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Greek Architecture

Our word architecture
comes from the Greek
architecton, which
means master
Early Greek architecture
therefore employed
wood, not stone.
These early structures,
as well as those of mudbrick, have not survived.

Wood Features in Stone

By the 6th Century
BC, stone replaced
wood in the
construction of
important temples.
Designs still reflected
their origins in wood,

In moving from wood to stone,
builders had to adapt to the
differing properties of their
building materials.
Stone has greater compressive
(resistance to crushing) strength
than wood, but lacks tensile
strength (resistance to bending or
twisting). Therefore, while
columns/posts might be relatively
thin, the entablature/beams, must
be quite thick.

Greek temples, like
Egyptian temples,
used basic post-andbeam construction.
This is sometimes
referred to as


Temple of Hera, Paestum

Hephaistion, Athens

Early temples had

massive pillars as
architects worried
about their ability to
support the weight
Later temples appear
more elegant.

Some experts feel that
the entasis, the outward
bulging in the middle of
Greek columns, may
originally have been an
imitation of the effect of
great compression in
wooden posts.
It also serves as a kind of
correction to an optical
illusion, however.

Entasis counteracts the tendency of
the eye to reach upward, forcing it
to travel up and down the shaft.
Columns that are straight appear
thinner in the middle when seen
against light, making the supports
appear flimsy.
The middle bulge counteracts this.
The upper 2/3 of the shafts to the
right are tapered.

Temples - Purpose
Unlike modern churches or
mosques, Greek temples
were not meant to be
meeting places for
They were homes for the
communitys god or
goddess and a place to keep

Temples - Purpose

In the mild climate of Greece, ceremonies

generally took place outdoors.
Even the alter, upon which sacrifices were made,
were outside the temple structure.

Temple Forms
Greek temples, like
Egyptian ones, tended
to follow set patterns,
which were regarded
as ideal forms.
Variations are few in
any given period,
tending to reflect the
choice of a particular
classical order, rather
than new and novel

The Classical Orders

The three
classical orders

The Doric Order

Doric columns are the
heaviest in appearance
The capital is plain.
The shaft is thick
though it loses some
of its mass over time.
There is no base.

The Ionic Order

These have greater
The capital has
distinctive volutes.
The shaft is thinner
than its Doric
A base is apparent.

The Corinthian Order

This is also a tall,
elegant form.
The capital has
distinctive acanthus
leaf decoration.
A base is also

Parts of a Greek Temple

There are four
distinct parts to a
greek temple.
The bottom,
horizontal part is the
steps. Most Greek
temples had three of
This part is called the

Parts of a Greek Temple

The next section is
vertical and is the
Most columns had a
base (though not the
Doric), at the bottom, a
shaft in the middle, and
a capital at the top.
The shaft may be
smooth or fluted.

Parts of a Greek Temple

Above the column is
the entablature. If
the column is the leg,
think of this as the
It has 3 parts: the
architrave, a kind of
The frieze, a
decorated part
The cornice the top.

Parts of a Greek Temple

The top section is angled
and is called the pediment.
The sloping top part is
called the sloping cornice.
The triangular part below
is called the tympanum.
This is often carved and
Sometimes there are caved
features sticking up from
the room. These are called
antifixae or acroterions.

Plans of Greek Temples

The grandeur and
evident expense of a
temple can be seen in
the number of columns
Simple tempes have
blank walls around a
naos, or chapel. With
an open area or porch in
front, called a pronaos,
with two or four
supporting columns.

Designs of Greek Temples

Designs of Greek Temples

Reconstruction of the Parthenon

in Nashville.

Grander temples, like

the Parthenon, had
both a front and back
porch, as well as a
colonnade surrounding
the entire structure.
This is called a
peripteral temple.

Designs of Greek Temples

Designs of Greek Temples

Grander still, and
generally from
the Hellenistic
age, are dipteral
They have a
double colonnade
Artists reconstruction of the Temple
of Artemis, Ephesus, Turkey

Designs of Greek Temples

Important Structures The

The most
famous Greek
topped the
These include:
the Propylaea,
the Temple of
Athena Nike,
the Parthenon,
and the

The Propylaea
This is the
entry point to
the acropolis.

Temple of Athena Nike

This is a small temple
dedicated to the
victorious Athena.
The ratio of height to
diameter of the
columns is 7:1 and not
the 9:1 or 10:1
generally found in
Ionic temples.

The Parthenon
This is the most
important and
perfectly formed
temple on the
Dedicated to Athena, it
housed an enormous
cult image.

This building is the
culmination of
Classical Greek
Optical refinements
are many, and the
result is a building
reflecting the Greek
concept of arete,
Click here to see a NOVA video clip on the Parthenons optical refinements.

The Parthenon
One of the Parthenons most
impressive features was not
seen by most worshippers
the great frieze showing the
Panathenaic Procession.
The colour of this
reconstruction is indicative
of what much of the
structure would have looked
like before being bleached
by centuries of
Mediterranean sun.

The Erechtheum
This is a complex
building of up to four
distinct spaces.
It is also built on a
slope, so its walls are
of differing heights.
It is dedicated to
Athena Polias and
Poseidon Erechtheus.

The Erechtheum

The most distinctive element of this building is the

Porch of the Maidens.

Important Structures The Great

Altar of Pergamum
This Hellenistic
building broke
completely with
traditional style.
The frieze was brought
down to the level of
outside observers.
The colonnade was
raised above it.

The Greek Heritage

Greek architecture
had a lasting
impact on the
The Romans
adopted it as an
ideal, but modified
it to meet their
practical needs.

The Greek Heritage

Today, elements of
Greek architecture
surround us
everywhere, from the
Doric columns gracing
local homes to the
great Ionic capitals of
the Vancouver Art

The Greek Heritage

Greek forms
have become an
integral part of
the vocabulary
of world

The Supreme Court of the United States

ThAnK yOu