Introduction | Architecture | Sculpture | Pottery | Conclusion | Bibliography


Something that the Greeks placed a lot of value on was their Gods. Unlike the churches we have today, temples were not places you would enter to worship. These were the God's homes on Earth, a place that they would visit or stay in. They would generally house a grand statue or depiction of the God it was built for, which is the body the God would occupy during their visits to the city. Greeks were early users of the post and lintel system of building. simplified post & lintal diagramMost temples were made of stone or marble as these had great lasting power. The basic principal of the post and lintel system is that two vertical posts (columns) hold up a horizontal beam (entablature). This evenly distributes gravity's pull and holds up the roof. This system, especially when used with stone, can be deceptive. Vertical posts of stone can be thinner than expected due to stone's great compressive strength. the classical orderFor this reason, early Greek temples in the Doric order had thick, heavy columns. There is a capital which is often fairly wide, and it lacks a base. Fluting can be seen, but it is not as noticeable as in later columns. Triglyphs are carved to appear like the end of of wooden beams, harkening back to the days of wooden construction. Though generally the Doric order was the plainest of the three canonical orders, it still followed the rules of harmony and balance that the Greeks so strongly believed in. As Vitruvius explained, "...they measured a man's foot, and finding its length the sixth part of his height, they gave the column a similar proportion, that is, they made its height, including the capital, six times the thickness of the shaft, measured at the base. Thus the Doric order obtained its proportion, its strength, and its beauty, from the human figure." This again shows the importance Greeks placed on man and the human body. As architects became more sure of construction techniques, temples began to have thinner columns. This was the beginning of the Ionic order. More elegant than the Doric, Ionic construction had thinner, more delicate columns and features. Generally, Ionic columns sit atop a base. The most easily recognizable feature of the Ionic order, however, is the volutes that are carved into the capital. It is not clear if these were inspired by ram's horns, sea shells, the ovules of a clover native to Greece, or if they were simply attractive geometric additions. Either way, these have become heavily related to Greek architecture. The final order, is lighter and more intricate still. The Corinthian order, which started as a style of interior decor, became a favourite on the Romans due to its attractive design and versatility. Similar to the ionic order in thinness and a base. The capital, however, was decorated with carved acanthus leaves and rosettes.
These columns were arranged in different ways, from several for decoration, or one or two rows completely surrounding a temple. Most temples, in all orders were peripteral. This means that there was single row of columns surrounding a temple. A very famous example of this style of building is the Parthenon, as seen in the sketches below. The less common form was dipteral. floor plan of a dipteral templeThis means that there were two rows of columns going around all four sides of the temple, such as the temple of Diana at Ephesus. Often, some of these columns were removed to allow more room for processions, and this was called pseudo-dipteral. Inside and outside temples, especially Ionic and Corinthian ones, decorated friezes could be found. portion of parthenon friezeCarved friezes depicting processions, battles or other art could be found on the entablature of a building. The entablature would be split up by triglyphs, and between these would be the frequently decorated metopes. These would also likely be painted with bright colours.





The Parthenon, elevation & floor plan

Something that the Greeks had which was different from previous civilizations was the desire to change and perfect their art. This is not to say that the Greeks didn't have ideals, but they still had a constant search for perfection deeply engrained in their culture. As is evidenced in the evolution of the columns, Greek architecture was constantly changing to become more perfect and appealing. the general trend was for architecture to become more delicate and detailed. Other changes that occured between Classical and Hellenistic building times were the location of the friezes. In classical time, the frieze would be at the top of the temple. As time went on, the frieze was moved so that it was closer to eye level and could be observed by those around the temple more easily.