Marcus Aurelius and the Forum of Trajan. The heads of previous emperors were re-carved in order to represent the features of Constantine.
The practice of reusing spoils soon led to growing vandalism of pagan temples, tombs, and public buildings. At the same time, there was a revival of classical studies, and a return to old traditions. The protection of ancient temples and tombs became an issue during the reigns of Julian the Apostate (b. 332) and Symmachus (340-402). Julian was influenced by the pagan philosopher Maximus and proclaimed general toleration of all religions, re-instituted pagan cults, restored confiscated lands, and rebuilt temples that had been destroyed. From this time on, emperors gave numerous orders concerning Rome and the protection and maintenance of public buildings founded by their predecessors. In 365, Emperors Valentinian and Valens declared their intention to 'restore the condition of the Eternal City and to provide for the dignity of the public buildings' (Theodosianus, 1952: 412). In 458, Emperors Leo and Majorian gave
an order to the Prefect of Rome, where they raised concern due to continuous destruction of 'beautiful ancient buildings', and stated that:
all the buildings that have been founded by the ancients as temples and as other monuments, and that were constructed for the public use or pleasure, shall not be destroyed by any person, and that it shall transpire that a judge who should decree that this be done shall be punished by the payment of fifty pounds of gold. If his apparitors and accountants should obey him when he so orders and should not resist him in any way by their own recommendation, they shall also be mutilated by the loss of their hands, through which the monuments of the ancients that should be preserved are desecrated (Theodosianus, 1952:553).
Theodoric the Great (493-526) revived some previous laws, and was praised by contemporaries for giving new life to the empire. He was particularly concerned about architecture, considering maintenance, repair, and restoration of ancient buildings as valuable as the construction of new. He appointed a curator statuarum to take care of statues, and an architectus publicorum to oversee ancient monuments in Rome. The architect, named Aloisio, was reminded of the glorious history and importance of the monuments, as well as of the duty to restore all structures that could be of use, such as palaces, aqueducts, and baths. Theodoric wrote to the Prefect of Rome, introducing the architect and emphasizing his desire to conserve and respect ancient buildings and works of art (Cassiodorus, Variae; Milizia, 1785:75ff). This order was followed by restoration of the Aurelian Walls, aqueducts, the Colosseum, and Castel Sant'Angelo. Other municipalities were also ordered not to mourn for past glory, but to revive ancient monuments to new splendour, not to let fallen columns and useless fragments make cities look ugly, but to clean them and give new use to his palaces.
Was this article helpful?