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Readings for Ancient Greece 2 -- Unit 14, Classical Greek Architecture

Discussions of Greek Architecture usually concern architecture as it was developed in the "Classical" period, i.e., the period of reconstruction after the sacking of Athens by the Persians in 480 BC.

Table of Contents

1 Ancient Greek Architecture
2 Introduction to Greek Architecture
3 Greek Architecture c. 900 - 27 BC
4 Color Sculpture and Architecture: Philadelphia Revives the Ancient Art of Greek Polychrome
5  Acropolis of Athens
6  Buildings and structures of the Athens classical agora
7  Sanctuary of Olympia Greece
8   Delphi Sacred Area
9  Additional Internet links

Text in colored letters are Internet links; click on links to go to additional information.  Use your web browser "back" or "return" link to come back to this page.

1  Ancient Greek architecture

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Parthenon under restoration in 2008

The architecture of Ancient Greece is the architecture produced by the Greek-speaking people (Hellenic people) whose culture flourished on the Greek mainland and the Peloponnese, the Aegean Islands, and in colonies in Anatolia and Italy for a period from about 900 BC until the 1st century AD, with the earliest remaining architectural works dating from around 600 BC.[1]

Ancient Greek architecture is best known from its temples, many of which are found throughout the region, mostly as ruins but many substantially intact. The second important type of building that survives all over the Hellenic world is the open-air theatre, with the earliest dating from around 350 BC. Other architectural forms that are still in evidence are the processional gateway (propylon), the public square (agora) surrounded by storied colonnade (stoa), the town council building (bouleuterion), the public monument, the monumental tomb (mausoleum) and the stadium.

Ancient Greek architecture is distinguished by its highly formalised characteristics, both of structure and decoration. This is particularly so in the case of temples where each building appears to have been conceived as a sculptural entity within the landscape, most often raised on high ground so that the elegance of its proportions and the effects of light on its surfaces might be viewed from all angles.[2] Nikolaus Pevsner refers to "the plastic shape of the [Greek] temple.....placed before us with a physical presence more intense, more alive than that of any later building".[3]

The formal vocabulary of Ancient Greek architecture, in particular the division of architectural style into three defined orders: the Doric Order, the Ionic Order and the Corinthian Order, was to have profound effect on Western architecture of later periods. The architecture of Ancient Rome grew out of that of Greece and maintained its influence in Italy unbroken until the present day. From the Renaissance, revivals of Classicism have kept alive not only the precise forms and ordered details of Greek architecture, but also its concept of architectural beauty based on balance and proportion. The successive styles of Neoclassical architecture and Greek Revival architecture followed and adapted Ancient Greek styles closely.




The mainland and islands of Greece are rocky, with deeply indented coastline, and rugged mountain ranges with few substantial forests. The most freely available building material is stone. Limestone was readily available and easily worked.[4] There is an abundance of high quality white marble both on the mainland and islands, particularly Paros and Naxos. This finely grained material was a major contributing factor to precision of detail, both architectural and sculptural, that adorned Ancient Greek architecture.[5] Deposits of high quality potter's clay were found throughout Greece and the Islands, with major deposits near Athens. It was used not only for pottery vessels, but also roof tiles and architectural decoration.[6]

The climate of Greece is maritime, with both the coldness of winter and the heat of summer tempered by sea breezes. This led to a lifestyle where many activities took place outdoors. Hence temples were placed on hilltops, their exteriors designed as a visual focus of gatherings and processions, while theatres were often an enhancement of a naturally occurring sloping site where people could sit, rather than a containing structure. Colonnades encircling buildings, or surrounding courtyards provided shelter from the sun and from sudden winter storms.[5]

The light of Greece may be another important factor in the development of the particular character of Ancient Greek architecture. The light is often extremely bright, with both the sky and the sea vividly blue. The clear light and sharp shadows give a precision to the details of landscape, pale rocky outcrops and seashore. This clarity is alternated with periods of haze that varies in colour to the light on it. In this characteristic environment, the Ancient Greek architects constructed buildings that were marked by precision of detail.[5] The gleaming marble surfaces were smooth, curved, fluted, or ornately sculpted to reflect the sun, cast graded shadows and change in colour with the ever-changing light of day.

The rugged indented coastline at Rhamnous, Attica
The Theatre and Temple of Apollo in mountainous country at Delphi
The Acropolis, Athens, is high above the city on a natural prominence.
The Islands of the Aegean from Cape Sounion


Historians divide Ancient Greek civilization into two eras, the Hellenic period (from around 900 BC to the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC), and the Hellenistic period (323 BC to 30 AD).[7] During the earlier (Hellenic) period, substantial works of architecture began to appear (around 600 BC). During the later (Hellenistic) period, Greek culture spread widely, initially as a result of Alexander's conquest of other lands, and later as a result of the rise of the Roman Empire, which adopted much of Greek culture.[1][8]

Before the Hellenic era, two major cultures had dominated the region: the Minoan (c. 2800–1100 BC), and the Mycenaean (c.1500–1100 BC). Minoan is the name given by modern historians to the culture of the people of ancient Crete, known for its elaborate and richly decorated palaces, and for its pottery painted with floral and marine motifs. The Mycenaean culture, which flourished on the Peloponnesus, was quite different in character. Its people built citadels, fortifications and tombs rather than palaces, and decorated their pottery with bands of marching soldiers rather than octopus and seaweed. Both these civilizations came to an end around 1100 BC, that of Crete possibly because of volcanic devastation, and that of Mycenae because of an invasion by the Dorian people who lived on the Greek mainland.[9] Following these events, there was a period from which few signs of culture remain. This period is thus often referred to as a Dark Age.

The towns established by the Dorian people were ruled initially by an aristocracy, and later by “tyrants”, leaders who rose from the merchant or warrior classes. Some cities, such as Sparta, maintained a strongly ordered and conservative character, like that of the Mycenae. The culture of Athens, on the other hand, was influenced by the influx of Ionian people from Asia Minor. In the cultural diversity resulting from that influx, Athenian culture developed the art of logic, and with it the idea of democracy.


Black figure Amphora, Atalante painter (500-490 BC), shows proportion and style that are hallmarks of Ancient Greek art
The Kritios Boy, (c.480 BC), typifies the tradition of free-standing figures

The art history of the Hellenic era is generally subdivided into four periods: the Protogeometric (1100-900 BC), the Geometric (900-700 BC), the Archaic (700 - 500 BC) and the Classical (500 - 323 BC)[10] with sculpture being further divided into Severe Classical, High Classical and Late Classical.[1] The first signs of the particular artistic character that defines Ancient Greek architecture are to be seen in the pottery of the Dorian Greeks from the 10th century BC. Already at this period it is created with a sense of proportion, symmetry and balance not apparent in similar pottery from Crete and Mycenae. The decoration is precisely geometric, and ordered neatly into zones on defined areas of each vessel. These qualities were to manifest themselves not only through a millennium of Greek pottery making, but also in the architecture that was to emerge in the 6th century.[11] The major development that occurred was in the growing use of the human figure as the major decorative motif, and the increasing surety with which humanity, its mythology, activities and passions were depicted.[1]

The development in the depiction of the human form in pottery was accompanied by a similar development in sculpture. The tiny stylised bronzes of the Geometric period gave way to life-sized highly formalised monolithic representation in the Archaic period. The Classical period was marked by a rapid development towards idealised but increasingly lifelike depictions of gods in human form.[12] This development had a direct effect on the sculptural decoration of temples, as many of the greatest extant works of Ancient Greek sculpture once adorned temples,[13] and many of the largest recorded statues of the age, such as the lost chryselephantine statues of Zeus at the Temple of Zeus at Olympia and Athena at the Parthenon, Athens, both over 40 feet high, were once housed in them.[14]

Religion and philosophy

above: Modern model of ancient Olympia with the Temple of Zeus at the centre

right: Recreation of the colossal statue of Athena, once housed in the Parthenon, with sculptor Alan LeQuire

The religion of Ancient Greece was a form of nature worship that grew out of the beliefs of earlier cultures. However, unlike earlier cultures, man was no longer perceived as being threatened by nature, but as its sublime product.[8] The natural elements were personified as gods of completely human form, and very human behaviour.[5]

The home of the gods was thought to be Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece. The most important deities were: Zeus, the supreme god and ruler of the sky; Hera, his wife and goddess of marriage; Athena, goddess of wisdom; Poseidon, god of the sea; Demeter, goddess of the earth; Apollo, god of the sun, law, reason, music and poetry; Artemis, goddess of the moon, the hunt and the wilderness; Aphrodite, goddess of love; Ares, God of war; Hermes, god of commerce and medicine, Hephaestus, god of fire and metalwork, and Dionysus, god of wine and fruit-bearing plants.[5] Worship, like many other activities, was done in community, in the open. However, by 600 BC, the gods were often represented by large statues and it was necessary to provide a building in which each of these could be housed. This led to the development of temples.[15]

The Ancient Greeks perceived order in the universe, and in turn, applied order and reason to their creations. Their humanist philosophy put mankind at the centre of things, and promoted well-ordered societies and the development of democracy.[8] At the same time, the respect for human intellect demanded reason, and promoted a passion for enquiry, logic, challenge, and problem solving. The architecture of the Ancient Greeks, and in particular, temple architecture, responds to these challenges with a passion for beauty, and for order and symmetry which is the product of a continual search for perfection, rather than a simple application of a set of working rules.

Architectural character

Early development

There is a clear division between the architecture of the preceding Mycenaean culture and Minoan cultures and that of the Ancient Greeks, the techniques and an understanding of their style being lost when these civilizations fell.[4]

Mycenaean art is marked by its circular structures and tapered domes with flat-bedded, cantilevered courses.[9] This architectural form did not carry over into the architecture of Ancient Greece, but reappeared about 400 BC in the interior of large monumental tombs such as the Lion Tomb at Cnidos (c. 350 BC). Little is known of Mycenaean wooden or domestic architecture and any continuing traditions that may have flowed into the early buildings of the Dorian people.

The Minoan architecture of Crete, was of trabeated form like that of Ancient Greece. It employed wooden columns with capitals, but the columns were of very different form to Doric columns, being narrow at the base and splaying upward.[9] The earliest forms of columns in Greece seem to have developed independently. As with Minoan architecture, Ancient Greek domestic architecture centred on open spaces or courtyards surrounded by colonnades. This form was adapted to the construction of hypostyle halls within the larger temples. The evolution that occurred in architecture was towards public building, first and foremost the temple, rather than towards grand domestic architecture such as had evolved in Crete.[2]

Types of buildings

Domestic buildings

The Greek word for the family or household, oikos, is also the name for the house. Houses followed several different types. It is probable that many of the earliest houses were simple structures of two rooms, with an open porch or "pronaos" above which rose a low pitched gable or pediment.[7] This form is thought to have contributed to temple architecture.

Plan of the House of Colline, 2nd century BC
The House of Masks, Delos, 3rd century BC
The House of Masks
The mosaic floor of a house at Delos

The construction of many houses employed walls of sun dried clay bricks or wooden framework filled with fibrous material such as straw or seaweed covered with clay or plaster, on a base of stone which protected the more vulnerable elements from damp.[4] The roofs were probably of thatch with eaves which overhung the permeable walls. Many larger houses, such as those at Delos, were built of stone and plastered. The roofing material for substantial house was tile. Houses of the wealthy had mosaic floors and demonstrated the Classical style.

