Janos Fedak

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


History of Art


The thesis deals with grave monuments of various types that were conspicuous both for their size and for their magnificent decoration. These tombs were designed and built for the nobility and the well-to-do classes, who could afford such monumental undertakings. Large-scale tombs were generally built, or at least started, only in periods of peace and economic prosperity; even then, such tombs were often left unfinished after the death of the persons who commissioned them. Although many of these tombs played an important part in the development of the Hellenistic architectural style, the nature and significance of their contribution, and their relationship to other types of structure, have not yet been analysed in detail. Moreover, neither the circumstances that prompted such undertakings nor the origins of their architectural features (both structural and decorative) have been fully explored. For a long time the lack of systematic excavations, or even of adequate publication of remains accessible without excavation, has made a synthetic study of the tombs in question virtually impossible. Early studies of the problems involved (mostly dating from about the turn of the century) were too superficial in scope or too fanciful in concept to permit a proper evaluation of the architectural importance of the monumental tombs. Fortunately, in recent decades more and more reliable evidence has accumulated, so that it is now possible to obtain a clearer picture of monumental tomb buildings in the Mediterranean area as a whole. A number of excavations are still in progress, and new information is constantly emerging; nevertheless, it is already quite evident that Western Asia Minor played the dominant role in the development of monumental tomb-designs, at least down to the later third century B.C. No systematic examination either of the origins of the monumental tombs of Western Asia Minor, or of their further development both within and outside that region, can be attempted without first dealing with the problems of classification and terminology. The introductory chapters are therefore devoted to these aspects of the study. The evolution of monumental tomb structures prior to the fourth century B.C. is then examined; in this section, on the basis of the technical execution of the tombs, three main groups are distinguished: built tombs; rock-out tombs; and tumuli and underground tombs. The most popular, and thus the most successful, forms of funerary building were the "temple tombs" on podia, the so-called "mausoleum" type. The first "temple tombs" on podia were apparently erected in Lycia; after a generation or so of experiment, Persian, Greek and local traditions were combined to produce a type of tomb that satisfied the needs of the local oligarchy. Besides being burial places these large structures built above ground, served to glorify the achievements of the decreased and ensure his or her eternal "presence" within a given community. The earliest known structure of this nature was the Nereid Monument, built shortly after 400 B.C. at Xanthos in Lycia. Its predecessors were numerous end of various designs; but virtually none of them offered the same possibilities for future development as did the Nereid Monument. In the course of the fourth and third centuries designers of monumental tombs were quick to adapt forms and ideas from many other types of Greek building (e.g. theatres, entrance gates etc.), thus producing a great variety of tomb forms. The novelty of the large and richly decorated "temple tombs" of Western Asia Minor soon led to their appearance in other regions of the Mediterranean world. In each of these regions further developments often took place, as the borrowed forms were remodelled in terms of local materials and taste. From the large body of material outside Western Asia Minor only the best preserved and best documented examples have been examined, with a view to assessing their importance in the overall development of funerary architecture. It also seemed necessary to examine, at least briefly, some of the technical innovations encountered in Hellenistic tomb designs, e.g. methods of roof construction, with special reference to the use of the true vault in tomb architecture. Finally some of the problems of the relationship of monumental tombs to other types of building have been considered. Most of the material included in the thesis date from the sixth to the first century B.C. No strict geographical limits have been observed, since monumental tombs of the type under discussion were likely to be built wherever Hellenistic ideas penetrated. For each region an attempt is made to assess the importance of individual structures, both in the local context and within the general framework of Hellenistic architectural developments. From the latter point of view monumental tombs have a special interest; since they were not utilitarian structures, they provided excellent opportunities for architects to experiment with new forms and new architectural principles.

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