Greek Orders: Timeless Ancient Greek Architecture Past and Present
today’s modern world, there are many heavy influences of Greek architecture. Take
a look at buildings and monuments today, and you will see many designs
reflected from ancient Greek landmarks. These once traditional structures are
now contemporary designs of the world today.
architecture itself, three important systems have maintained their place within
history, and they are still valid today. Regardless of the designs the ancient
Greeks have created in the past, we can see that their influence on
architecture is still relevant today. These are the three classical orders of
architecture: The Doric, Ionic and Corinthian orders. Vitruvius, the Greek
educated Roman architect reflects that the Doric is considered male, the Ionic
is considered female and the Corinthian is neither. Any town visited in the
western world will display its fair quota of Doric, Ionic and Corinthian style
buildings Some of the most famous modern building structures in the world, such
as the Pantheon in Paris and the capital building in Washington DC are heavily
influenced in design by these three orders, even though they have no connection
with classical civilization.
ancient Greek architecture is known for its 3 orders, the third order, the
Corinthian, is much less used within Greek architecture style buildings in
Greece. The Corinthian order is more popular in Roman architecture. All 3
orders are prominent in today’s world. To
the amateur viewer, all three orders may look the same in terms of design and
characteristics. However, on closer inspection and thorough research, it is
obvious that the three orders do in actual fact have their own distinct style.
The first and the oldest order existing today is the Doric, and it is the most famous
style used in the modern world today. The Acropolis and Parthenon are two of
the most famous Doric style buildings in Ancient Greek architecture, and their
structures can be seen in one of today’s contemporary buildings, the Whitehouse
in the USA. The Oslo building in Norway is another example of Doric style
architecture. In a nutshell, the columns are pillars, and these pillars are
used today in many other public buildings. When referencing ancient Greek
architecture, The Parthenon, a grand building with huge pillars, is found in
architecture references the Greek speaking people of the Greek mainland, the
Peloponnese and the islands of the Aegean Sea. The ancient style of architecture
dates back to 900BC, going right up to the first century AD. It is, therefore,
astounding that such an old style forms a major part of the modern structures
in our time.
simplicity, proportion, perspective and harmony within ancient Greek buildings
greatly influenced Roman architects. So great was the effect, it gave birth to
two more orders created by the Romans, the Tuscan order and the Composite order.
Classical architecture was now complete with its five orders.
architecture is a representation of order, beauty and democracy. Since the
Greek style has lasted through thousands of years, its architecture gives the
suggestion that it is ageless. It is these characteristics and qualities that
leave an impression of awe and appreciation, as well as being a source of
inspiration, through its huge columns, fine craftsman and timeless beauty.
report will discuss two of the most widely copied and most famous orders in
ancient Greek architecture, the Doric and Ionic. The third order Corinthian,
was widely used in Roman architecture, and will not be discussed in detail in
essay will address the design and structure of ancient Greek Doric and Ionic
buildings and their modern day counterparts, as well as looking at types of
materials used to build the magnificent structures of the past and the present.
The report will look at the connection of these ancient Greek structure and the
divinities that were honoured with their construction.
oldest, simplest and biggest of the three Greek orders is the Doric. This order
was developed by the archaic Greek civilization, and it was the most popular of
the three Greek orders. By the 7th century, the Doric was a very
well established order, found by Dorus. With the construction of the Parthenon
in 438BC, the Doric order had reached its full potential by creating perhaps
the most elaborate, extremely beautiful and impressive structure of the time.
the Greek educated Roman architect, declared that this order was in fact
muscular in character, comparing its fundamental proportion, a column shaft six
times its diameter, to the proportion, strength and beauty of man’s body.
Vitruvius also stated that the Doric was more suited to temples dedicated to
masculine gods such as Hercules, who was the ultimate He-Man, the greatest and
most powerful paragon of masculinity. The other orders, the Ionic, was more
feminine in style, whereas the Corinthian, was in between the styles of the
other two orders.
