Old Masters Academy


The origin of the Arch is very uncertain. It was unknown to the Egyptians, for their chambers were roofed with long flat stones, and sometimes the upper layers of stones form projections, so as to diminish the roof surface. It is also supposed that it was unknown to
the Greeks, when they constructed their most beautiful temples, in the 5th, 4th, and 3d centuries B. C., as no structure answering to the true character of the Arch has been found in any of these works. Minutoli has given specimens of arches at Thebes; circular, and formed of four courses of bricks, and it is maintained that these belonged to a very ancient period, long before the Greek occupancy of that country. The Macedonians were a civilized people long before the rest of the Greeks, and were, in fact, their instructors; but the Greeks afterwards so far excelled them that they regarded them as barbarians. Some say that Etruria was the true birth-place of the Arch; it was doubtless from them that the Romans learned its use. Tarquinius Priscus conquered the Etrurians, and he it was who first introduced and employed the Arch in the construction of the cloacæ, or sewers of Rome. The cloaca maxima, or principal branch, received numerous other branches between the Capitoline, Palatine, and Quirinal hills. It is formed of three consecutive rows of large stones piled above each other without cement, and has stood nearly 2,500 years, surviving without injury the earthquakes and other convulsions that have thrown down temples, palaces, and churches of the superincumbent city. From the time of Tarquin, the Arch was in general use among the Romans in the construction of aqueducts, public edifices, bridges, &c. The Chinese understood the use of the Arch in the most remote times, and in such perfection as to enable them to bridge large streams with a single span. Mr.
Layard has shown that the Ninevites knew its use at least 3000 years ago; he not only discovered a vaulted chamber, but that “arched gate-ways are continually represented in the bas-reliefs.” Diodorus Siculus relates that the tunnel from the Euphrates at Babylon, ascribed to Semiramis, was vaulted. There are vaults under the site of the temple at Jerusalem, which are generally considered as ancient as that edifice, but some think them to have been of more recent construction, as they suppose the Jews were ignorant of the Arch; but it is evident that it was well known in the neighboring countries before the Jewish exile, and at least seven or eight centuries before the time of Herod. It seems highly probable, that the Arch was discovered by several nations in very remote times.

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