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p170 Atlantes and Telamones

Article by Philip Smith, B.A., of the University of London
on p170 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.


[image ALT: An engraving of a doorway supported by two statues of naked men. They are an example of the Roman architectural elements known as telamones.]

ATLANTES (ἄτλαντες) and TELAMONES (τελαμῶνες), are terms used in architecture, the former by the Greeks, the latter by the Romans, to designate those male figures which are sometimes fancifully used, like the female Caryatides, in place of columns (Vitruv. VI.7 §6, Schneid.). Both words are derived from τλῆναι, and the former evidently refers to the fable of Atlas, who supported the vault of heaven, the latter perhaps to the strength of the Telamonian Ajax.

The Greek architects used such figures sparingly, and generally with some adaptation to the character of the building. They were much more freely used in tripods, thrones, and so forth.

They were also applied as ornaments to the sides of a vessel, having the appearance of supporting the upper works; as in the ship of Hiero, described by Athenaeus (V p208B).

A representation of such figures is given in the preceding woodcut, copied from the tepidarium of the baths at Pompeii: another example of them is in the temple of Jupiter Olympius at Agrigentum.

(Müller, Archäol. d. Kunst, § 279; Mauch, die Griech. u. Röm. Bau-Ordnungen, p88).


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