Doric order was a sophisticated architectural style that set the standards for
beauty, harmony and strength that is found in European architecture in today’s
modern world. Being one of the simplest orders style wise, it is recognisable
by its two main features, the columns and the entablature (the structure that
rests on top of the columns). The columns are all different in all of the three
orders, and the purpose of these columns was to support the ceiling. The Doric
columns are simple and tapered, wider at the bottom and narrowing towards the
top. Columns in the Doric orders did not have a base, they rested directly onto
the pavement of the structure (in this case the temples). The wide flat section
on top of column is called the capital, and it is this which directly supports
the ceiling weight. They are smooth and undecorated, and are flared in design,
meaning the top is wider than the base. Hence the simplicity of this order.
of the most well-known ancient Greek Doric structures is the temple of
Parthenon in Athens, dedicated to the Goddess Athena. This temple also
contained features of the Ionic order. Although mentioned earlier that mostly
the Doric order was considered masculine, this famous structure is in actual
fact dedicated to a female goddess. This construction is the most important
surviving building of classical Greek architecture, and is considered an enduring
symbol of ancient Greece, and one of the world’s greatest cultural monuments,
architecturally as well as artistically. Its perfect proportions, harmonious connections,
intricate architectural details and style has influenced architecture many
centuries after it was built.
The Parthenon – part of the
Acropolis in Athens
Parthenon is comparable to modern day architecture in the form of the Lincoln
Memorial in Washington DC, found in the United States of America. This was
constructed to honour the 16th president of the United State of
America, Abraham Lincoln. The designer of the Lincoln Memorial Henry Bacon
enjoyed Greek architecture, and decided to base this impressive structure on
the Parthenon. There is a similar representation between the two structures;
one was the birth place of democracy, the other fought for it with tremendous
courage and determination. Looking closely at the Lincoln Memorial, one can see
that there are almost exact similar features to the Parthenon. The columns
follow exact to those of the Parthenon in Doric orders. It is the feature which
gives the memorial its Majestics temple-like appearance. When approaching it,
one is almost in awe of its beauty.
The Lincoln Memorial,
Washington DC, USA
felt the Parthenon, a symbol of where democracy was born, was a fitting design
for a memorial to a man who defended democracy. The final design of the Lincoln
Memorial featured 36 columns which represented the 36 united states at the time
of Lincoln’s death.
most noticeable characteristics between the Parthenon and Lincoln memorial are
the columns and the use of marble. The interiors of both of these structures
are also very similar. Both are divided into chambers, and the statue to whom
the structures are dedicated to form the focal point. So similar are these two
magnificent buildings, their functions are also almost identical: The Parthenon
was built to honour the Greek Goddess Athena, and Lincoln Memorial is a symbol
of the people honouring their leader, President Abraham Lincoln.
Goddess Athena, and Abraham Lincoln, both have similarities in the sense that
where Athena was the protector of the city state named after her, Lincoln was
also considered as a protector, a fighter for his people and for democracy. Where
the Parthenon was built to worship the Greek goddess Athena, and show off the
wealth and power of Athens, the Lincoln memorial was built to honour the 16th
president of the United States and draw a parallel between governments: “what
better way existed to remember a man who struggled to defend democracy, than to
a model his tribute after one found in the birth place of democracy?” (National
at both the structures, it is easy to see that although they were built on the
form of a Greek temple, the Lincoln Memorial has differences from the original
Doric order found in the Parthenon. One noticeable difference is that on top of
the Lincoln Memorial the prism is rectangular, rather than the triangular one
seen in the Parthenon. Another difference is that of the stairs: The Lincoln Memorial
has a large entrance and wider, magnificent staircase in comparison to the
Ionic characteristics also feature in the Parthenon. This style of architecture
originated from the Ionian Island, off the coast of Greece. The change from the
Doric order to the Ionic order in the midst of construction of the Parthenon is
said to be due to Athens losing the Peloponnesian war to Sparta.
materials were sourced to build both structures. One common material used to
build both the Parthenon and the Lincoln Memorial was marble. The Parthenon’s
massive foundations were made of limestone, and its columns were built using approximately
100,000 tonnes of Pentelic marble. This special marble was sought from the
nearest Mt. Pentelicus, and this stone was known for its pure white appearance
– quite fitting for a deity that was known as virgin. The marble stone contains
traces of iron, which, overtime, oxidised creating a honey colour on the
marble. Inside each column section, lead
was used to cover the column. Iron clamps held the lead together to provide
more stability. The lead prevented the iron from corroding and breaking the
marble, therefore sustaining longevity. It also acted as a cushion between each
section to absorb shocks from any earthquakes that occurred.
