Theodoros of Samos

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Theodoros of Samos

Sixth century b.c.

Greek Architect and Sculptor

Theodoros, a sixth-century b.c. architect from the Greek island of Samos, designed the third Ionian temple honoring the Greek goddess Hera. Theodoros was the son of Rhoikos of Samos, also an architect of the colossal temple. Although some scholars suggest Theodoros may have been the son of the sculptor Telekles, most regard Telekles as an additional son of Rhoikos, and the brother of Theodoros.

Theodoros and Rhoikos built the Temple of Hera at the Samian town of Herion, believed to be the goddess Hera's birthplace. Samos was an especially prosperous island during the Archaic era, as well as a center for engineering and the arts. Samos was ruled by the tyrant Polycrates, who commissioned the monumental building. Theodoros built the temple over the ruins of a previous prehistoric monument honoring Hera (mother of the gods) on such a massive scale (the structure had 104 columns, each rising 60 feet [18.3 m] high) that it became known as the "Labyrinth of Samos," named after the famous maze on Crete. Theodoros designed the temple according to the 10-part system, in which the field of vision is divided into 10 parts of 36° each. Using the geometry of Pythagoras (580?-500 b.c.), also from Samos, Theodoros worked with angles in proportion to his 36° standard, resulting in a design noted throughout the ancient Greek world for its symmetry and majesty. The Temple of Hera's grand scale, as an architectural type, was without precedent in Greek temple architecture. Theodoros was the first to use the 10-part system of design, which became synonymous with Ionian architecture. The style endured more than 700 years, as medieval architects later applied similar principles of proportion in their designs of Gothic cathedrals. Ironically, Theodoros's Temple of Hera survived less than 100 years. Scholars credit its partial destruction with an attack by the Persians, an earthquake, or a sinking foundation.

By the mid-sixth century, word of the colossal temple at Hera had reached Ephesus, an Archaic cosmopolitan seaport. Not to be outdone by the Samians, the rival Ephesians began construction of a giant temple dedicated to the god Artemis. Theodoros provided supervision and technical advise to the two Cretan architects in charge of the temple. The monumental Temple of Artemis was built in 10 years (560-550 b.c.) in the Ionian style of Theodoros, with 127 white marble columns, each 65 feet (19.8 m) high, surrounding the interior. The temple was the largest of its time, and the first to be constructed entirely of marble. Fishermen on board boats approaching the harbor of Ephesius could see the massive white temple before land was visible. Theodoros's Temple of Artemis became recognized as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Additionally, Theodoros and his brother Telekles were accomplished sculptors. Having spent time in Egypt, the brothers were said to have utilized Egyptian techniques of proportion so that, while Theodoros was in Ephesus and Telekles was in Samos, each could independently make half of the same statue and later join them perfectly. When the brothers constructed the statue of Pythian Apollo in this manner, it was said that the two halves corresponded so well that they appeared to have been made by the same person. Theodoros brought from Egypt to Greece the technique of smelting iron and pouring it into molds to make statuary castings. Later, Theodoros improved upon the technique to introduce the fusing and casting of bronze.

Throughout his life, Theodoros used his mathematical and scientific abilities in artistic pursuits. Besides architecture and sculpture, Theodoros also made an emerald signet for the Samian ruler Polycrates, wrote a treatise on the Temple of Hera, and invented artisans' tools, including the lathe.


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Theodoros of Samos

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