Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Acanthus~A flower immortalized in stone

Acanthus spinosus and a Corinthian capital at the ancient decapolis city of Gadara

Upon visiting the ruins of the ancient decapolis cities of Jerash or Gadara, one can not help but admire the stately Roman columns, many of them still intact and upright, and the delicately carved Corinthian capitals which they boast. The flowering plant immortalized in these stone capitals is Acanthus spinosus, or Spiny Acanthus.

Botanist Lytton Musselman explains, "The origin of the leafy capitals of Corinthian columns apparently goes back to an acanthus growing by a vase for offerings on a tomb in Corinth. It inspired the 5th century BC sculptor Callimachus, famed for the perfection and technique of his art, who reproduced its leaves in stone on Corinthian capitals. The genral shape links the column and what it supports and, because it presents the same shape from all aspects, its use has been widespread. The Romans were so fond of the beauty and symmetry of the leaves that virtually any Roman ruin in the country will have them." (from Jordan in Bloom)

1 comment:

Sara said...

I find this little tidbit of information quite fascinating. I've always loved the graceful acanthus designs on the capitals and wondered what the real plant looks like. Glad I discovered it on your blog!