(only in the plur. אֵילִמִּים, eylammim, masc., and אֵילִמּוֹת, felamoth , fe),an architectural term occurring only in Eze 40:16,22,26,29, and difficult of definition, but prob. allied with אִיִל, a'yil, a ram, hence a column or pilaster (1Ki 6:31; Eze 41:3, etc.). Most interpreters understand the term (sing. אֵילָם, eylam') to be the same as ץוּלָם, ulam', a vestibule or porch, following the Sept., Vulg., and Targums (Αἰλάμ, vestibulum, ץוּלִמָּא); but it is manifestly distinguished from this (Eze 40:7-9,39-40), since the latter contained windows (ver. 16, 29), whereas this was carried round the building, even in front of the ascent to the gate (ver. 22, 26), and is usually associated with pillars. Of the other ancient interpreters Symmachus and the Syr. translate sometimes surrounding coliumns, sometimes threshold. The word appears either to denote a portico with a colonnade, or (according to Rabbi Menahen) is about equivalent to אִיִל, from which it is derived, i.e. some ornament, perhaps the volute or moulding at the top of a column (comp. Bottcher, Proben alttest. Schrifverkl. p. 319).
Arches with vaulted chambers and domed temples figure so conspicuously in modern Oriental architecture, that, if the arch did not exist among the ancient Jews, their towns and houses could not possibly have offered even a faint resemblance to those which now exist; and this being the case, a great part of the analogical illustrations of Scripture which modern travelers and Biblical illustrators have obtained from this source must needs fall to the ground. Nothing against its existence is to be inferred from the fact that no word properly signifying an arch can be found in the Hebrew Scriptures (see above). The architectural notices in the Bible are necessarily few and general; and we have at this day histories and other books, larger than the sacred volume, in which no such word as "arch" occurs. There is certainly no absolute proof that the Israelites employed arches in their buildings; but if it can be shown that arches existed in neighboring countries at a very early period, we may safely infer that so useful an invention could not have been unknown in Palestine.
Until within a few years it was common to ascribe a comparatively late origin to the arch; but circumstances have come to light one after another, tending to throw the date more and more backward, until at length it seems to be admitted that in Egypt the arch already existed in the time of Joseph. The observations of Rosellini and of Wilkinson (who carries back the evidence from analogy and probability to about B.C. 2020, Anc. Egyptians, 2, 116; 3, 316) led them irresistibly to this conclusion, which has also been recently adopted by Cockerell (Lect. 3, in Athenceumm for Jan. 28, 1843) and other architects. Wilkinson suggests the probability that the arch owed its invention to the small quantity of wood in Egypt, and the consequent expense of roofing with timber. The evidence that arches were known in the time of the first Osirtesen is derived from the drawings at Beni-Hassan (Wilkinson, 2:117). In the secluded valley of Deir el-Medineh, at Thebes, are several tombs of the early date of Amenoph I. Among the most remarkable of these is one whose crude brick roof and niche, bearing the name of the same Pharaoh, prove the existence of the arch at the remote period of B.C. 1540 (Wilkinson, Topography of Thebes, p. 81). Another tomb of similar construction bears the ovals of Thothmes 3, who is supposed by many to have reigned about the time of the Exode (Anc. Egyptians, 3, 319). At Thebes there is also a brick arch bearing the name of this king (Hoskins, Travels in Ethiopia). To the same period and dynasty (the 18th) belong the vaulted chambers and arched door-ways (fig. 4, above) which yet remain in the crude brick pyramids at Thebes (Wilkinson, Anc. Egyptians, 3, 317). In ancient Egyptian houses it appears that the roofs were often vaulted, and built, like the rest of the house, of crude brick; and there is reason to believe that some of the chambers in the pavilion of Rameses III (about B.C. 1245), at Medinet Habu, were arched with stone, since the devices in the upper part of the walls show that the fallen roofs had this form (fig. 3).