Many houses centred on a wide passage or "pasta" which ran the length of the house and opened at one side onto a small courtyard which admitted light and air. Larger houses had a fully developed peristyle courtyard at the centre, with the rooms arranged around it. Some houses had an upper floor which appears to have been reserved for the use of the women of the family.[16]

City houses were built with adjoining walls and were divided into small blocks by narrow streets. Shops were sometimes located in the rooms towards the street. City houses were inward-facing, with major openings looking onto the central courtyard, rather than the street.[7]

Public buildings

The rectangular temple is the most common and best-known form of Greek public architecture. The temple did not serve the same function as a modern church, since the altar stood under the open sky in the temenos or sacred precinct, often directly before the temple. Temples served as the location of a cult image and as a storage place or strong room for the treasury associated with the cult of the god in question, and as a place for devotees of the god to leave their votive offerings, such as statues, helmets and weapons. Some Greek temples appear to have been oriented astronomically.[17] The temple was generally part of a religious precinct known as the acropolis. According to Aristotle, '"the site should be a spot seen far and wide, which gives good elevation to virtue and towers over the neighbourhood".[2] Small circular temples, tholos were also constructed, as well as small temple-like buildings that served as treasuries for specific groups of donors.[18]

Porta Rosa, a street (3rd century BCE) Velia, Italy
The reconstructed Stoa of Attalos, the Agora, Athens
The Bouleuterion, at Priene
The Stadium at Epidauros

During the late 5th and 4th centuries BC, town planning became an important consideration of Greek builders, with towns such as Paestum and Priene being laid out with a regular grid of paved streets and an agora or central market place surrounded by a colonnade or stoa. The completely restored Stoa of Attalos can be seen in Athens. Towns were also equipped with a public fountain where water could be collected for household use. The development of regular town plans is associated with Hippodamus of Miletus, a pupil of Pythagoras.[19][20][21]

Public buildings became "dignified and gracious structures", and were sited so that they related to each other architecturally.[20] The propylon or porch, formed the entrance to temple sanctuaries and other significant sites with the best-surviving example being the Propylaea on the Acropolis of Athens. The bouleuterion was a large public building with a hypostyle hall that served as a court house and as a meeting place for the town council (boule). Remnants of bouleuterion survive at Athens, Olympia and Miletus, the latter having held up to 1200 people.[22]

Every Greek town had an open-air theatre. These were used for both public meetings as well as dramatic performances. The theatre was usually set in a hillside outside the town, and had rows of tiered seating set in a semicircle around the central performance area, the orchestra. Behind the orchestra was a low building called the skênê, which served as a store-room, a dressing-room, and also as a backdrop to the action taking place in the orchestra. A number of Greek theatres survive almost intact, the best known being at Epidaurus, by the architect Polykleitos the Younger.[19]

Greek towns of substantial size also had a palaestra or a gymnasium, the social centre for male citizens which included spectator areas, baths, toilets and club rooms.[22] Other buildings associated with sports include the hippodrome for horse racing, of which only remnants have survived, and the stadium for foot racing, 600 feet in length, of which examples exist at Olympia, Delphi, Epidarus and Ephesus, while the Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens, which seats 45,000 people, was restored in the 19th century and was used in the 1896, 1906 and 2004 Olympic Games.[22][23]

The Palaestra at Olympia, used for boxing and wrestling
Pebble mosaic floor of a house at Olynthos, depicting Bellerophon
The Altar of Hiero II at Syracuse


Column and lintel

Parts of an Ancient Greek temple of the Doric Order:
1. Tympanum, 2. Acroterium, 3. Sima 4. Cornice 5. Mutules 7. Frieze 8. Triglyph 9. Metope
10. Regula 11. Gutta 12. Taenia 13. Architrave 14. Capital 15. Abacus 16. Echinus 17. Column 18. Fluting 19. Stylobate

The architecture of Ancient Greece is of a trabeated or "post and lintel" form, i.e. it is composed of upright beams (posts) supporting horizontal beams (lintels). Although the existent buildings of the era are constructed in stone, it is clear that the origin of the style lies in simple wooden structures, with vertical posts supporting beams which carried a ridged roof. The posts and beams divided the walls into regular compartments which could be left as openings, or filled with sun dried bricks, lathes or straw and covered with clay daub or plaster. Alternately, the spaces might be filled with rubble. It is likely that many early houses and temples were constructed with an open porch or "pronaos" above which rose a low pitched gable or pediment.[7]

The earliest temples, built to enshrine statues of deities, were probably of wooden construction, later replaced by the more durable stone temples many of which are still in evidence today. The signs of the original timber nature of the architecture were maintained in the stone buildings.[24]

A few of these temples are very large, with several, such as the Temple of Zeus Olympus and the Olympieion at Athens being well over 300 feet in length, but most were less than half this size. It appears that some of the large temples began as wooden constructions in which the columns were replaced piecemeal as stone became available. This, at least was the interpretation of the historian Pausanias looking at the Temple of Hera at Olympia in the 2nd century AD.[2]

The stone columns are made of a series of solid stone cylinders or “drums” that rest on each other without mortar, but were sometimes centred with a bronze pin. The columns are wider at the base than at the top, tapering with an outward curve known as “entasis”. Each column has a capital of two parts, the upper, on which rests the lintels, being square and called the “abacus”. The part of the capital that rises from the column itself is called the “echinus”. It differs according to the order, being plain in the Doric Order, fluted in the Ionic and foliate in the Corinthian. Doric and usually Ionic capitals are cut with vertical grooves known as “fluting”. This fluting or grooving of the columns is a retention of an element of the original wooden architecture.[24]

Entablature and pediment

The columns of a temple support a structure that rises in two main stages, the entablature and the pediment.

The entablature is the major horizontal structural element supporting the roof and encircling the entire building. It is composed of three parts. Resting on the columns is the architrave made of a series of stone “lintels” that spanned the space between the columns, and meet each other at a joint directly above the centre of each column.

Above the architrave is a second horizontal stage called the “frieze”. The frieze is one of the major decorative elements of the building and carries a sculptured relief. In the case of Ionic and Corinthian architecture, the relief decoration runs in a continuous band, but in the Doric Order, it is divided into sections called “metopes” which fill the spaces between vertical rectangular blocks called “triglyphs”. The triglyphs are vertically grooved like the Doric columns, and retain the form of the wooden beams that would once have supported the roof.

The upper band of the entablature is called the “cornice”, which is generally ornately decorated on its lower edge. The cornice retains the shape of the beams that would once have supported the wooden roof at each end of the building. At the front and rear of each temple, the entablature supports a triangular structure called the “pediment”. The triangular space framed by the cornices is the location of the most significant sculptural decoration on the exterior of the building.


Every temple rested on a masonry base called the crepidoma, generally of three steps, of which the upper one which carried the columns was the stylobate. Masonry walls were employed for temples from about 600 BC onwards. Masonry of all types was used for Ancient Greek buildings, including rubble, but the finest ashlar masonry was usually employed for temple walls, in regular courses and large sizes to minimise the joints.[7] The blocks were rough hewn and hauled from quarries to be cut and bedded very precisely, with mortar hardly ever being used. Blocks, particularly those of columns and parts of the building bearing loads were sometimes fixed in place or reinforced with iron clamps, dowels and rods of wood, bronze or iron fixed in lead to minimise corrosion.[4]


Door and window openings were spanned with a lintel, which in a stone building limited the possible width of the opening. The distance between columns was similarly affected by the nature of the lintel, columns on the exterior of buildings and carrying stone lintels being closer together than those on the interior, which carried wooden lintels.[25][26] Door and window openings narrowed towards the top.[26] Temples were constructed without windows, the light to the naos entering through the door. It has been suggested that some temples were lit from openings in the roof.[25] A door of the Ionic Order at the Erechtheion, (17 feet high and 7.5 feet wide at the top), retains many of its features intact, including mouldings, and an entablature supported on console brackets. (See Architectural Decoration, below)[26][27][28]

Structure, masonry, openings and roof of Greek temples
The Parthenon, shows the common structural features of Ancient Greek architecture: crepidoma, columns, entablature, pediment.
Temple of Hephaestos, fluted Doric columns with abacuses supporting double beams of the architrave
Erechtheion: masonry, door, stone lintels, coffered ceiling panels
At the Temple of Aphaia the hypostyle columns rise in two tiers, to a height greater than the walls, to support a roof without struts.


Further information: List of Greco-Roman roofs

The widest span of a temple roof was across the cella, or internal space. In a large building, this space contains columns to support the roof, the architectural form being known as hypostyle. It appears that, although the architecture of Ancient Greece was initially of wooden construction, the early builders did not have the concept of the diagonal truss as a stabilising member. This is evidenced by the nature of temple construction in the 6th century BC, where the rows of columns supporting the roof the cella rise higher than the outer walls, unnecessary if roof trusses are employed as an integral part of the wooden roof. The indication is that initially all the rafters were supported directly by the entablature, walls and hypostyle, rather than on a trussed wooden frame, which came into use in Greek architecture only in the 3rd century BC.[7]

Ancient Greek buildings of timber, clay and plaster construction were probably roofed with thatch. With the rise of stone architecture came the appearance of fired ceramic roof tiles. These early roof tiles showed an S-shape, with the pan and cover tile forming one piece. They were much larger than modern roof tiles, being up to 90 cm (35.43 in) long, 70 cm (27.56 in) wide, 3–4 cm (1.18–1.57 in) thick and weighing around 30 kg (66 lb) apiece.[29][30] Only stone walls, which were replacing the earlier mudbrick and wood walls, were strong enough to support the weight of a tiled roof.[31]

The earliest finds of roof tiles of the Archaic period in Greece are documented from a very restricted area around Corinth, where fired tiles began to replace thatched roofs at the temples of Apollo and Poseidon between 700 and 650 BC.[32] Spreading rapidly, roof tiles were within fifty years in evidence for a large number of sites around the Eastern Mediterranean, including Mainland Greece, Western Asia Minor, Southern and Central Italy.[32] Being more expensive and labour-intensive to produce than thatch, their introduction has been explained by the fact that their fireproof quality would have given desired protection to the costly temples.[32] As a side-effect, it has been assumed that the new stone and tile construction also ushered in the end of overhanging eaves in Greek architecture, as they made the need for an extended roof as rain protection for the mudbrick walls obsolete.[31]

Vaults and arches were not generally used, but begin to appear in tombs (in a "beehive" or cantilevered form such as used in Mycenaea) and occasionally, as an external feature, exedrae of voussoired construction from the 5th century BC. The dome and vault never became significant structural features, as they were to become in Ancient Roman architecture.[7]

Temple plans

Further information: List of Ancient Greek temples
Plans of Ancient Greek Temples
Top: 1. distyle in antis, 2. amphidistyle in antis, 3. tholos, 4. prostyle tetrastyle, 5. amphiprostyle tetrastyle,
Bottom: 6. dipteral octastyle, 7. peripteral hexastyle, 8. pseudoperipteral hexastyle, 9. pseudodipteral octastyle

Most Ancient Greek temples were rectangular, and were approximately twice as long as they were wide, with some notable exceptions such as the enormous Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens with a length of nearly 2½ times its width. A number of surviving temple-like structures are circular, and are referred to as tholos.[33] The smallest temples are less that 25 metres (approx. 75 feet) in length, or in the case of the circular tholos, in diameter. The great majority of temples are between 30–60 metres (approx. 100–200 feet) in length. A small group of Doric temples, including the Parthenon, are between 60–80 metres (approx. 200–260 feet) in length. The largest temples, mainly Ionic and Corinthian, but including the Doric Temple of the Olympian Zeus, Agrigento, were between 90–120 metres (approx. 300–390 feet) in length.

