Greek architecture is renowned across the world, as it provided some of the best and stunning structures in ancient times, which has inspired many towns and cities that came after them and even transcended to museums, monuments, and government buildings throughout the globe today. No surprise, as Greek architects flair for columns, simplicity, symmetry, balance, harmony, and perspective is undoubtedly remarkable, giving birth to many awe-inspiring edifices and serving as the foundation of classical architecture. Read below some of the most interesting facts about Greek architecture that will give you a glimpse of why it persisted through the ages.
Facts About Greek Architectural Structures
Truth to be told, thinking about ancient Greek architecture usually pertains to its temples. They are the most common type of structures made in ancient Greece, dedicated to their different gods and goddesses. Temples stored religious statues and became the people’s place of worship. Perhaps the most popular temple made was the Parthenon, built for the Greek goddess Athena.
Aside from temples, another type of building that became prevalent in the Hellenic era was the open-air theaters. Nearly all of all Greek cities had a theater as it initially served as the venue for many religious festivals, honoring god Dionysus, and aimed to encourage peace among cities and individuals. Later on, these theaters encompassed their initial purposes, and were utilized to hold theater performances. Most of these theaters were constructed along hillsides and were capable of holding thousands of spectators.
Another specialized building is the agora or the assembly hall. It is similar to a theater, as it features open space, but is relatively smaller. Moreover, it is strategically located at the heart of the city or near its harbor and was mainly used as the citizens’ meeting ground both for commercial and social purposes and for conducting the city’s legal, political and administrative duties. The Ancient Agora of Athens is the prime example of the structure.
Other structural forms include the gymnasia (gymnasium), colonnades (stoas), mausoleum, stadium, bouleuterion (town council building), which all played integral functions in ancient Greek life.
Facts About the Greek Architectural Orders
There were three systems used in the style of the buildings called orders. There are five orders in Classical Architecture, but three of them were devised by the ancient Greeks: the Doric, the Ionic, and Corinthian. Orders vary mainly in the columns’ shape and the frieze’s decoration.
The Doric Order is the oldest, simplest, and thickest of the Greek orders. It features baseless columns and smooth, round and unadorned capitals (crown). Meanwhile, the frieze is characterized by alternating metopes and triglyphs. The Doric Order bears a significant moment in architecture as it signalled the shift of construction material from temporary ones (wood) to permanent and more durable mediums (stones). Some iconic examples of the Doric Orders include the Parthenon, Temple of Hephaestus, and the Temple of the Delians.
As its name suggests, the Ionic Order traces its roots in Ionia, present-day Turkey. The Ionic columns feature a column with a decorated base and are taller, thinner, than the Doric columns. Moreover, the Ionic Order is also more decorative, featuring scroll-like adornments and other patterns on its capitals called volutes. With a more slender appearance, Ionic columns were primarily to provide an elegant touch to structures. The Heraion of Samos and the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus are examples of structures built under the Ionic Order.
Renowned as the most adorned among the Greek Orders, the Corinthian Orders grew directly from the Ionic Order. However, it is more elaborately-decorated, featuring capitals designed with scrolls and unfurled acanthus plants leaves plus other floral patterns. The Temple of Olympian Zeus is the most famous structure showcasing the Corinthian columns.
Greek architecture, with its distinctive architectural structures and orders, have brought impeccable influence to the succeeding centuries to Western history. In the modern era, many buildings, such as the Lincoln Memorial, White House, Griffith Park’s Greek Theater, and the Prado Museum, used the same designs, providing the lasting legacy of Greek architecture in their facades.