Yule marble was used to build the Lincoln Memorial walls, entablature, altic
frieze, Doric columns and the upper steps. The tripods were built using
Tennessee Pink Marble, whereas the lower steps and terrace walls were created
using pink Milford and Massachusetts granite. This all forms the exterior of
wall and Ionic columns in the interior of the memorial were built using Indiana
limestone. The statue and plinth were created from George white marble, and the
pedestal and chamber floors were created using Tennessee Pink Marble.
ceiling panels were built from Alabama marble which was saturated in with
melted beeswax for translucency.
considering the list of materials used to build the Lincoln memorial and the
states the materials came from, it is quite evident that materials were sourced
from different states around America. This characterises the coming together of
the states to build such a memorial dedicated to the fighter for democracy.
Abraham Lincoln was no less than a ‘Greek God’, who was ‘worshipped’ by his
second order in Greek classical architecture is the Ionic order. A heavy column
small in height, with a plain capital above it made up the features of the
Doric order. Columns in this particular order did not have a base. In
comparison, the Ionic order column is slender in appearance, and much taller.
The pillars are flute-like, supported by a large base at the bottom. On the top
of the column are two volutes (scrolls) which are placed in the echinus of the
comparison to the Doric style temple, known for its heavy, sombre and plain,
unadorned appearance (found in the rocky areas of the Greek Mainland), the
Ionic temples were much lighter and more elegant in characteristics, and were
perceived to have a more ‘feminine’ appearance. The Ionic temples are believed
to have taken influence from various eastern cultures.
of the greatest ancient Greek temples which is modelled using the Ionic order
is the Erechtheion, found on the north side of the Acropolis in Athens. This
temple was built in dedication to both Athena and Poseidon. The name Erechtheion
is derived from a shrine dedicated to the Greek hero Erechtheus. There are many
suggestions that this temple may have been built to honour the King Erechtheus,
who is mentioned in Homer’s Iliad as a great king and ruler of Athens.
The Erechtheion, part of the
Acropolis in Athens
such building in today’s world which is inspired by the columns of Erechtheion
is the Old Senate Chamber, found in the United States Capital Building. This
whole building itself is full of Ionic characteristics. Eight Ionic columns
support the chamber’s gallery, and these are made from variegated marble. This
temple is one of the finest examples of Greek Ionic order. The Goddess Athena
is said to have caused an Olive tree to grow here when contesting Poseidon for
the honour. Poseidon conveyed his power by striking the Acropolis with his
trident. The result of this was the sea water flowing out, and Poseidon was the
God of water. Athena also struck the ground in demonstration of her powers, and
the result of this was the growth of an olive tree. Olives being very important
to the Greeks, Athena won the contest and was honoured as the deity of the
Old Senate Chamber Gallery,
US Capitol Building, Washington DC, USA
material was a common factor in the building of these huge structures. The Erechtheion,
like the Parthenon, was built from Pentelic marble, sourced from nearby Mount
Pentelicus. Like the Parthenon, the architects of the Erechtheion also wanted
to give this structure a pure white appearance (again referring to purity and
sacredness), and with traces of iron in the marble, a honey colour appeared on
the marble after the iron had oxidised over time.
the same way, the Old State Chamber compares with the Erechtheion in terms of
inspiration and the use of marble materials. This is just one of the many
materials that ancient Greeks used to create their magnificent buildings.
