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An Introduction to Ancient Classical Architecture

Architecture has a rich history that includes the accomplishments of the Greco-Romans, who are known for establishing architectural orders , standardized styles that involved a column, base, and entablature. In this article, you will learn more about the five classical architectural orders: Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Composite, and Tuscan.

The ancient Greeks were responsible for creating the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian styles of architecture, while the Romans established the Composite and Tuscan styles. Throughout history, the orders repeatedly appear in cultural icons and famous attractions, such as the columns of the Parthenon. These elements influenced other structures around the world, such as the White House and other government buildings in the United States.

Early Temples

The first temples in Greece were constructed out of wood. Over time, the Greeks used limestone. When money was in ample supply, marble replaced the limestone as the material of choice. It didn’t matter what order was selected or the size of the temple, construction followed the same basic plan and intended function. Structures were typically rectangular and had what was called the cella (or naos) in the center of the open buildings. Images of gods or goddesses were placed here, and highlighted the deity that the temple was dedicated to.

Temples ranged from simple buildings with a porch and two columns to larger structures with second porches and colonnades. An arch was not a common feature of these temples , they were often made with lintels and sloping roofs. Temples were built for the public to admire since gaining entrance was not allowed. Even when a religious ceremony for the public took place, the rituals were performed right outside of a temple.

What Characteristics Do the Orders Share?

While each order possesses its own flair, there are several features that are shared. The bottom of structures would rest on what was known as stereobate and stylobate. With the exception of Doric buildings, the column itself rested on a base. The type of order relating to the building determined the level of decorative elements was used. Bronze or wooden pivots ran through the center of each column shaft, which was comprised of drums stacked on top of one another. The drum joints were hidden by flutes that had been placed into the stone after the column was assembled.

The Greeks were highly skilled in cutting stone and did not use mortar when constructing temples. They were quite precise when it came to their architecture.

The Oldest Order , Doric

The oldest architecture class, Doric, originated in mainland Greece. An example of one of the most ancient uses of the order is found in the temple of Artemis at Corcura (now known as modern Corfu). The building suggests that the order had been solidified in ancient architecture by around 600 BC. It is still unknown what exactly moved the ancient architects in Greece to create such an order, but some influences are identified. The pre-Archaic structures made out of wood and mud by the Greeks had an effect on buildings to follow. Structures associated with the Mycenaean and Egyptian cultures also served as models for the Greek architects. The Doric order is viewed as plainer than the other orders, yet the buildings were massive and displayed what has been noted as “masculine” features.