) is properly, as the name implies, the architrave, or
lower member of an entablature, consisting of one or several beams (in
Parthenon, three), resting upon the capitals. Its function is to bind the
columns of the peripteron into a whole, and to distribute the weight of the
superstructure (Plut. Per. 13
; Paus. pass.;
Varr. R. R.
3.2; Festus, s. v.
For epistylium applied where there are only half-columns: Choisy,
Étudces épigr. sur l'Archit.
The component blocks were fastened together and to the capitals by iron
clamps; in the Parthenon, further, at the corners (Adamy,
3.126; figs. 37, 38). Rules for the height of the
epistylium are given by Vitruvius (3.3
, s. 5, ed.
Schn.). In the best examples of the Doric order the front of the architrave
was a plain flat surface without carving, but sometimes ornamented with
metal shields affixed above each column, as. in the Parthenon, where there
are also inscriptions between the shields (v.
model). In the Ionic order, where the epistylium scarcely differs from the
frieze, it was cut up into two or usually three slightly overlapping
), and finished off above with
astragal, cymatium, and, in Asia, lysis; in Attica, a simple abacus (Adamy,
pp. 253, 275; see woodcuts under COLUMNA
p. 492). In Asia, the underside of the epistylium
exhibits a hollow containing a cymatium (Adamy, fig. 117A); in Attica perhaps the same was painted.
In the Ionic style, the frieze might be wanting, and the
rest directly on the epistylium
(so in the south prostasis of the Pandrosos Cella, and the temple of Athene
at Priene, according to Bötticher).
In the Corinthian style the arrangement was similar to that in the Ionic,
only the triple division was marked by pearl-beading or a cymatium.
Originally the architrave was the main beam, laid along the top of the
columns to support the roof. When stone was used, a natural limit was set to
the length of the blocks, and consequently the distance of the columns, by
the impossibility of obtaining pieces of stone or marble beyond a certain
size. In the temple of Artemis at Ephesus the blocks were so large that it
was a wonder how they could have been raised to their places; Pliny
describes the process (H. N.
36.96). When an
intercolumniation was of the kind called “araeostyle,” that is,
when the columns were more than three diameters apart, the epistylium was
necessarily made of wood instead of stone (Vitr.
, s. 3.5, ed. Schn.); a construction exemplified by the
restoration in the annexed woodcut
Epistylium. (Doric portico at Pompeii.)
vol. i. p. 143) of the Doric portico,
which surrounds three sides of the forum at Pompeii. The holes seen at the
back of the frieze received the beams which supported an upper gallery.
Epistylium was sometimes used for the whole of the entablature.