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by Archaeology Newsroom

The Enlightenment and classical tradition

The revival of the classical tradition in eighteenth century Europe coincided with the Enlightenment.

The Enlightment primarily appeared in the sphere of philosophy, but soon it imbued all sciences. Its main doctrine was the return to the roots of humanity and the creation, without bias, of a new civilization, firmly founded on the Word, the human thought. In the domain of architecture,the Enlightment attracted many followers. It appeared in eighteenth century France as an opposition to Rococco and was soon theorized by Laughier, Souflott and Perrault. Laughier proposed the “return to the primitive hut”, a structure much resembling the Greek doric order. Greek antiquities gained the full interest of architects, who thus abandoned Roman models. The theorists Winkelmann and Piranesi started the debate “Grecia versus Roma”, that was carried on until the early nineteenth century through the “War of Styles”. The trips and sojourn of European antiquity-lovers and architects to Greece brought to the fore Greek art and architecture, which soon prevailed in Europe and sealed the taste of an entire period as “gout Grecque”, “gusto Greco”, etc. This idealized figure of Greece along with sketches, plans and elevations of its monuments were employed by the European architects in the commissions they undertook everywhere in Europe. The Neo-Hellenic style had reached its prime. Thus, Greece played a leading role in the intellectual and artistic firmament of Europe, while Europe contributed, in return, to the establishment of the new Greek state.