1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Propylaea
PROPYLAEA (Πρόπυλον, Προπύλαια), the name given to a porch or gate-house, at the entrance of a sacred or other enclosure in Greece; such propylaea usually consisted, in their simplest form, of a porch supported by columns both without and within the actual gate. The name is especially given to the great entrance hall of the Acropolis at Athens, which was begun in 437 B.C. by Pericles, to take the place of an earlier gateway. Owing probably to political difficulties and to the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, the building was never completed according to the original plans; but the portion that was built was among the chief glories of Athens, and afforded a model to many subsequent imitators. The architect was Mnesicles; the material Pentelic marble, with Eleusinian Blackstone for dados and other details. The plan of the Propylaea consists of a large square hall, from which five steps lead up to a wall pierced by five gateways of graduated sizes, the central one giving passage to a road suitable for beasts or possibly for vehicles. On the inner side towards the Acropolis, this wall is faced with a portico of six Doric columns. At the other end of the great hall is a similar portico facing outwards; and between this and the doors the hall is divided into three aisles by rows of Ionic columns. The western or outer front is flanked on each side by a projecting wing, with a row of three smaller Doric columns between Antae at right angles to the main portico. The north wing is completed by a square chamber which served as a picture gallery; but the south wing contains no corresponding chamber, and its plan has evidently been curtailed; its front projected beyond its covered area, and it is finished in what was evidently a provisional way on the side of the bastion before the little temple of Victory (Νίκη). From this and other indications Professor Dorpfeld has inferred that the original plan of Mnesicles was to complete the south wing on a plan symmetrical with that of the north wing, but opening by a portico on to the bastion to the west; and to add on the inner side of the Propylaea two great halls, faced by porticoes almost in a line with the main portico, but with smaller columns. It is probable that this larger plan had to be given up, because it would have interfered with sacred objects such as the precinct of Artemis Brauronia and the altar of Nike, and religious conservatism prevailed over the waning influence of Pericles. In addition to this, the unfinished surface of the walls and the rough bosses left on many of the blocks show that the building was never completed. The Propylaea were approached in Greek times by a zig-zag path, terraced along the rock; this was superseded in Roman times by a broad flight of steps. In medieval times the Propylaea served
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(Redrawn from the Athenische Mitteilungen by permission of the Kaiserliches Archaeologisches Institut.)
as the palace of the dukes of Athens; they were much damaged by the explosion of a powder magazine in 1656. The tower, of Frankish or Turkish date, that stood on the south wing, was pulled down in 1874.
See R. Böhn, Die Propylaeen der Akropolis zu Athen (Berlin, 1882); W. Dörpfeld, articles in Mittheilungen d. d. Inst. Athen. (1885) vol. x. (E. Gr.)