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p523 Fastigium

Article by Anthony Rich, Jun. B.A. of Caius College, Cambridge
on pp523‑524 of

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

FASTIGIUM (ἀετός, ἀέτωμα) literally, a slope, in architecture a pediment, is the triangle which surmounts each end of a rectangular building, and which, in fact, represents the gable end of the roof (see woodcut, p97). It is composed of three sets of mouldings (forming respectively the horizontal base and the sloping sides of the triangle, and representing the timber framing of the roof), and of a flat surface enclosed by them, which covers the vacant space of the roof, and which, from its resemblance to a membrane stretched upon the triangular frame, is called tympanum (Vitruv. III.3). This flat surface was generally ornamented with sculpture; originally, in the early temples of Zeus, with a simple eagle as a should be of the god (Pind. Olymp. XIII.29, and Schol. ad loc.), an instance of which is afforded by the coin represented in the following woodcut (Beger. Spicil. Antiq. p6), whence the Greek name ἀετός which was at first applied to the tympanum and afterwards to the whole pediment; and in after times with elaborate sculptures in high relief, such as those in the pediments of the Parthenon, the fragments of which are among the Elgin marbles in the British Museum; where also may be seen a full-sized model of the pediments of the temple of Zeus Panhellenius, at Aegina, with casts of the statues in them, restored. Most of the celebrated Greek temples were similarly adorned (see Paus. I.24 § 5, II.7 § 3, V.10 § 2, IX.11 § 4; Aristoph. Aves, 1110). Terra-cotta figures were applied in a similar manner by the Romans in the early ages (Cic. Divin. I.10; Vitruv. III.2; Plin. H. N. XXXV.12 s43, 46, XXXVI.2).

[image ALT: An engraving of the façade of a Greek temple, with eleven impossibly slender columns supporting a large triangular pediment bearing an eagle and the inscription ΚΟΙΝΟϹ ΚΙΛΙΚΙ. It is an illustration of the fastigium or architectural pediment.]

The dwelling-houses of the Romans had no gable ends; consequently, when the word is applied to them (Cic. Epist. ad Q. Fr. III.1.4; Virg. Aen. VIII.491), it is not in its strictly technical sense, but designates the roof simply, and is to be understood of one which rises to an apex as distinguished p524from a flat one, or sometimes it may refer to the pediment of a portico attached to the front of a mansion, as when the Romans decreed to Caesar the liberty of erecting a fastigium to his house (Cic. Phil. II.43; Florus, IV.2; Plut. Caes. 63,º Suet. Caes. 81;º comp. Acroterium), that is, a portico and pediment towards the street like that of a temple.

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Page updated: 20 Oct 08