One highly important fact about Greek
architecture has thus far been only touched upon; that is,
the liberal use it made of color. The ruins of Greek temples
are to-day monochromatic, either glittering white, as is the
temple at Sunium, or of a golden brown, as are the Parthenon
and other buildings of Pentelic marble, or of a still warmer
brown, as are the limestone temples of Paestum and Girgenti
(Acragas). But this uniformity of tint is due only to time.
A "White City," such as made the pride of Chicago in 1893,
would have been unimaginable to an ancient Greek. Even
to-day the attentive observer may sometimes see upon old
Greek buildings, as, for example, upon ceiling-beams of the
Parthenon, traces left by patterns from which the color has
vanished. In other instances remains of actual color exist.
So specks of blue paint may still be seen, or might a few
years ago, on blocks belonging to the Athenian Propylaea.
But our most abundant evidence for the original use of color
comes from architectural fragments recently unearthed.
During the excavation of
Olympia (1875-81) this matter of
the coloring of architecture was constantly in mind and a
large body of facts relating to it was accumulated. Every
new and important excavation adds to the store. At present
our information is much fuller in regard to the polychromy
of Doric than of Ionic buildings. It appears that, just as
the forms and proportions of a building and of all its
details were determined by precedent, yet not so absolutely
as to leave no scope for the exercise of individual genius,
so there was an established system in the coloring of a
building, yet a system which varied somewhat according to
time and place and the taste of the architect.