The temple rises from a stepped base or "stylobate", which elevates the structure above the ground on which it stands. Early examples, such as the Temple of Zeus at Olympus, have two steps, but the majority, like the Parthenon, have three, with the exceptional example of the Temple of Apollo at Didyma having six.[34] The core of the building is a masonry-built "naos" within which is a cella, a windowless room originally housing the statue of the god. The cella generally has a porch or "pronaos" before it, and perhaps a second chamber or "antenaos" serving as a treasury or repository for trophies and gifts. The chambers were lit by a single large doorway, fitted with a wrought iron grill. Some rooms appear to have been illuminated by skylights.[34]

On the stylobate, often completely surrounding the naos, stand rows of columns. Each temple is defined as being of a particular type, with two terms: one describing the number of columns across the entrance front, and the other defining their distribution.[34]


Proportion and optical illusion

The ideal of proportion that was used by Ancient Greek architects in designing temples was not a simple mathematical progression using a square module. The math involved a more complex geometrical progression, the so-called Golden mean. The ratio is similar to that of the growth patterns of many spiral forms that occur in nature such as rams' horns, nautilus shells, fern fronds, and vine tendrils and which were a source of decorative motifs employed by Ancient Greek architects as particularly in evidence in the volutes of capitals of the Ionic and Corinthian Orders.[35]

                    \frac 1 \varphi = \varphi - 1;\; \varphi = \frac{1 +
                    \sqrt{5}}{2} \approx 1.618

The Ancient Greek architects took a philosophic approach to the rules and proportions. The determining factor in the mathematics of any notable work of architecture was its ultimate appearance. The architects calculated for perspective, for the optical illusions that make edges of objects appear concave and for the fact that columns that are viewed against the sky look different from those adjacent that are viewed against a shadowed wall. Because of these factors, the architects adjusted the plans so that the major lines of any significant building are rarely straight.[35] The most obvious adjustment is to the profile of columns, which narrow from base to top. However, the narrowing is not regular, but gently curved so that each columns appears to have a slight swelling, called entasis below the middle. The entasis is never sufficiently pronounced as to make the swelling wider than the base; it is controlled by a slight reduction in the rate of decrease of diameter.[7]

The main lines of the Parthenon are all curved.
Diagram showing the optical corrections made by the architects of the Parthenon
A sectioned nautilus shell. These shells may have provided inspiration for voluted Ionic capitals.
The growth of the nautilus corresponds to the Golden Mean

The Parthenon, the Temple to the Goddess Athena on the Acropolis in Athens, is the epitome of what Nikolaus Pevsner called "the most perfect example ever achieved of architecture finding its fulfilment in bodily beauty".[3] Helen Gardner refers to its "unsurpassable excellence", to be surveyed, studied and emulated by architects of later ages. Yet, as Gardner points out, there is hardly a straight line in the building.[36] Banister Fletcher calculated that the stylobate curves upward so that its centres at either end rise about 2.6 inches above the outer corners, and 4.3 inches on the longer sides. A slightly greater adjustment has been made to the entablature. The columns at the ends of the building are not vertical but are inclined towards the centre, with those at the corners being out of plumb by about 2.6 inches.[7] These outer columns are both slightly wider than their neighbours and are slightly closer than any of the others.[37]


Orders of Ancient Greek architecture

above: Capital of the Ionic Order showing volutes and ornamented echinus

left: Architectural elements of the Doric Order showing simple curved echinus of capital
above: Capital of the Corinthian Order showing foliate decoration and vertical volutes.


Stylistically, Ancient Greek architecture is divided into three “orders”: the Doric Order, the Ionic Order and the Corinthian Order, the names reflecting their origins. While the three orders are most easily recognizable by their capitals, the orders also governed the form, proportions, details and relationships of the columns, entablature, pediment and the stylobate.[2] The different orders were applied to the whole range of buildings and monuments.

The Doric Order developed on mainland Greece and spread to Italy. It was firmly established and well-defined in its characteristics by the time of the building of the Temple of Hera at Olympia, c. 600 BC. The Ionic order co-existed with the Doric, being favoured by the Greek cites of Ionia, in Asia Minor and the Aegean Islands. It did not reach a clearly defined form until the mid 5th century BC.[24] The early Ionic temples of Asia Minor were particularly ambitious in scale, such as the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.[11] The Corinthian Order was a highly decorative variant not developed until the Hellenistic period and retaining many characteristics of the Ionic. It was popularised by the Romans.[7]

Doric Order

The Doric order is recognised by its capital, of which the echinus is like a circular cushion rising from the top of the column to the square abacus on which rest the lintels. The echinus appears flat and splayed in early examples, deeper and with greater curve in later, more refined examples, and smaller and straight-sided in Hellenistc examples.[38] A refinement of the Doric Column is the entasis, a gentle convex swelling to the profile of the column, which prevents an optical illusion of concavity.[38]

Doric columns are almost always cut with grooves, known as "fluting", which run the length of the column and are usually 20 in number, although sometimes fewer. The flutes meet at sharp edges called arrises. At the top of the columns, slightly below the narrowest point, and crossing the terminating arrises, are three horizontal grooves known as the hypotrachelion. Doric columns have no bases, until a few examples in the Hellenistic period.[38]

The columns of an early Doric temple such as the Temple of Apollo at Syracuse, Sicily, may have a height to base diameter ratio of only 4:1 and a column height to entablature ratio of 2:1, with relatively crude details. A column height to diameter of 6:1 became more usual, while the column height to entablature ratio at the Parthenon is about 3:1. During the Hellenistic period, Doric conventions of solidity and masculinity dropped away, with the slender and unfluted columns reaching a height to diameter ratio of 7.5:1.[38]

The Doric Order
The Temple of Hephaestos, Athens, is a well-preserved temple of peripteral hexastyle plan.
The entablature showing the architrave, frieze with triglyphs and metopes and the overhanging cornice
The tapered fluted columns, constructed in drums, rest directly on the stylobate.

The Doric entablature is in three parts, the architrave, the frieze and the cornice. The architrave is composed of the stone lintels which span the space between the columns, with a joint occurring above the centre of each abacus. On this rests the frieze, one of the major areas of sculptural decoration. The frieze is divided into triglyphs and metopes, the triglyphs, as stated elsewhere in this article, are a reminder of the timber history of the architectural style. Each triglyph has three vertical grooves, similar to the columnar fluting, and below them, seemingly connected, are small strips that appear to connect the triglyphs to the architrave below.[38] A triglyph is located above the centre of each capital, and above the centre of each lintel. However, at the corners of the building, the triglyphs do not fall over the centre the column. The ancient architects took a pragmatic approach to the apparent "rules", simply extending the width of the last two metopes at each end of the building.

The cornice is a narrow jutting band of complex moulding which overhangs and protects the ornamented frieze, like the edge of an overhanging wooden-framed roof. It is decorated on the underside with projecting blocks, mutules, further suggesting the wooden nature of the prototype. At either end of the building the pediment rises from the cornice, framed by moulding of similar form.[38]

The pediment is decorated with figures that are in relief in the earlier examples, but almost freestanding by the time of the Parthenon. Early architectural sculptors found difficulty in creating satisfactory sculptural compositions in the tapering triangular space.[39] By the Early Classical period, with the decoration of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, (486-460 BC) the sculptors had solved the problem by having a standing central figure framed by rearing centaurs and fighting men who are falling, kneeling and lying in attitudes that fit the size and angle of each part of the space.[36] The renowned sculptor Phidias fills the space at the Parthenon (448-432 BC) with a complex array of draped and undraped figures of deities who appear in attitudes of sublime relaxation and elegance.

Ionic Order

The Ionic Order is recognised by its voluted capital, in which a curved echinus of similar shape to that of the Doric Order, but decorated with stylised ornament, is surmounted by a horizontal band that scrolls under to either side, forming spirals or volutes similar to those of the nautilus shell or ram's horn. In plan, the capital is rectangular. It's designed to be viewed frontally but the capitals at the corners of buildings are modified with an additional scroll so as to appear regular on two adjoining faces. In the Hellenistic period, four-fronted Ionic capitals became common.[40]

The Ionic Order
The Erechtheion, Acropolis, Athens: a building of asymmetrical plan, for the display of offerings to Athena
Corner capital with a diagonal volute, showing also details of the fluting separated by fillets.
Frieze of stylised alternating palms and reeds, and a cornice decorated with "egg and dart" moulding.

Like the Doric Order, the Ionic Order retains signs of having its origins in wooden architecture. The horizontal spread of a flat timber plate across the top of a column is a common device in wooden construction, giving a thin upright a wider area on which to bear the lintel, while at the same time reinforcing the load-bearing strength of the lintel itself. Likewise, the columns always have bases, a necessity in wooden architecture to spread the load and protect the base of a comparatively thin upright.[40] The columns are fluted with narrow, shallow flutes that do not meet at a sharp edge but have a flat band or fillet between them. The usual number of flutes is twenty-four but there may be as many as forty-four. The base has two convex mouldings called torus, and from the late Hellenic period stood on a square plinth similar to the abacus.[40]

The architrave of the Ionic Order is sometimes undecorated, but more often rises in three outwardly-stepped bands like overlapping timber planks. The frieze, which runs in a continuous band, is separated from the other members by rows of small projecting blocks. They are referred to as dentils, meaning "teeth", but their origin is clearly in narrow wooden slats which supported the roof of a timber structure.[40] The Ionic Order is altogether lighter in appearance than the Doric, with the columns, including base and capital, having a 9:1 ratio with the diameter, while the whole entablature was also much narrower and less heavy than the Doric entablature. There was some variation in the distribution of decoration. Formalised bands of motifs such as alternating forms known as "egg and dart" were a feature of the Ionic entablatures, along with the bands of dentils. The external frieze often contained a continuous band of figurative sculpture or ornament, but this was not always the case. Sometimes a decorative frieze occurred around the upper part of the naos rather than on the exterior of the building. These Ionic-style friezes around the naos are sometimes found on Doric buildings, notably the Parthenon. Some temples, like the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, had friezes of figures around the lower drum of each column, separated from the fluted section by a bold moulding.[40]

Caryatids, draped female figures used as supporting members to carry the entablature, were a feature of the Ionic order, occurring at several buildings including the Siphnian Treasury at Delphi in 525 BC and at the Erechtheion, about 410 BC.[41]

The Corinthian Order
The Temple of Zeus Olympia, Athens, ("the Olympieion")
The tall capital combines both semi-naturalistic leaves and highly stylised tendrils forming volutes.

Corinthian Order

The Corinthian Order does not have its origin in wooden architecture. It grew directly out of the Ionic in the mid 5th century BC, and was initially of much the same style and proportion, but distinguished by its more ornate capitals.[42] The capital was very much deeper than either the Doric or the Ionic capital, being shaped like a large krater, a bell-shaped mixing bowl, and being ornamented with a double row of acanthus leaves above which rose voluted tendrils, supporting the corners of the abacus, which, no longer perfectly square, splayed above them. According to Vitruvius, the capital was invented by a bronze founder, Callimachus of Corinth, who took his inspiration from a basket of offerings that had been placed on a grave, with a flat tile on top to protect the goods. The basket had been placed on the root of an acanthus plant which had grown up around it.[42] The ratio of the column height to diameter is generally 10:1, with the capital taking up more than 1/10 of the height. The ratio of capital height to diameter is generally about 1.16:1.[42]

The Corinthian Order was initially used internally, as at the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae (c.450-425 BC). In 334 BC it appeared as an external feature on the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens, and then on a huge scale at the Temple of Zeus Olympia in Athens, (174 BC - AD 132).[42] It was popularised by the Romans, who added a number of refinements and decorative details. During the Hellenistic period, Corinthian columns were sometimes built without fluting.[42]


Architectural ornament

Architectural ornament of fired and painted clay
This Archaic gorgon's head antefix has been cast in a mould, fired and painted.
The lion's head gargoyle is fixed to a revetment on which elements of a formal frieze have been painted.

Early wooden structures, particularly temples, were ornamented and in part protected by fired and painted clay revetments in the form of rectangular panels, and ornamental discs. Many fragments of these have outlived the buildings that they decorated and demonstrate a wealth of formal border designs of geometric scrolls, overlapping patterns and foliate motifs.[43] With the introduction of stone-built temples, the revetments no longer served a protective purpose and sculptured decoration became more common.

