Ancient Greek Marbles - some still used today (II)

This is the second part of our report on the marbles in Ancient Greece that were used in the classical age in the elaboration of monuments that constitute the cultural patrimony of an entire civilisation, and some of which continue to be used today. Our gratitude to the Greek magazine Marmor and Panos Tomaras for their help in this report.

Marble of Immitos - Marmo Imeto Antico

This Marble is known as "Immitio marble" and it was used in the ancient times for the construction of simple monuments. Later, the Romans who called it "marmor hymmettium", continued its extensive extraction and transported it to Rome as big stone blocks. At that time its quarrying was taking place mainly at the north east slope and foot of the Immitos mountain. Today only a few remains of the ancient quarries can be seen because their were destroyed from the later extensive extraction operations.

The Marble of Immitos has a compact and large-crystalline structure. At places the stone is thin-grained and as whole it gives the impression of thick calcite. Due to its structure, the Immitio marble presents small transparency.

Its colour is ash with thin darker and lighter than the background veins. The ash colour is due to its conciseness of carbide and ferrous compounds.

When fragmented it gives over a bituminous smell, which is characteristic of several grey and black type of marble. This smell is caused from its increased conciseness in organic material. In the ancient years it was known as "marmo greco fetido". Whilst the craftsmen called it "marmo cipolla", due its smell which reminded the bulb of onion.

The Immitio marble was the first type of marble even imported by the Romans from abroad. The marble was imported as pillars, several of which support the main narthex of Santa Maria Maggione in S.Pietro in Vincali and in the church of S. Paolo.

The stone was produced in the recent years and it was mainly used for floor veneers and in some cases for exterior applications, one of which is that of the Agricultural Bank of Greece in Salonica.

Marble of Agrilesa - Marmo Di Agrilesa.

It is the marble of Lavreotiki (south area of Attica). It was quarried in the valley of Agrilesa about 4 km north of the Sounio cape. It was used for the construction of the temples of Poseidon and Athena in Sounio. The marble of Agrilesa was white and thin - rained, but it had a light ash-coloured shade with sometimes, ash veins.

In contrast with the monuments constructed from the pendelikon marble the marble parts of the temples of Sounio do not bear the characteristic brownish covering despite the great corrosion they have suffered. This is because of the absence of iron ions. Its grey shadows are due to the increased conciseness in Carbon and the transparency of the calcite.

Marble of Corfu - Selenite Di Corfu

It was a marble type quarried in Corfu in the ancient times. It presented a compact structure with medium-sized grains, with moderate hardness and small compressive strength. Its colour was white-ash.

Marble of Laconia - Marathon de Grece

It was quarried in the Area of Laconia (south East of Peloponnese). It has medium size grains and compact structure. Its compressive strength was rather small. Its colour was white-grey with several well-shaped light coloured veins. It is a rather poor quality material and it is recommended only for interior use.

Marble of Corinth - Marmo Giallo Tigrato Antico

The ancient Romans called it "marmor corinthium", because it was quarried in the region of Corinth. On its polished surface, one can see a light colour with dark round veins, that sometimes are 50 strong coloured, which look like the leather of a tiger or a leopard. It offers excellent polished surfaces, but it also has holes that make it suitable only for interior use.

Today several slabs of this material are found bear the tomb of cardinal Taledo and at the church of Santa Maria Maggione in Rome. Moreover, last century more samples were discovered during researches near Monte Calvo in Sabuna (region of Rome).

Marble of Olympia - Marmo Greco Duro Antico

As this type of marble had a thinner and lighter structure, the ancient Romans called it "marmor porinum", as a parallelism to the porous of tuff. This observation was not accurate because this type of marble was very compact, rigid and has much use in sculpture, although it was not a material of premium quality.

The quarries from which the marble was produced were sited near Olympia of Peloponnese. It was used for the construction of the temple of Olympius Zeus, the tomb of Darius in Persepolis (Persia-Iran), and the sculpture "Belvedere" that adorns the Museum of Vatican.

This marble was named "chemites" by S. Isidoro of Seville.

Marble of Lesvos - Marmo Greco Giallognolo

The ancient Romans called it also "marmor lesbium", because it was quarried on the island of Lesvos (East Aegean Sea, near the Turkish coast.

It had a micro-crystalline solid structure and whitish color with yellowish shade. The colour characteristics of this marble were more profound than those of the Thassos White marble. It was widely used by the sculptors because its colouring much resembled to that of the human skin.

It was used for the construction of the Venus of the Capitol and of Giulia Pia which is sited today in the Museum of Vatican. This material was much used for the construction of tombs and memorials as well.

Black of Tainaro - Marmo Nero Antico

This marble was called "marmor taenarium" by the Romans, because it was quarried near the cape of Tainaro of south Peloponnese. Several ancient writers have described it as "the melan marble" (black coloured marble), but without supplying with any information about its quarrying.

Contemporary investigators, who made extensive research all over the region of the Tainaro Cape, were unable to locate the ancient quarry. The peninsula of Tainaro Cape mostly consists of ash coloured to white marble, which has nothing to do with the nero antico.

Anyway this marble was most beautiful and was considered as a very luxurious type of marble. It had thin grains with compact structure and deep black colour. Sometimes it contained some small white capillary (very thin) veins.

Samples of this marble can be found in the Capitol of Rome, two pillars in the church of Regina Coeli, a magnificent table at the Atemps Palace, etc.

Black of Chios - Marmo Africano Antico

The Romans called it "marmor Chium", because it was quarried on the island of Chios (East Aegean Sea, near the Turkish coast). Later this marble was inaccurately called africano.

According to Plinius (1st century A.D.) this marble was black with colourful spots, without having any veins. Its structure was compact and had great hardness.

These years it was systematically quarried and the annual production arrived at thousands of tones. It was used for the construction of the walls of the city of Chios (the famous black walls).

Samples of this marble can also be seen in Italy. The pillars of the façade of the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome were made of this marble and in the octagon yard of the Museum of the Vatican there is a section of a pillar, which is considered as the most beautiful piece of this Museum.

In Chios island in antiquity were also quarried other type of marble such as the "grigio africanato" which had ash spots and the "verde africanato" with green spots.

Red of Chios - Brecciato Rosso Antico

The ancient Romans called it "marmor Lydium". It is considered to be quarried in the area of Chios, from where the biggest part of the conglomerates and high quality marble were produced in the ancient times.

Paolo Silenzario reported that the colour of this marble type is a mixture of red and white. The background was red and did not present any white veins or black lines.Its distinction from the Rosso Antico was made by the numerous small particles of grey-white marble. The red background was actually the gluing material.Samples of this marble can be seen in Rome, at the church of Saint Luigi dei Francesi, where two pillars made of this marble ornament a tomb in the yard

Marble of Rhodes - Marmo Giallo E Nero Antico

This marble was known as "marmor rhodium" because it was quarried in Rhodes Island (South-East Aegean Sea, near the Turkish coast).

According to Plinius, this marble had a compact and resistant structure with a black coloured background which contained many gold coloured veins.

The mask in the tomb of Paul III (Alessandro Farnese, Pope of Rome, 1543-1549), was made by this marble, which much resembled to the Italian marble "portoro", which was quarried at the area of La Spezia. It is not possible that the portoro marble was used for the construction of this monument, because when its excavation started, the sculptor of the mask, Guilielmo Della Porta Di Porlezza (1500-1577) had already passed away.

The marble of Rhodes had also been used for the construction of elements to ornament the gates, the windows and the pillars of the Palace of Knights of Rhodes.

The marble of Rhodes is also described as "portoro antico".