The most ancient actually existing arches of stone occur at Memphis, near the modern village of Sakkara. Here there is a tomb with two large vaulted chambers, whose roofs display in every part the name and sculptures of Psammeticus II (about B.C. 600). The chambers are cut in the limestone rock, and this being of a friable nature, the roof is secured by being, as it were, lined with an arch, like our modern tunnels. To about the same period — that of the last dynasty before the Persian invasion-belong the remarkable doorways of the enclosures surrounding the tombs in the Assasif, which are composed of two or more concentric semicircles (fig. 2) of brick (Wilkinson, Anc. Egyptians, 3, 319). Although the oldest stone arch whose age has been positively ascertained does not date earlier than the time of Psammeticus, we cannot suppose that the use of stone was not adopted by the Egyptians for that style of building previous to his reign, even if the arches in the pyramids in Ethiopia should prove not to be anterior to the same era. Nor does the absence of the arch in temples and other large buildings excite our surprise, when we consider the style of Egyptian monuments; and no one who understands, the character of their architecture could wish for its introduction. In some of the small temples of the Oasis the Romans attempted this innovation, but the appearance of the chambers so constructed fails to please; and the whimsical caprice of Osirei (about B.C. 1385) also introduced an imitation of the arch;in a temple at Abydus. In this building the roof is formed of single blocks of stone, reaching from one architrave to the other, which, instead of being placed in the usual manner, stand upon their edges, in order to allow room for hollowing out an arch in their thickness; but it has the effect of inconsistency, without the plea of advantage or utility. Another imitation of the arch occurs in a building at Thebes, constructed in the style of a tomb. The chambers lie under a friable rock, and are cased with masonry, to prevent the fall of its crumbling stone; but, instead of being roofed on the principle of the arch; they are covered with a number of large blocks, placed horizontally, one projecting beyond that immediately below it, till the uppermost two meet in the center, the interior angles being afterward rounded off to form the appearance of a vault (fig. 1, above). The date of this building is about B.C. 1500, and consequently many years after the Egyptians had been acquainted with the art of vaulting (Wilkinson, Anc. Egyptians, 2, 321). Thus, as the temple architecture of the Egyptians did not admit of arches, and as the temples are almost the only buildings that remain, it is not strange that arches have not oftener been found. The evidence offered by the paintings, the tombs, and the pyramids is conclusive for the existence and antiquity of arches and vaults of brick and stone; and if any remains of houses and palaces had now existed, there is little doubt that the arch would have been of frequent occurrence. We observe that Wilkinson, in portraying an Egyptian mansion (Anc. Egyptians, 2, 131), makes the grand entrance an archway. After this it seems unreasonable to doubt that the arch was known to the Hebrews also, and was employed in their buildings. Palestine was indeed better wooded than Egypt; but still that there was a deficiency of wood suitable for building and for roofs is shown by the fact that large importations of timber from the forests of Lebanon were necessary (2Sa 7:2,7; 1Ki 5:6; 1Ch 22:4; 2Ch 2:3; Ezr 3:7; Song 1:17), and that this imported timber, although of no very high quality, was held in great estimation.
Mr. Layard found evident traces of the arch among the Assyrian ruins. He first discovered a small vaulted chamber, the roof of which was constructed of baked bricks placed sideways, one against another, in the usual manner of an arch (Nineveh, 1, 38). He afterward came upon several vaulted drains beneath the palace of Nimroud, built of sun-dried bricks, and finally a perfect brick arch; showing the knowledge of this architectural element among the Assyrians at a very early date (Babylon and Nineveh, 2d ser. p. 163, 164). SEE ARCHITECTURE.
That the Greeks likewise understood the principle of the construction of the arch in very ancient times is evident from monuments as early as the Trojan war (Smith's Dict. of Class. Ant. s.v. Arcus), a cut of one of which is subjoined.
Triumphal arches were frequently erected by the Roman emperors to commemorate signal conquests, and several such are yet standing. The most noteworthy of these is that of Titus, on the interior of which are delineated the spoils of the Jewish temple.