The clay ornaments were limited to the roof of buildings, decorating the cornice, the corners and surmounting the pediment. At the corners of pediments they were called acroteria and along the sides of the building, antefixes. Early decorative elements were generally semi-circular, but later of roughly triangular shape with moulded ornament, often palmate.[43][44] Ionic cornices were often set with a row of lion's masks, with open mouths that ejected rainwater.[25][44] From the Late Classical period, acroteria were sometimes sculptured figures.See "Architectural sculpture"[45]

In the three orders of Ancient Greek architecture, the sculptural decoration, be it a simple half round astragal, a frieze of stylised foliage or the ornate sculpture of the pediment, is all essential to the architecture of which it is a part. In the Doric order, there is no variation in its placement. Reliefs never decorate walls in an arbitrary way. The sculpture is always located in several predetermined areas, the metopes and the pediment.[43] In later Ionic architecture, there is greater diversity in the types and numbers of mouldings and decorations, particularly around doorways, where voluted brackets sometimes occur supporting an ornamental cornice over a door, such as that at the Erechtheion.[25][27][43] A much applied narrow moulding is called "bead and reel" and is symmetrical, stemming from turned wooden prototypes. Wider mouldings include one with tongue-like or pointed leaf shapes, which are grooved and sometimes turned upward at the tip, and "egg and dart" moulding which alternates ovoid shapes with narrow pointy ones.[25][43][46]

Architectural sculpture

The Archaic Gorgon of the western pediment from the Artemis Temple of Corfu, Archaeological Museum of Corfu
Classical figurative sculpture from the eastern pediment of the Parthenon, British Museum

Architectural sculpture showed a development from early Archaic examples through Severe Classical, High Classical, Late Classical and Hellenistic.[1] Remnants of Archaic architectural sculpture (700 - 500 BC) exist from the early 6th century BC with the earliest surviving pedimental sculpture being fragments of a Gorgon flanked by heraldic panthers from the centre of the pediment of the Artemis Temple of Corfu.[47] A metope from a temple known as "Temple C" at Selinus, Sicily, shows, in a better preserved state, Perseus slaying the Gorgon Medusa.[39] Both images parallel the stylised depiction of the Gorgons on the black figure name vase decorated by the Nessos painter (c. 600 BC), with the face and shoulders turned frontally, and the legs in a running or kneeling position. At this date images of terrifying monsters have predominance over the emphasis on the human figure that developed with Humanist philosophy.[47]

The Severe Classical style (500 - 450 BC) is represented by the pedimental sculptures of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, (470 - 456 BC). The eastern pediment shows a moment of stillness and "impending drama" before the beginning of a chariot race, the figures of Zeus and the competitors being severe and idealised representations of the human form.[48] The western pediment has Apollo as the central figure, "majestic" and "remote", presiding over a battle of Lapiths and Centaurs, in strong contrast to that of the eastern pediment for its depiction of violent action, and described by D. E. Strong as the "most powerful piece of illustration" for a hundred years.[48]

The shallow reliefs and three-dimensional sculpture which adorned the frieze and pediments, respectively, of the Parthenon, are the lifelike products of the High Classical style (450 -400 BC) and were created under the direction of the sculptor Phidias.[49] The pedimental sculpture represents the Gods of Olympus, while the frieze shows the Panathenaic procession and ceremonial events that took place every four years to honour the titular Goddess of Athens.[49] The frieze and remaining figures of the eastern pediment show a profound understanding of the human body, and how it varies depending upon its position and the stresses that action and emotion place upon it. Benjamin Robert Haydon described the reclining figure of Dionysus as "....the most heroic style of art, combined with all the essential detail of actual life".[50]

The names of many famous sculptors are known from the Late Classical period (400 - 323 BC), including Timotheos, Praxiteles, Leochares and Skopas, but their works are known mainly from Roman copies.[1] Little architectural sculpture of the period remains intact. The Temple of Asclepius at Epidauros had sculpture by Timotheos working with the architect Theodotos. Fragments of the eastern pediment survive, showing the Sack of Troy. The scene appears to have filled the space with figures carefully arranged to fit the slope and shape available, as with earlier east pediment of the Temple of Zeus at Olympus. But the figures are more violent in action, the central space taken up, not with a commanding God, but with the dynamic figure of Neoptolemos as he seizes the aged king Priam and stabs him. The remaining fragments give the impression of a whole range of human emotions, fear, horror, cruelty and lust for conquest.[45] The acroteria were sculptured by Timotheus, except for that at the centre of the east pediment which is the work of the architect. The palmate acroteria have been replaced here with small figures, the eastern pediment being surmounted by a winged Nike, poised against the wind.[45]

Hellenistic architectural sculpture (323 - 31 BC) was to become more flamboyant, both in the rendering of expression and motion, which is often emphasised by flowing draperies, the Nike Samothrace which decorated a monument in the shape of a ship being a well known example. The Pergamon Altar (c. 180-160 BC) has a frieze (120 metres long by 2.3 metres high) of figures in very high relief. The frieze represents the battle for supremacy of Gods and Titans, and employs many dramatic devices: frenzy, pathos and triumph, to convey the sense of conflict.[51]

Metopes, friezes and caryatid
Archaic metope: Perseus and Medusa, Temple C at Selinunte.
Severe Classical metope: Labours of Hercules, Temple of Zeus, Olympus
High Classical frieze: Panathenaic Ritual, Parthenon, Athens
Hellenistic frieze: Battle of Gods and Titans, the Pergamon Altar.
Ionic caryatid from the Erechtheion

See also

Media related to Ancient Greek architecture at Wikimedia Commons


  1. Boardman, Dorig, Fuchs and Hirmer
  2. Helen Gardner, pp. 126-132
  3. Nikolaus Pevsner, An Outline of European Architecture, p. 19
  4. John Boardman, pp. 10-14
  5. Banister Fletcher pp. 89-91
  6. Higgins, chapter 3
  7. Banister Fletcher pp. 93-97
  8. Helen Gardner, pp. 110-114
  9. Helen Gardner, pp. 90-109
  10. Fletcher, Gardner etc.
  11. Donald E. Strong, p. 35
  12. Donald E. Strong, pp.33 - 102
  13. Donald E. Strong, pp. 39-40, 62-66
  14. Banister Fletcher, pp. 119-121
  15. Donald E. Strong, pp. 35-36
  16. Banister Fletcher, pp 151-153
  17. Penrose, pp. 42-43
  18. Boardman, pp. 49-50
  19. Donald E. Strong, pp. 74-75
  20. Banister Fletcher, p.97
  21. Moffett, Fazio, Wodehouse, pp. 62-64
  22. Banister Fletcher pp. 147-148
  23. 2004 Summer Olympics official report. Volume 2. pp. 237, 242, 244.
  24. Donald E. Strong, pp. 38-40
  25. Banister Fletcher, p.107
  26. Banister Fletcher, p. 155
  27. Banister Fletcher, p. 159
  28. Boardman, p. 25
  29. Boardman, p. 12
  30. William Rostoker; Elizabeth Gebhard, p. 212
  31. Marilyn Y. Goldberg, p305-309
  32. Örjan Wikander, p.285-289
  33. Banister Fletcher pp. 107-109
  34. Banister Fletcher
  35. Banister Fletcher p.126
  36. Helen Gardner, pp. 138-148
  37. Moffett, Fazio, Wodehouse, pp. 50-53
  38. Banister Fletcher pp. 108-112
  39. Donald E. Strong, pp. 58-60
  40. Banister Fletcher pp. 125-129
  41. Boardman p.45, 49
  42. Banister Fletcher pp. 137-139
  43. Boardman, pp. 22-25
  44. Banister Fletcher, p. 163
  45. Jose Dorig in Boardman, Dorig, Fuchs and Hirmer, pp. 435
  46. Banister Fletcher, p. 164
  47. Donald E. Strong, pp. 39-40
  48. Donald E. Strong, pp. 61-62
  49. Helen Gardner, pp. 143 – 148
  50. Helen Gardner, p. 145
  51. Werner Fuchs in Boardman, Dorig, Fuchs and Hirmer, pp.509-510


  • John Boardman, Jose Dorig, Werner Fuchs and Max Hirmer, ‘’The Art and Architecture of Ancient Greece’’, Thames and Hudson, London (1967)
  • Banister Fletcher, A History of Architecture on the Comparative method (2001). Elsevier Science & Technology. ISBN 0-7506-2267-9.
  • Helen Gardner; Fred S. Kleiner, Christin J. Mamiya, Gardner's Art through the Ages. Thomson Wadsworth, (2004) ISBN 0-15-505090-7.
  • Michael and Reynold Higgins, A Geological Companion to Greece and the Aegean, Cornell University Press, (1996) ISBN 978-0-8014-3337-5
  • Marian Moffett, Michael Fazio, Lawrence Wodehouse, A World History of Architecture, Lawrence King Publishing, (2003), ISBN 1-85669-353-8.
  • Athanasios Sideris A., "Re-contextualized Antiquity: Interpretative VR Visualisation of Ancient Art and Architecture" in Mikropoulos T. A. and Papachristos N. M. (eds.), Proceedings: International Symposium on “Information and Communication Technologies in Cultural Heritage” October 16–18, 2008, University of Ioannina 2008, ISBN 978-960-98691-0-2, pp. 159-176
  • Donald E. Strong, The Classical World, Paul Hamlyn, London (1965)
  • Henri Stierlin, Greece: From Mycenae to the Parthenon, Taschen, 2004
  • Marilyn Y. Goldberg, “Greek Temples and Chinese Roofs,” American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 87, No. 3. (Jul., 1983), pp. 305–310
  • Penrose, F.C., (communicated by Joseph Norman Lockyer), The Orientation of Geek Temples, Nature, v.48, n.1228, May 11.
  • Örjan Wikander, “Archaic Roof Tiles the First Generations,” Hesperia, Vol. 59, No. 1. (Jan. - Mar., 1990), pp. 285–290
  • William Rostoker; Elizabeth Gebhard, “The Reproduction of Rooftiles for the Archaic Temple of Poseidon at Isthmia, Greece,” Journal of Field Archaeology, Vol. 8, No. 2. (Summer, 1981), pp. 211–2
Introduction to Greek architecture


For most of us, architecture is easy to take for granted. Its everywhere in our daily lives—sometimes elegant, other times shabby, but generally ubiquitous. How often do we stop to examine and contemplate its form and style? Stopping for that contemplation offers not only the opportunity to understand one’s daily surroundings, but also to appreciate the connection that exists between architectural forms in our own time and those from the past. Architectural tradition and design has the ability to link disparate cultures together over time and space—and this is certainly true of the legacy of architectural forms created by the ancient Greeks.

The Erechtheion, 421-405 B.C.E.
                              (Classical Greek), Acropolis, AthensThe Erechtheion, 421-405 B.C.E. (Classical Greek), Acropolis, Athens, photo: Steven Zucker (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)Greek architecture refers to the architecture of the Greek-speaking peoples who inhabited the Greek mainland and the Peloponnese, the islands of the Aegean Sea, the Greek colonies in Ionia (coastal Asia Minor), and Magna Graecia (Greek colonies in Italy and Sicily). Greek architecture stretches from c. 900 B.C.E. to the first century C.E. (with the earliest extant stone architecture dating to the seventh century B.C.E.). Greek architecture influenced Roman architecture and architects in profound ways, such that Roman Imperial architecture adopts and incorporates many Greek elements into its own practice. An overview of basic building typologies demonstrates the range and diversity of Greek architecture.

"Hera II," c. 460 B.C.E.,
                              24.26 x 59.98 m, Greek, Doric temple from
                              the classical period likely dedicated to
                              Hera, Paestum (Latin) previously
                              Poseidonia, photo: Steven Zucker (CC
                              BY-NC-SA 2.0)"Hera II," c. 460 B.C.E., 24.26 x 59.98 m, Greek, Doric temple from the classical period likely dedicated to Hera, Paestum (Latin) previously Poseidonia, photo: Steven Zucker (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


The most recognizably “Greek” structure is the temple (even though the architecture of Greek temples is actually quite diverse). The Greeks referred to temples with the term ὁ ναός (ho naós) meaning "dwelling;" temple derives from the Latin term, templum. The earliest shrines were built to honor divinities and were made from materials such as a wood and mud brick—materials that typically don't survive very long. The basic form of the naos emerges as early as the tenth century B.C.E. as a simple, rectangular room with projecting walls (antae) that created a shallow porch. This basic form remained unchanged in its concept for centuries. In the eighth century B.C.E. Greek architecture begins to make the move from ephemeral materials (wood, mud brick, thatch) to permanent materials (namely, stone).

During the Archaic period the tenets of the Doric order of architecture in the Greek mainland became firmly established, leading to a wave of monumental temple building during the sixth and fifth centuries B.C.E. Greek city-states invested substantial resources in temple building—as they competed with each other not just in strategic and economic terms, but also in their architecture. For example, Athens devoted enormous resources to the construction of the acropolis in the 5th century B.C.E.—in part so that Athenians could be confident that the temples built to honor their gods surpassed anything that their rival states could offer.

Greek architectural orders

Greek architectural orders

The multi-phase architectural development of sanctuaries such as that of Hera on the island of Samos demonstrate not only the change that occurred in construction techniques over time but also how the Greeks re-used sacred spaces—with the later phases built directly atop the preceding ones. Perhaps the fullest, and most famous, expression of Classical Greek temple architecture is the Periclean Parthenon of Athens—a Doric order structure, the Parthenon represents the maturity of the Greek classical form.