Old Senate Chamber is very richly decorated. Designer Benjamin Henry Latrobe
constructed this chamber, alongside his successor, Charles Bulfinch. The
visitor’s gallery within the chamber is supported by Ionic marble columns.
architecture is very much visible all throughout the USA, mostly on many
Washington DC memorials and buildings. Limestone and a columns structure are
key to Greek architecture and these are still relevant today. These are the impressive symbols and styles
of the Ancient Greek culture. Ionic buildings today such as the US Treasury
Building in Washington DC and the DAR Constitution Hall reflects the ancient
Greek style of architecture.
the Parthenon and the Erechtheion are found in the Acropolis, a collection of
temples, districts and other buildings. The Lincoln Memorial and the Old Senate
Chamber are both found in Washington DC, the government capital of the United
States of America. They both contain elements of Doric and Ionic orders.
architecture is rooted in antiquity. Greek architecture represents order,
beauty and democracy. There is a sense of agelessness, as Greek style
architecture is still very current in today’s world. Modern day structures such
as libraries, courthouses, museums, monuments, and government buildings all
contain huge elements of Greek architecture, mostly within Doric and Ionic
order influences. The style of architecture is unique and sophisticated.
elements from the ancient world are what makes up a classical building. It is
easily recognisable, as the building is ‘wearing a uniform’, i.e. building with
a similar style fall into the same categories, in this case the Doric and
Ionic. The intention of classical architecture is to achieve harmony within its
parts, and this is demonstrated in buildings of the classical orders such as
the Parthenon and the Erechtheion, and the Lincoln Memorial and the Old Senate
Chamber in the US Capitol building. The common connection between the classical
orders is the entablature – the columns do not mean anything if they do not
have something to support them. The main
features of all the columns were that they were upright. They began with a base
(except the Doric), and continued with a shaft in between the base and the capital
above it. This signifies the human body, the feet, the body and the head.
Symmetry and unity of parts to the whole structure was of much importance as
this signified the democracy of Greece.
temples, ranging from the Parthenon and beyond, are decorated with images of
murder, battle and sacrifice. Some of the best examples of battles are depicted
on the Temple of Artmeis. Throughout Athens, there are numerous depictions of
war within the temples such as the Parthenon and the Temple of Athena Nike.
Ionic temples are not far behind with their depictions of violence. Although
considered feminine and graceful, the first Ionic temple was dedicated to the
Goddess Artemis, known as the hunting goddess. It is believed that she could be
bloodthirsty, and is known to have asked for human sacrifice. It is these characteristics which give the
impression that the Ionic order was far more violent (regardless of its grace
and femininity) than the Doric.
modern world temple is high on Mount Vernon, in the United States of America
and also well-known as President George Washington’s residence. An organisation of ‘priestesses’, the Mount Vernon
Ladies Association are responsible for the administration of this ‘temple’, and
keep it a sacred shrine. Many Americans believe Mount Vernon is a sacred
legend, a house which is a place of worship.
Doric style is attributed to Gods such as Hercules. The order represents
masculinity – simple, tall, muscular and powerful, like Hercules, who was also
considered a divine hero. Hercules is a common representation in Greek
architecture. The Ionic order is attributed to the Goddess Hera. Ionic columns,
as per Vitruvius, were considered as feminine – the slender columns represent
the female body, and the scrolls convey a woman’s hair.
times were fascinated with Greek classical architecture. The 19th
century building, for example, Northington Grange in Hampshire, England is
modelled on Greek Revival architecture. The architect, William Wilkins,
transformed this building into the style of an ancient Greek temple. The huge
Doric portico is based on the Theseion (the Temple of Hephaestus) in Athens.
world’s architecture will always be full of classical design, with a modern
twist thrown in. Ancient Greek architecture has a timeless beauty to it, it has
survived through many a millennium, and will continue to do so. With the
introduction of new technology every day, one thing is certain, that the
language and design of classical architecture is here to stay.
Classical Language of Architecture – John Summerson
Dancing Column On Order in Architecture – Joseph Rykwert
Lost Meaning of Architecture – George Hersey
Earth The Temple and The Gods Greek Sacred Architecture – Vincent Scully