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jackdavinci
09-08-2010, 08:50 AM
I was reading about Herostratus, who set the Temple of Artemis on fire. Which got me to thinking about the fact that it was made of marble, not a particularly flammable material. Yet it, and many other historical places of note, have perished in flames. I can of course imagine the contents of these places being flammable, but not the structures themselves. How did they manage to set stone on fire?

Ale
09-08-2010, 09:34 AM
Keep in mind that what remains today of those structures is just the stone columns, base, frontons, ect..., but there was a lot of wood used in them back in the day. The roof structure was almost all wood, for example

mozchron
09-08-2010, 09:52 AM
If marble (which is primarily calcite) gets hot enough, it'll decompose into CaO (i.e. quicklime) and CO2.

On edit, I remember reading years ago (sorry, no cite) that a lot of ancient greek marble was destroyed in the 1900's for industrial production of quicklime.

Colophon
09-08-2010, 09:52 AM
I've often wondered the same thing - not about marble, as such, but just about every castle I've ever come across has apparently at some point in its history been "burnt to the ground". Castles are made of stone, as a rule - I can see that you might burn out the interior, but burning a whole castle down?

CalMeacham
09-08-2010, 10:04 AM
When I was a kid, and saw the movie Sink the Bismarck!, I wondered the same thing about those steel WWII warships, since the movie depicted the ship itself burning. I've been told that the paint used was flammable, and that in many cases there was wooden decking.

Alka Seltzer
09-08-2010, 10:55 AM
I've often wondered the same thing - not about marble, as such, but just about every castle I've ever come across has apparently at some point in its history been "burnt to the ground". Castles are made of stone, as a rule - I can see that you might burn out the interior, but burning a whole castle down?

Do you have any examples? Because I'm struggling to think of castles that were succesfully attacked.

dracoi
09-08-2010, 11:07 AM
I watched Starz's Pillars of the Earth series that largely centered around rebuilding the Kingsbridge cathedral. The first one burned and collapsed, even though it was stone, because it was help up by internal wooden supports. At one point in the rebuilding, the builders decide to go with a stone-only ceiling that collapses under its own weight because stone wasn't strong enough without wooden supports. The final solution incorporates a wood support structure internally.

I'm not sure if this applies to the Greek temples, but there were clearly a lot of stone structures that relied on an internal framework of wood. Burn the wood and you lose the whole building.

Floater
09-08-2010, 11:15 AM
Do you have any examples? Because I'm struggling to think of castles that were succesfully attacked.
There's no need for an attack to burn down a castle. This place (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahehus), Brahehus (it's not really a castle, but a stately home) in Sweden, burned down by accident.

CalMeacham
09-08-2010, 11:16 AM
Actually, even if wood or something else flammable isn't used in the essential structure of a building, extreme heat can cause cracking of the stone and failure of the mortar. This is the reason you don't want chimney fires -- what burns is the distilled creosote that's built up along the internal sides of the chimney. Neither the cimney stones/bricks nor the mortar actually burn. But a prolonged chimney fire will cause the chimney to fall down, for the reasons I gave. That's why people swept their chimneys (and still do) -- to remove the deposits before they catch, and the reason they try to extinguish a burning chimney fire. (You can see this in one of Pieter Brueghel's paintings).


For that matter, this is the reason the World Trade Center collapsed, even though the steel structure itself didn't burn. The fire weakened the steel structure and allowed the building to collapse upon itself.

Bytegeist
09-08-2010, 11:35 AM
... just about every castle I've ever come across has apparently at some point in its history been "burnt to the ground".


Do you have any examples? Because I'm struggling to think of castles that were succesfully attacked.

Well, there was England's Swamp Castle. (Cite: M. Python, 1975)

When I first came here, all there was was swamp! Everyone said I was daft to build a castle in a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show 'em.

It sank into the swamp. So, I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third one. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one ... stayed 'oop!

Colophon
09-08-2010, 11:48 AM
Yes, I was thinking of that one too :)

There's are plenty of examples - there are two just in one small area of Scotland on this page (http://www.argyllonline.co.uk/index.asp?id=202):

Gylen Castle
This castle on the island of Kerrerra just outside Oban Bay was built in 1587. For quite a few years it was the home to the family of the MacDougals befor it was burnt down in 1647 by Major-General Leslie's Covenanter Army during the Wars of the Covenant.

Dunstaffnage Castle
In 1685 the castle burned down...

FluffyBob
09-08-2010, 12:24 PM
We covered this when I took art history. Fire was a real concern in stone structures and many met their demise this way. Wooden roofs, floors, beams, wood reinforcement for shear strength (think of a column stacked of stone blocks with a channel through the center for a timber) and adjacent wooden structures all burn.

On a related note the Coliseum in Rome had steel reinforcement bars in the stone work, which was scavenged over the years which is thought partly responsible for collapsed sections.

Necros
09-08-2010, 03:30 PM
A related article on the subject: http://www.slate.com/id/2172877/

Kiwi Fruit
09-08-2010, 04:20 PM
A related article on the subject: http://www.slate.com/id/2172877/
More than related. It specifically mentions the temple of Artemis, and that it was made with wooden columns and roof.

paperbackwriter
09-08-2010, 04:46 PM
When I was a kid, and saw the movie Sink the Bismarck!, I wondered the same thing about those steel WWII warships, since the movie depicted the ship itself burning. I've been told that the paint used was flammable, and that in many cases there was wooden decking.
The Bismark, like most battleships and other large warships of the period, did indeed have wooden deck planking over the main deck. Even on a steel warship there's plenty to burn: fuel, ammunition, lifeboats, interior fittings, cork insulation or flotation material, etc. The Bismark also carried airplane fuel for her observation floatplanes.