Iktinos and Kallikrates, The
                              Parthenon, Athens, 447 – 432 B.C.E. ,
                              photo: Steven Zucker
Iktinos and Kallikrates, The Parthenon, Athens, 447 – 432 B.C.E. ,
photo: Steven Zucker (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Tholos temple, sanctuary of Athena
                              Pronaia, 4th century B.C.E., Delphi,
                              Greece, photo: kufoleto
Tholos temple, sanctuary of Athena Pronaia, 4th century B.C.E., Delphi, Greece, photo: kufoleto  (CC BY 3.0)

Greek temples are often categorized in terms of their ground plan and the way in which the columns are arranged. A prostyle temple is a temple that has columns only at the front, while an amphiprostyle temple has columns at the front and the rear. Temples with a peripteral arrangement (from the Greek πτερον (pteron) meaning "wing) have a single line of columns arranged all around the exterior of the temple building. Dipteral temples simply have a double row of columns surrounding the building. One of the more unusual plans is the tholos, a temple with a circular ground plan; famous examples are attested at the sanctuary of Apollo in Delphi and the sanctuary of Asclepius at Epidauros.

Greek temple plans
Greek temple plans (photo source)


Stoa (στοά) is a Greek architectural term that describes a covered walkway or colonnade that was usually designed for public use. Early examples, often employing the Doric order, were usually composed of a single level, although later examples (Hellenistic and Roman) came to be two-story freestanding structures. These later examples allowed interior space for shops or other rooms and often incorporated the Ionic order for interior colonnades. 

P. De Jong, Restored Perspective of
                              the South Stoa, Corint, photo: American
                              School of Classical Studies, Digital
P. De Jong, Restored Perspective of the South Stoa, Corinth, photo: American School of Classical Studies, Digital Collections

Greek city planners came to prefer the stoa as a device for framing the agora (public market place) of a city or town. The South Stoa constructed as part of the sanctuary of Hera on the island of Samos (c. 700-550 B.C.E.) numbers among the earliest examples of the stoa in Greek architecture. Many cities, particularly Athens and Corinth, came to have elaborate and famous stoas. In Athens the famous Stoa Poikile (“Painted Stoa”), c. fifth century B.C.E., housed paintings of famous Greek military exploits including the battle of Marathon, while the Stoa Basileios (“Royal Stoa”), c. fifth century B.C.E., was the seat of a chief civic official (archon basileios).

View of 20th century reconstruction
                              of the Stoa of Attalos, Agora, Athens
                              (original c. 159-138 B.C.E.)
20th century reconstruction of the Stoa of Attalos in the Athenian Agora (original c. 159-138 B.C.E.), photo: Steven Zucker (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Later, through the patronage of the kings of Pergamon, the Athenian agora was augmented by the famed Stoa of Attalos (c. 159-138 B.C.E.) which was recently rebuilt according to the ancient specifications and now houses the archaeological museum for the Athenian Agora itself (see image above). At Corinth the stoa persisted as an architectural type well into the Roman period; the South Stoa there (above), c. 150 C.E., shows the continued utility of this building design for framing civic space. From the Hellenistic period onwards the stoa also lent its name to a philosophical school, as Zeno of Citium (c. 334-262 B.C.E.) originally taught his Stoic philosophy in the Stoa Poikile of Athens.


View of the theatre at the Sanctuary
                              of Asklepios at Epidaurus, c. 350 - 300
Theatre at the Sanctuary of Asclepius at Epidaurus, c. 350 - 300 B.C.E., photo: Steven Zucker (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The Greek theater was a large, open-air structure used for dramatic performance. Theaters often took advantage of hillsides and naturally sloping terrain and, in general, utilized the panoramic landscape as the backdrop to the stage itself. The Greek theater is composed of the seating area (theatron), a circular space for the chorus to perform (orchestra), and the stage (skene). Tiered seats in the theatron provided space for spectators. Two side aisles (parados, pl. paradoi) provided access to the orchestra. The Greek theater inspired the Roman version of the theater directly, although the Romans introduced some modifications to the concept of theater architecture. In many cases the Romans converted pre-existing Greek theaters to conform to their own architectural ideals, as is evident in the Theater of Dionysos on the slopes of the Athenian Acropolis. Since theatrical performances were often linked to sacred festivals, it is not uncommon to find theaters associated directly with sanctuaries.


Bouleuterion, Priène (Turkey), c. 200
                              B.C.E., photo: Jacqueline Poggi (CC
                              BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Bouleuterion, Priène (Turkey), c. 200 B.C.E., photo: Jacqueline Poggi
(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Bouleuterion (βουλευτήριον) was an important civic building in a Greek city, as it was the meeting place of the boule (citizen council) of the city. These select representatives assembled to handle public affairs and represent the citizenry of the polis (in ancient Athens the boule was comprised of 500 members). The bouleuterion generally was a covered, rectilinear building with stepped seating surrounding a central speaker’s well in which an altar was placed. The city of Priène has a particularly well-preserved example of this civic structure as does the city of Miletus.


Greek houses of the Archaic and Classical periods were relatively simple in design. Houses usually were centered on a courtyard that would have been the scene for various ritual activities; the courtyard also provided natural light for the often small houses. The ground floor rooms would have included kitchen and storage rooms, perhaps an animal pen and a latrine; the chief room was the andron—site of the male-dominated drinking party (symposion). The quarters for women and children (gynaikeion) could be located on the second level (if present) and were, in any case, segregated from the mens’ area. It was not uncommon for houses to be attached to workshops or shops. The houses excavated in the southwest part of the Athenian Agora had walls of mud brick that rested on stone socles and tiled roofs, with floors of beaten clay.
Plan, Olynthus (Greece), House A vii
                              4, built after 432 but before 348 B.C.E.,
                              from Olynthus, vol. 8 pl. 99, 100 and fig.
                              5 (photo: Perseus Digital Library)Plan, Olynthus (Greece), House A vii 4, built after 432, before 348 B.C.E., from Olynthus, vol. 8 pl. 99, 100 and fig. 5, kitchen complex c, d, and e;  andron (k) (photo: Perseus Digital Library)

The city of Olynthus in Chalcidice, Greece, destroyed by military action in 348 B.C.E., preserves many well-appointed courtyard houses arranged within the Hippodamian grid-plan of the city. House A vii 4 had a large cobbled courtyard that was used for domestic industry. While some rooms were fairly plain, with earthen floors, the andron was the most well-appointed room of the house. 


Fortifications, Palairos (Greece)
Fortifications and gate, Palairos (Greece)

The Mycenaean fortifications of Bronze Age Greece (c. 1300 B.C.E.) are particularly well known—the megalithic architecture (also referred to as Cyclopean because of the use of enormous stones) represents a trend in Bronze Age architecture. While these massive Bronze Age walls are difficult to best, first millennium B.C.E. Greece also shows evidence for stone built fortification walls. In Attika (the territory of Athens), a series of Classical and Hellenistic walls built in ashlar masonry (squared masonry blocks) have been studied as a potential system of border defenses.  At Palairos in Epirus (Greece) the massive fortifications enclose a high citadel that occupies imposing terrain. 

Stadium, Gymnasium, and Palaestra

The Greek stadium (derived from stadion, a Greek measurement equivalent to c. 578 feet or 176 meters) was the location of foot races held as part of sacred games; these structures are often found in the context of sanctuaries, as in the case of  the Panhellenic sanctuaries at Olympia and Epidauros. Long and narrow, with a horseshoe shape, the stadium occupied reasonably flat terrain.

The gymnasium (from the Greek term gymnós meaning "naked") was a training center for athletes who participated in public games. This facility tended to include areas for both training and storage. The palaestra (παλαίστρα) was an exercise facility originally connected with the training of wrestlers. These complexes were generally rectilinear in plan, with a colonnade framing a central, open space. 


Altar of Hieron II
Altar of Hieron II, 3rd century B.C.E. (Syracuse, Sicily, Italy)

Since blood sacrifice was a key component of Greek ritual practice, an altar was essential for these purposes. While altars did not necessarily need to be architecturalized, they could be and, in some cases, they assumed a monumental scale. The third century B.C.E. Altar of Hieron II at Syracuse, Sicily, provides one such example. At c. 196 meters in length and c. 11 m in height the massive altar was reported to be capable of hosting the simultaneous sacrifice of 450 bulls (Diodorus Siculus History 11.72.2).

Model of the Pergamon Altar (Altar of
                              Zeus), c. 200-150 B.C.E. (Pergamon Museum,
Model of the Pergamon Altar (Altar of Zeus), c. 200-150 B.C.E. (Pergamon Museum, Berlin) photo: Steven Zucker (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Another spectacular altar is the Altar of Zeus from Pergamon, built during the first half of the second century B.C.E. The altar itself is screened by a monumental enclosure decorated with sculpture; the monument measures c. 35.64 by 33.4 meters. The altar is best known for its program of relief sculpture that depict a gigantomachy (battle between the Olympian gods and the giants) that is presented as an allegory for the military conquests of the kings of Pergamon. Despite its monumental scale and lavish decoration, the Pergamon altar preserves the basic and necessary features of the Greek altar: it is frontal and approached by stairs and is open to the air—to allow not only for the blood sacrifice itself but also for the burning of the thigh bones and fat as an offering to the gods.

Fountain house

Black-figured water-jar (hydria) with
                              a scene at a fountain-house, Greek, about
                              520-500 B.C.E., 50.8 cm high, © The
                              Trustees of the British Museum
Black-figured water-jar (hydria) with a scene at a fountain-house
, Greek, about 520-500 B.C.E., 50.8 cm high, © The Trustees of the British Museum

The fountain house is a public building that provides access to clean drinking water and at which water jars and containers could be filled. The Southeast Fountain house in the Athenian Agora (c. 530 B.C.E.) provides an example of this tendency to position fountain houses and their dependable supply of clean drinking water close to civic spaces like the agora. Gathering water was seen as a woman’s task and, as such, it offered the often isolated women a chance to socialize with others while collecting water. Fountain house scenes are common on ceramic water jars (hydriai), as is the case for a Black-figured hydria (c. 525-500 B.C.E.) found in an Etruscan tomb in Vulci that is now in the British Museum 


The architecture of ancient Greece influenced ancient Roman architecture, and became the architectural vernacular employed in the expansive Hellenistic world created in the wake of the conquests of Alexander the Great. Greek architectural forms became implanted so deeply in the Roman architectural mindset that they endured throughout antiquity, only to then be re-discovered in the Renaissance and especially from the mid-eighteenth century onwards as a feature of the Neo-Classical movement. This durable legacy helps to explain why the ancient Greek architectural orders and the tenets of Greek design are still so prevalent—and visible—in our post-modern world.

Essay by Dr. Jeffrey A. Becker

Additional resources:

Athenian Agora Excavations

J. M. Camp, The Athenian Agora: a short guide to the excavations (American School of Classical Studies at Athens) 

Architecture in Ancient Greece on the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

B. A. Ault and L. Nevett, Ancient Greek Houses and Households: Chronological, Regional, and Social Diversity (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005).

N. Cahill, Household and City Organization at Olynthus (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001).

J. J. Coulton,  The Architectural Development of the Greek Stoa (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976).

J. J. Coulton, Ancient Greek Architects at Work: Problems of Structure and Design (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 1982).

W. B. Dinsmoor, The Architecture of Greece: an Account of its Historic Development 3rd ed. (London: Batsford, 1950).

Marie-Christine Hellmann, L’architecture Grecque 3 vol. (Paris: Picard, 2002-2010).

M. Korres, Stones of the Parthenon (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2000).

A. W. Lawrence, Greek Architecture 5th ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996).

C. G. Malacrino, Constructing the Ancient World: Architectural Techniques of the Greeks and Romans (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010).

A. Mazarakis Ainian, From Rulers' Dwellings to Temples: Architecture, Religion and Society in early Iron Age Greece (1100-700 B.C.) (Jonsered: P. Åströms förlag, 1997).

L. Nevett, House and Society in the Ancient Greek World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).

J. Ober, Fortress Attica: Defense of the Athenian Land Frontier, 404-322 B.C. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1985).

D. S. Robertson, Greek and Roman Architecture 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969).

J. N. Travlos, Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Athens (New York: Praeger, 1971).

F. E. Winter, Greek Fortifications (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1971).

F. E. Winter, Studies in Hellenistic Architecture (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006).

W. Wrede, Attische Mauern (Athens: Deutsches archäologisches Institut, 1933).

R. E. Wycherley, The Stones of Athens (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978).

Greek Architecture (c.900-27 BCE)

[some Internet links added -- tkw]

Temple of Hephaistos (449 BCE) Athens. A masterpiece of ancient art and one of the best-preserved temples of Classical Antiquity.


Greek Architecture: Why is it Important?
Development of Stone Architecture
Types of Buildings
The Greek Temple
- Layout
- Base and Walls
- Roof
- Column and Lintel
- Entablature and Pediment
- How Stone Temples Were Built
Orders of Greek Architecture (see: IMAGE)
- History
Doric Order
- The Parthenon
- Architectural Sculptures of the Parthenon
Ionic Order
- The Erechtheion
Corinthian Order
Legacy of Greek Architecture
Famous Greek Temples
Ancient Greek Architects


The architecture of Ancient Greece concerns the buildings erected on the Greek mainland, the Aegean Islands, and throughout the Greek colonies in Asia Minor (Turkey), Sicily and Italy, during the approximate period 900-27 BCE. Arguably the greatest form of Greek art, it is most famous for its stone temples (c.600 onwards), exemplified by the Temple of Hera I at Paestum, Italy; the Parthenon , Erechtheum, and Temple of Athena Nike, all on the Acropolis at Athens; and the Temple of the Olympian Zeus at the foot of the Acropolis. As well as temples and altars, Greek designers - who included some of the greatest architects of classical antiquity - are also famous for the design of their theatres (c.350 onwards), public squares, stadiums, and monumental tombs - exemplified by the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos (c.353 BCE), Turkey. Like Greek sculpture, Greece's architecture is traditionally divided into three periods: Archaic (c.650-480 BCE); Classical (c.480-323 BCE) and Hellenistic (c.323-27 BCE).

Greek Architecture: Why is it Important?

Greek architecture is important for several reasons: (1) Because of its logic and order. Logic and order are at the heart of Greek architecture. The Hellenes planned their temples according to a coded scheme of parts, based first on function, then on a reasoned system of sculptural decoration. Mathematics determined the symmetry, the harmony, the eye's pleasure.
There had never been an architecture in just this sense. Egyptian pyramid architecture had been an early, attempt, but Greek building art offered the first clear, strong expression of a rational, national architectural creed. It is the supreme example of the intellect working logically to create a unified aesthetic effect. Greek designers used precise mathematical calculations to determine the height, width and other characteristics of architectural elements. These proportions might be changed slightly, and certain individual elements (columns, capitals, base platform), might be tapered or curved, in order to create the optimum visual effect, as if the building was a piece of sculpture. (2) Because of its invention of the classical "orders": namely, namely, the Doric Order, the Ionic Order and the Corinthian Order - according to the type of column, capital and entablature used. (3) Because of its exquisite architectural sculpture. Architects commissioned sculptors to carve friezes, statues and other architectural sculptures, whose beauty has rarely, if ever, been equalled in the history of art. (4) Because of its influence on other schools. Although Greek architects rarely progressed further than simple post-and-lintel building techniques, and failed to match the engineering techniques (arch, vault) developed in Roman architecture, they succeeded in creating the most beautiful, monumental structures of the Ancient World. Their formulas - devised as far back as 550 BCE - paved the way for Renaissance and Neoclassical architecture, and had the greatest possible influence on the proportions, style and aesthetics of the 18th and 19th centuries. Modern architects, too, have been influenced by Greek architectural forms. Louis Sullivan (1856-1924), for instance, a leading figure in the First Chicago School, based a number of his skyscraper designs on the Greek template of base, shaft, and capital, while using vertical bands (reminiscent of the fluting on Greek columns) to draw the eye upwards.


The origins of Greek architectural design are not to be found in the various strands of Aegean art that appeared in the eastern Mediterranean, notably Minoan or Mycenean art, but in the Oriental cultures that poured their influences into the Greek settlements along the shore of Asia Minor (Turkey) and from there to Hellas itself. Ever since the Geometric Period (900-725 BCE), the main task of the Greek architect was to design temples honouring one or more Greek deities. In fact, until the 5th century BCE it was practically his only concern. The temple was merely a house (oikos) for the god, who was represented there by his cult statue, and most Geometric-era foundations indicate that they were constructed according to a simple rectangle. According to ceramic models (like the 8th century model found in the Sanctuary of Hera near Argos), they were made out of rubble and mud brick with timber beams and a thatched or flat clay roof. By 700 BCE, the latter was superceded by a sloping roof made from fired clay roof tiles. Their interiors used a standard plan adapted from the Mycenean palace megaron. The temple's main room, which contained the statue of the god, or gods, to whom the building was dedicated, was known as the cella or naos. (For more about the history of Greek architecture, see: Ancient Greek Art: c.650-27 BCE.)

Development of Stone Architecture

Until roughly 650 BCE, mid-way through the Orientalizing Period (725-600 BCE), no temples were constructed in finished stone. However, from 650 BCE onwards, or thereabouts, there was a renewal of contacts and trade links between Greece and the Middle East, including Egypt, the home of stone architecture. (See: Ancient Egyptian Architecture.) As a result, Greek designers and masons became familiar with Egypt's stone buildings and construction techniques, including those of Imhotep, which paved the way for monumental architecture and sculpture in Greece. This process - known as "petrification" - involved the replacement of wooden structures with stone ones. Limestone was typically used for pillars and walls, while terracotta was used for roof tiles and marble for ornamentation. It was a gradual process, which began in the latter part of the 7th century, and some structures, like the temple at Thermum, consisted of timber and fired clay, as well as stone.

Building Design in Ancient Egypt
Early Egyptian Architecture (c.3100-2181 BCE).
Egyptian Middle Kingdom Architecture (2055-1650 BCE).
Egyptian New Kingdom Architecture (1550-1069 BCE).
Late Egyptian Architecture (1069 BCE - 200 CE).

At the same time, the switch from brick and timber to more permanent stone stimulated Greek architects to design a basic architectural "template" for temples and other similar public buildings. This first "template", known as the "Doric Order" of architecture, laid down a series of rules concerning the characteristics and dimensions of columns, upper facades and decorative works. Subsequent "templates" included the Ionic Order (from 600) and the Corinthian Order (from 450).

Types of Buildings

Unlike their Minoan and Mycenean ancestors, the Ancient Greeks did not have royalty, and therefore had no need for palaces. This was why their architecture was devoted to public buildings, such as the temple, including the small circular variant (tholos); the central market place (agora), with its covered colonnade (stoa); the monumental gateway or processional entrance (propylon); the council building (bouleuterion) the open-air theatre; the gymnasium (palaestra); the hippodrome (horse racing); the stadium (athletics); and the monumental tomb (mausoleum). But of all these buildings, it is the temple that best captures the qualities of Greek design.

Figure 1. Greek Orders of Architecture

The Greek Temple

Except for the circular tholos, most Greek temples were oblong, roughly twice as long as they were wide. Most were small (30–100 feet long), although a few were more than 300 feet long and 150 feet wide. (For comparison, the dimensions of the Parthenon are 235 feet in length, 109 feet in width.) The typical oblong floor plan incorporated a colonnade of columns (peristyle) on all four sides; a front porch (pronaos), a back porch (opisthodomos). The upper works of the temple usually consisted of mudbrick and wood, except for the upper facade which was usually stone, and designed according to the Order (Doric, Ionic). Columns were typically carved from limestone, with upper facades usually decorated with marble.

The interior of the Greek temple typically consisted of an inner shrine (cella, or naos) which housed the cult statue, and sometimes one or two antechambers, which were used as storage places for devotees to leave their votive offerings, like money, precious objects, and weapons.

Note: For a brief comparison between the pagan Greek temple and the Christian church, see: Early Christian Art (150-1100).


The layout of the inner shrine, the other chambers (if any) and surrounding columns usually followed one of five basic designs, named as follows. (1) If the entrance to the cella incorporated a pair of columns, the building was known as a "templum in antis". ["in antis" means "between the wall pillars"] (Example: Siphnian Treasury, Delphi, 525 BCE; or Temple of Hera, Olympia, 590 BCE.) (2) If the entrance was preceded by a portico of columns across its front, the building was known as a prostyle temple. (Example: Temple B, Selinunte, Sicily, c.600-550 BCE.) (3) If in addition to the portico of columns at the front, there was a colonnade of columns at the rear exterior of the cella, the building was known as a amphiprostyle temple. (Example: Temple of Athena Nike, Athens, 425 BCE. Or see the later Temple of Venus and Roma, Rome, 141 CE.) (4) If the colonnade surrounded the entire building, it was known as a peripteral temple. (Example: The Parthenon, Athens, 447-437 BCE) (5) If the colonnade encircling the building comprised a double row of columns, it was known as a dipteral temple. (Example: The Heraion of Samos, 550 BCE; or Temple of Apollo, Didyma, Asia Minor, 313 BCE.)

Base and Walls

The temple was built on a masonry base (crepidoma), which elevated it above the surrounding ground. The base usually consists of three steps: the topmost step is the "stylobate"; the two lower steps are the "stereobate". Like the Parthenon, most temples have a three-step base, although the Temple of Zeus at Olympus, has two, while the Temple of Apollo at Didyma has six. During the petrification process (650/600 BCE onwards), temples were given masonry walls, consisting mostly of local stone rubble, sometimes augmented by high quality ashlar masonry. Inside the temple, the inner sanctum (cella/naos) was made of stone, as were the antechambers, if any.


All early temples had a flat thatched roof, supported by columns (hypostyle), but as soon as walls were made from stone and could therefore support a heavier load, temples were given a slightly sloping roof, covered with ceramic terracotta tiles. These roof tiles could be up to three-feet long and weigh as much as 80 pounds.

Column and Lintel

Greek architects and building engineers knew about both the "arch" (see, for instance, The Rhodes Footbridge, 4th century BCE) and the "vault" (corbel and barrel types), but they made little use of either in their architectural construction. Instead, they preferred to rely on the use of "post and lintel" techniques, involving vertical uprights (columns or posts) supporting horizontal beams (lintels). This method, known as trabeated construction, dates back to earliest times when temples were made from timber and clay, and was later applied to stone posts and horizontal stone beams. However, it remained a relatively primitive method of roofing an area, since it required a large number of supporting columns.

The stone columns themselves usually consisted of a series of solid stone "drums" - set one upon the other, without mortar - but sometimes joined inside with bronze pegs. The diameter of columns usually decreases from the bottom upwards, and to correct any illusion of concavity, Greek architects usually tapered them with a slight outward curve: an architectural technique known as "entasis".

Each column is composed of a shaft and a capital; some also have a base. The shaft may be decorated with vertical or spiral grooves, called fluting. The capital has two parts: a rounded lower part (echinus), above which is a square-shaped tablet (abacus). The appearance of the echinus and abacus varies according to the stylistic "template" or "Order" used in the temple's construction. Doric Order capitals are plainer and more austere, while Ionic and Corinthian capitals are more ornate.

Entablature and Pediment

The temple's columns support a two-tier horizontal structure: the "entablature" and the "pediment". The entablature - the first tier - is the major horizontal structural element supporting the roof, and encircles the whole building. It is made up of three sections. The lowest section is the "architrave", made up of a series of stone lintels which span the spaces between the columns. Each joint sits directly above the centre of each capital. The middle section is the "frieze", consisting of a broad horizontal band of relief sculpture. In Ionic and Corinthian temples, the frieze is continuous; in Doric temples sections of frieze (metopes) alternate with grooved rectangular blocks (triglyphs). The top part of the entablature immediately under the roof is the "cornice", which overhangs and protects the frieze.

The second tier is the pediment, a shallow triangular structure occupying the front and rear gable of the building. Traditionally, this triangular space contained the most important sculptural reliefs on the exterior of the building.

How Stone Temples Were Built

The design and construction of Greek temples was dependent above all on local raw materials. Fortunately, although Ancient Greece possessed few forests, it had lots of limestone, which was easily worked. In addition, there were plentiful supplies (on the mainland and the islands of Paros and Naxos) of high grade white marble for architectural and sculptural decoration. Lastly, deposits of clay, used for both roof tiles and architectural decoration, were readily available throughout the country, notably around Athens.

However, the quarrying and transport of stone was both costly and labour-intensive, and typically accounted for most of the cost of building a temple. It was only the wealth which Athens had accumulated after the Persian Wars, that enabled Pericles (495-429) to build the Parthenon (447-422 BCE) and other stone monuments on the Acropolis, at Athens. In some cases, older stone monuments were cannibalized for their marble and other precious stones.

Typically, each building project was controlled and supervised by the architect, who oversaw every aspect of construction. He selected the stone, managed its extraction, and supervised the craftsmen who cut and shaped it at the quarry. At the building site, master stone masons made the final precise carvings, to ensure that each stone block would slot into place without the need for mortar. After this, labourers hoisted each block into position. The architect also supervised the professional sculptors, who carved the reliefs on the frieze, metopes and pediments, as well as the painters who painted the sculptures and various architectural elements of the building.

Don't forget, the Greeks regularly painted their marble temples. In fact they seem not only to have painted them, but to have used gaudy colours for the purpose, indulging generously in red, blue, and gold. There must have been some attempt to correlate colour and structure, with the structural members kept clear and outstanding, the lower parts little coloured, and the upper parts alone flowering in hue as they did in sculptural adornment, but all evidence has long since vanished. See also: Greek Painting: Classical Period, and Greek Painting: Hellenistic Period.

Orders of Greek Architecture

Ancient Greek architecture devised three main "orders" or "templates": the Doric Order, the Ionic Order and the Corinthian Order. These Orders laid down a broad set of rules concerning the design and construction of temples and similar buildings. These rules regulated the shape, details, proportions, and proportional relationships of the columns, capitals, entablature, pediments and stylobate.

Take proportions, for instance, which are critical for the overall appearance of a building, especially a cult temple. The Doric Order stipulated that the height of a column should be five and a half times greater than its diameter, while the Ionic Order laid down a slimmer more elegant ratio of nine to one.

That said, Ancient Greek architects took a highly pragmatic approach to the rules surrounding proportions, and when it came to the mathematics of an architectural design they took "appearance" as their guiding principle. In other words, if the correct mathematical proportions didn't look right, they used a different set! In particular, they treated a temple like a sculptor treats a statue: they wanted it to look good from every angle. So they added a bit of width here, a bit of height there, and so on, until the structure looked perfect. As a result, measurements of Doric and Ionic temples can vary tremendously, so don't take the measurements and ratios, quoted below, too literally.

History of Greek Architectural Orders

Historically, the two early orders, the Doric and the Ionic, have parallels, if not antecedents, in earlier Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Persia. The stronger of the two, the Doric, retains primitive heaviness and the effect of powerful stability. It was a favourite with the Greek builders through the Archaic period (c.650-480 BCE); it was standard in the Greek settlements in Sicily and Italy, and was chosen for the Parthenon; but it gave way to the more ornamental types in the fourth century. The Doric column and capital are not unlike those to be observed in the Egyptian tombs at Beni-Hasan, though it is not necessary to infer direct copying from that model. (See also: Egyptian Art: 3100-395 BCE; Mesopotamian Art: 4500-539 BCE; and Ancient Persian Art: 3500-330 BCE.)

The more graceful and lighter Ionic order, however, has too many parallels in Eastern building not to be marked as an importation from the Orient. Probably the Egyptian lotus-capital had had echoes in Mesopotamia; and Ionian culture had developed in advance of that of the Greek mainland, partly due to the influence of Assyrian art (c.1500-612 BCE). When the Ionians refined the feature into something distinctively their own, they carried it back to the Athenians, who were their blood brothers.

At any rate, the austere Doric Order appeared on the Greek mainland during the pre-Archaic period and spread from there to Italy. It was well established in its mature form by 600 BCE, the approximate date of the Temple of Hera at Olympia. The more decorative Ionic order only arrived about 600 BCE, and co-existed thereafter alongside the Doric, being the favourite style of the rich and highly influential Greek cites of Ionia, along today's western coast of Turkey, as well as a number of other Aegean Islands. (Example: the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.) It reached its mature form during the High Classical period, around 450 BCE. The flamboyant Corinthian Order, which elaborated many of the characteristic features of the Ionic Order, did not emerge until the era of Hellenistic art and was fully developed by the Romans.

Doric Order of Architecture

The Doric order is easily identified by its plain capital, and lack of column-base. Its echinus started out flat and more splayed in Archaic-era temples, before becoming deeper and more curvaceous in Classical-era temples, and smaller and straighter during the Hellenistc period. Doric columns nearly always have grooves, or flutes (usually 20), which run the full length of the column. The flutes have sharp edges known as arrises. At the top of the columns, there are three horizontal grooves known as the hypotrachelion.

The columns in early Doric-style temples (Temple of Apollo at Syracuse, Sicily, 565 BCE), may have a height to base-diameter ratio of only 4:1. Later, a ratio of 6:1 became more usual. During the Hellenistic era (323-27 BCE), the typically solid, masculine look of the Doric temple was partly replaced by slender, unfluted columns, with a height to diameter ratio of 7.5:1.

In the Doric order, there are clear rules about the positioning of architectural sculpture. Reliefs, for instance, are never used to decorate walls in an arbitrary way. They are always arranged in predetermined areas: the metopes and the pediment.

Doric temples are clearly identified by their sectioned, non-continuous frieze, with its alternating arrangement of scored triglyphs and sculpted metopes.

The Doric pediment, a notoriously difficult space in which to lay out a sculptural scene, was filled initially with relief sculpture. By the time of the Parthenon, sculptors had begun carving freestanding stone sculpture for the pediment. Even then, arranging figures inside the tapering triangular area continued to be problematical. But by the Early Classical period (480-450 BCE), as exemplified by the scenes carved at the temple of Zeus at Olympia, (460 BCE), sculptors had found the solution: they had a standing central figure flanked by rearing centaurs and fighting men shaped to fit each part of the space. At the Parthenon (c.435 BCE), the celebrated sculptor Phidias succeeded in filling the pediment with a complex arrangement of draped and undraped deities.

Doric Order temples occurs more often on the Greek mainland and at the sites of former colonies in Italy. Among the best-preserved examples of Archaic Doric architecture are the temple of Apollo at Corinth (540 BCE), and the temple of Aphaia, Aegina (490 BCE).

The Parthenon

The supreme example of Doric architecture of the Classical Period (c.480-323 BCE) is of course the Parthenon (447-437 BCE) on the Athens Acropolis. It was a Greek sculptor, not an architect, who said that "successful attainment in art is the result of meticulous accuracy in a multitude of arithmetical proportions"; but the Parthenon is the aptest illustration. Every esoteric scholar delving into the mysteries of "the divine proportion" or "the golden mean" claims the Parthenon as his first example: it has so unfailingly pleased millions of eyes, and it measures out so exactly to a mathematical formula. In the whole aspect there are calculated proportionings of parts and rhythmic correspondences. Then on from the whole to the parts: the areas of the entablature are divided on logical and harmonious ratios; and of course there is the equally refined relationship of column and capital. Perfection within perfection! The Greek builders, in their search for "perfect" expressiveness, went on to optical refinements unparalleled elsewhere. The entasis, or slight swelling and recession of the profile of the column, is but one of the mathematical tricks to ensure in the beholder's eye the illusion of perfect straightness or exact regularity. Another is that the tops of the columns lean slightly toward the centre at each side of the colonnade, the inclination increasing in proportion as they are farther toward each end, because a row of columns which are actually parallel seems more widely spaced at the top corners. (The Parthenon columns of the outer colonnade are inclined, curiously enough, at such angles that all their axes would meet, if continued, at a point one mile up in the air.) Another concession to the eye is the slight curve upward at the centre of the main horizontal lines, made because straight steps or straight-set series of columns seem to sag slightly at the centre.

Architectural Sculptures of the Parthenon

In general the bases of the structure, the weight-bearing members, and the first horizontals, were kept clear of elaboration or figurative sculpture. In the Parthenon and earlier structures, it was deemed that the proper place for exterior sculptures was in the spaces between the triglyphs, or surviving beam-ends, and in the pediment. On the roof, single figures might be set in silhouette against the sky, at gable top and especially gable ends. Within the colonnade in some late Doric temples a continuous frieze ran like a band around the cella's exterior wall, and was seen in bits from the outside, between columns.

The marble sculpture on the Parthenon originally appeared on the building in two series, the continuous frieze within the colonnade and the separated panels between the triglyphs; and the two triangular compositions in the pediments. The best preserved of the figures were taken to England early in the nineteenth century, and are universally known, from the name of the man who carried them away in battered remnant form, as the "Elgin marbles."

There is grandeur in the pediment figures. They are among the world's leading examples of monumental sculpture. As in the case of the architectural monument of which they were decorative details, they doubtless have gained in sheer aesthetic value by the accidents of time. The grand votive statues, such as the outdoor Athena on the Acropolis and the colossal image of the same goddess in the cella of the Parthenon, were big enough, by all report, but they seem to have been distressingly and distractingly overdressed, and their largeness and sculptural nobility were lost in excessive detail. The magnitude of the pediment figures is the magnitude of the powerful in repose, of strength kept simple. In terms of narrative, the east pediment group represented the contest of Athena and Poseidon over the site of Athens. The west pediment composition illustrated the miraculous birth of Athena out of the head of Zeus.

The technical problem of fitting elaborate sculptural representations within the confined triangular space of a low pediment challenged the inventiveness and logic of sculptors collaborating on temple projects. At Aegina, Olympia, and Athens the solution balanced nicely with the architecture. There was a related flow of movement within the triangle, which was lost in later examples and certainly in every attempted modern imitation.

The panels between the triglyphs under the Parthenon cornice, known as the "metopes," originally ninety-two in number, have been even more disastrously defaced or destroyed than have the pediment groups during their twenty-three centuries of neglect. Each panel, almost square, bore two figures in combat. Sometimes the subjects were taken from mythology, while others are read today as symbolic of moral conflict.

The low-relief frieze which runs like a decorative band around the outside of the cella wall, within the colonnaded porch, is of another range of excellence. The subject is the ceremonial procession which was an event of the Panathenaic festival held every fourth year. The figures in the sculptural field, which is a little over four feet high and no less than 524 feet long, are mainly those of everyday Athenian life. Even the gods, shown receiving the procession, are intimately real and folk-like, though oversize. To them goes all the world of Athens: priests and elders and sacrifice-bearers, musicians and soldiers, noble youths and patrician maidens.

There is a casualness about the sculptured procession, an informality that would hardly have served within the severe triangles of the pediments. Everything is flowing and lightly accented. Particularly graceful and fluent are the portions depicting horsemen. The animals and riders move forward rhythmically, their bodies crisply raised from the flat and undetailed background. The sense of rhythmic movement, of plastic animation within shallow depth limits, is in parts of the procession superbly accomplished.

See also: History of Sculpture (from 35,000 BCE).

Ionic Order of Architecture

Unlike Doric designs, Ionic columns always have bases. Furthermore, Ionic columns have more (25-40) and narrower flutes, which are separated not by a sharp edge but by a flat band (fillet). They appear much lighter than Doric columns, because they have a higher column-height to column-diameter ratio (9:1) than their Doric cousins (5:1).

Ionic Order temples are recognizable by the highly decorative voluted capitals of their columns, which form spirals (volutes) similar to that of a ram's horn. In fact, Ionic capitals have two volutes above a band of palm-leaf ornaments.

In the entablature, the architrave of the Ionic Order is occasionally left undecorated, but more usually (unlike the Doric architrave) it is ornamented with an arrangement of overlapping bands. An Ionic temple can also be quickly identified by its uninterrupted frieze, which runs in a continuous band around the building. It is separated from the cornice (above) and architrave (below) by a series of peg-like projections, known as dentils.

In Ionic architecture, notably from 480 BCE onwards, there is greater variety in the types and quantity of mouldings and decorations, especially around entrances, where voluted brackets are sometimes employed to support an ornamental cornice over a doorway, such as that at the Erechtheum on the Athens acropolis.

Ionic columns and entablatures were always more highly decorated than Doric ones. In some Ionic temples, for instance, (quite apart from the ornamented echinus), certain Ionic columns (like those at the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus) contained a continuous frieze of figures around their lowest section, separated from the fluted section by a raised moulding.

The use of draped female figures (Caryatids) as vertical supports for the entablature, was a characteristic feature of the Ionic order, as exemplified by the Siphnian Treasury at Delphi (525 BCE) and the Erechtheion on the Athenian Acropolis.

The Erechtheion

The Erechtheion (421-406 BCE) is representative of the special features of the Ionic Order at its best. The almost fragilely graceful columns are there, the less severe massing, the breaking up of the entablature into more delicate units, and the general lightening of effect and greater enrichment by applied ornamentation. The East Porch (now restored) is, like the Parthenon, Greek architecture at its purest. The doorway within the North Portico has served a thousand architects as the classic model. The South Porch of the Erechtheion follows an innovation already seen at Delphi. Six statues of maidens, known as caryatids, took the place of the conventional columns. The experiment leaves the building somewhere between architecture and sculpture, and the result is interesting as a novelty rather than for any defensible daring or good purpose in the art of building. The statues very likely serve their purpose as supports today with more architectural plausibility than they could have done in the days when their arms, noses, and other members had not been shorn off. Even so, they are a bit ludicrously natural and unmathematical. As the Greeks failed here, so they often enough failed elsewhere. The monuments they left are not always the matchless and perfect compositions we have been led to believe by other generations.

Another famous Ionic building, this time from the Hellenistic Period (323-27 BCE) is the Altar of Zeus at Pergamon (c.166-156 BCE). As the name indicates, it was not a temple but merely an altar, possibly connected to the nearby Doric Temple of Athena (c.310 BCE). The Altar was accessed via a huge stairway leading to a flat Ionic-style colonnaded platform, and is noted for its 370-foot-long marble frieze depicting the Gigantomachy from Greek mythology. See also Pergamene School of Hellenistic Sculpture (241-133 BCE).

Corinthian Order of Architecture

The third order of Greek architecture, commonly known as the Corinthian Order, was first developed during the late Classical period (c.400-323 BCE), but did not become at all widespread until the Hellenistic era (323-27 BCE) and especially the Roman period, when Roman architects added a number of refinements and decorative details.

Unlike both the Doric and Ionic Orders, the Corinthian Order did not originate in wooden architecture. Instead, it emerged as an offshoot of the Ionic style about 450 BCE, distinguished by its more decorative capitals. The Corinthian capital was much taller than either the Doric or Ionic capital, being ornamented with a double row of acanthus leaves topped by voluted tendrils. Typically, it had a pair of volutes at each corner, thus providing the same view from all sides. According to the 1st century BCE Roman architect Marcus Vitruvius, the distinctive Corinthian capital was invented by a bronze founder, Callimarchus of Corinth. The ratio of the column-height to column-diameter in Corinthian temples is usually 10:1 (compare Doric 5.5:1; Ionic 9:1), with the capital accounting for roughly 10 percent of the height.

To begin with, the Corinthian Order of architecture was used only internally, as in the Temple of Apollo Epicurius, Bassae (450 BCE). In 334 BCE it was used on the exterior of the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens, and later on a huge scale at the Temple of the Olympian Zeus, Athens (174 BCE). During the late Hellenistic period, Corinthian columns were sometimes constructed without any fluting.

In addition to the Greek Orders (Doric, Ionic and Corinthian) there were two other styles of architecture. (1) The Tuscan Order, a solid-looking Roman adaptation of the Doric Order, famous for its unfluted shaft and a plain echinus-abacus capital. Not unlike the Doric in proportion and profile, it is much plainer in style. The ratio of its column-height to column-diameter is 7:1. (2) The Composite Order, only ranked as a separate order during the era of Renaissance art, is a late Roman development of the Corinthian Order. It is known as Composite because its capital consists of both Ionic volutes and Corinthian acanthus-leaf motifs. The ratio of its column-height to column-diameter is 10:1.

Legacy of Greek Architecture

The legacy of Greek architectural design lies in its aesthetic value: it created lots of beautiful buildings.

This beauty came not just from the grandeur and nobility of its architectural columns, but also from its ornamental features. The fluting of its columns, for instance, affords grace and vibration to the otherwise stolid shafts; but the channels reinforce rather than cut across support lines. The frieze is lifted above an architrave kept unadorned, preserving crossbar strength. The transitional members, capitals and moldings, agreeably soften the profile angles without loss of firmness. Supports are cushioned, but without undue softening. Just how great and distinctive are these achievements may be seen by contrast in Roman art when the insensitive Romans pick up the Greek elements and use them grandiosely and thoughtlessly, vulgarizing the ornamental features. Nevertheless, Greek ornament as a style of adornment in applied art was to be an overwhelming favourite in later ages, even down to the twentieth century. See also: Greatest Sculptors (from 500 BCE).

Whatever the precise ingredients of Greek building design, Western architects have tried for centuries to emulate the finished product. During the 15th and 16th centuries Renaissance architecture embraced the whole classical canon, albeit with a slightly more modern touch - examples include: Dome of Florence Cathedral, S Maria del Fiore, 1418-38, by Filippo Brunelleschi - for more on this, see: Florence Cathedral, Brunelleschi and the Renaissance (1420-36) - as well as Tempietto of S Pietro in Montorio, Rome, 1502 by Donato Bramante. Meantime, Venetian Renaissance architecture featured numerous villas in Vicenza and the Veneto designed by Andrea Palladio (1508-80), who himself influenced the English designer Inigo Jones (1573-1652).

Baroque architecture used Greek designs as the basis for many of its greatest creations (examples: St Peter's Basilica and St Peter's Square, 1504-1657, by Bernini et al; St Paul's Cathedral, London, 1675-1710, by Christopher Wren (1632-1723).

Eighteenth century architects in both Europe and North America rediscovered Greek designwork in Neoclassical architecture (examples: the Pantheon, Paris, begun 1737, by Jacques-Germain Soufflot (1713-80); the iconic Brandenburg Gate in Berlin built by Carl Gotthard Langhans (1732-1808); the US Capitol Building, Washington DC, 1792-1827 by Thornton, Latrobe & Bulfinch; Baltimore Basilica, 1806-21, by Benjamin Latrobe; Walhalla, Regensburg, 1830-42, by Leo von Klenze). In nineteenth century architecture, Greek "Orders" were resurrected in both Europe and the United States through the Greek Revival movement. Even modern Art Nouveau architects like Victor Horta (1861-1947) borrowed from antique Greek designs.

For long periods of time Western Europe and America accepted the belief that artistic practice, even in the machine age, must be based upon study of these classic "Orders." This was part of the neo-Hellenism which was a religion in Europe, so that even in the 1920s Sir Banister Fletcher - the renowned architectural historian - could write: "Greek architecture stands alone in being accepted as above criticism, and therefore as the standard by which all periods of architecture may be tested." (A History of Architecture: 6th Edition, 1921.)

Ultimately, Greek architecture presents us with a concrete illustration of moral and spiritual truth. The solid foundation platform; the down-pressing mass of architrave, frieze, and roof-structure, counteracting the otherwise too powerful sense of lift, from the columns; the serenity of the colonnade, modified by the exuberance of sculptured frieze and pediment - all this may be seen as a tangible expression of the Greek combination of freedom and restraint, of perfectly poised aspiration and reason, of invention and discipline. The columns, some say, mark the rise toward truth or perfection; but the downbearing weight restores balance, caps the too aspiring lift. Thus Fate stops the too presumptuous human reach. This is the philosophical meaning of Greek architecture, which has entranced architects around the world for more than two thousand years.

Famous Greek Temples


Temple of Hera, Olympia (590 BCE)
Doric peripteral hexastyle building in the Archaic style.

Temple of Apollo, Syracuse, Sicily (565 BCE)
Doric peripteral hexastyle building.

Selinunte Temple C, Sicily (550 BCE)
A peripteral hexastyle temple, it is one of a series of Doric temples on the Selinunte Acropolis. Metopes depicting the Labours of Hercules are in the National Museum, at Palermo.

The Temple of Apollo, Corinth (540 BCE)
This Doric peripteral hexastyle temple resembled the Temple of Hera at Olympia, but was built entirely of stone.

Temple of Hera I, Paestum (530 BCE)
Known as "the Basilica", it is one of the earliest of all Doric temples to have survived largely intact.

Selinunte Temple G (The Great Temple of Apollo), Sicily (520-450 BCE)
A Doric peripteral octastyle structure, it is the largest temple at Selinunte and was never finished.

Temple of Apollo, Delphi (510 BCE)
This hexastyle Doric temple, supposedly designed by legendary architects Trophonius and Agamedes, was in fact erected by Spintharus, Xenodoros and Agathon. Little remains apart from foundations.

Temple of Athena, Paestum (510 BCE)
Known as the Temple of Demeter, this Doric peripteral hexastyle building displayed a number of Ionic features, including the columns of its pronaos.

Temple of the Olympian Zeus, Agrigento, Sicily 510-409 BCE
Doric-style pseudoperipteral building.

Temple of Aphaia, Aegina (490 BCE)
Doric peripteral hexastyle temple set high on the east side of the island of Aegina.

Temple of Athena, Syracuse, Sicily (480 BCE)
Doric hexastyle temple. Part of its structure is now in Syracuse Cathedral.

Delian Temple of Apollo, Delos (470 BCE)
Doric peripteral hexastyle building, now largely in ruins.

Temple of Hera Lacinia, Agrigento, Sicily (460 BCE)
Doric temple constructed southeast of Agrigento. It stands, along with the Temple of Concord, the Temple of Zeus Olympias and others, in the Valley of the Temples.

Temple of Zeus, Olympia (460 BCE)
Doric peripteral hexastyle temple, designed by Libon of Elis. Famous for its marvellous pedimental sculpture, as well as its colossal chryselephantine sculpture of Zeus, sculpted by Phidias (488-431 BCE), who also created the Statue of Athena at the Parthenon.

Temple of Poseidon, Paestum (460 BCE)
One of the best preserved Doric hexastyle temples.

Temple of Apollo Epicurius, Bassae (450 BCE)
Designed by the famous Greek architect Ictinus, it incorporates elements from all three Orders (Doric, Ionic, Corinthian).

Temple on the Ilissus, Athens (449 BCE)
A small Ionic amphiprostyle tetrastyle temple beside the Ilissus River, designed by the Greek architect Callicrates.

Temple of Hephaestos, Athens (449 BCE)
Also called the Theseion, this exceptionally well-preserved Doric peripteral hexastyle building now acts as an Orthodox church.

The Parthenon, Athens Acropolis (447-432 BCE)
The major Doric temple on the Acropolis of Athens, and the quintessential work of Greek High Classical architecture, it remains one of the world's most influential and iconic buildings. Built for Pericles by architects Ictinus and Callicrates, and sculpted under the direction of Phidias, who personally created its huge chryselephantine cult statue of Athena, it is based on a peripetral octastyle ground plan. Although its pedimental and metope relief sculpture is laid out in the Doric style, it also has an Ionic style frieze which encircles the building.

Temple of Poseidon, Sounion (444 BCE)
Doric peripteral hexastyle building.

Temple of Nemesis, Rhamnous (436 BCE)
Doric hexastyle temple with an unfinished stylobate.

Temple of Concord, Agrigento, Sicily (430 BCE)
Well-preserved Doric peripteral hexastyle temple.

Temple at Segesta, Sicily (424 BCE)
Doric peripteral hexastyle building, complete with unique unfluted columns.

Selinunte Temple E (Temple of Hera), Sicily (5th Century BCE)
The best preserved Doric peripteral hexastyle temple at Selinunte, it belongs to the eastern group along with Temples "F" and "G".

Selinunte Temple C, Sicily (5th Century BCE)
Doric hexastyle temple with a deep colonnaded porch and a long narrow naos with a second chamber.


Temple of Artemis, Ephesus, Asia Minor (560 BCE)
One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the bottom drum of the columns of this Dipteral octastyle temple have an encircling figurative frieze.

Temple of Hera, Samos, Asia Minor (540 BCE)
Ionic dipteral temple designed by architects Rhoikos and Theodoros of Samos.

Temple of Athena Nike, Athens (427 BCE)
A small amphiprostyle tetrastyle building, also known as "Nike Apteros" (Victory without wings), this Ionic temple was designed by Greek architect Callicrates. Stands close to the Propylaea on the Athens Acropolis.

The Erechtheion, Athens Acropolis (421-406 BCE)
Ionic amphiprostyle hexastyle temple dedicated to Athena Polias, designed by Mnesicles.

Tholos of Athena, Delphi (400 BCE)
A circular temple - with a Doric exterior and a Corinthian interior - constructed by Theodorus of Phocaea.

Temple of Asclepius, Epidauros (380 BCE)
Doric hexastyle building designed by Theodotus, featuring pedimental sculpture by Timotheos.

Temple of Artemis, Ephesus, Asia Minor (356 BCE)
Ionic Dipteral octastyle temple designed by Greek architects Demetrius and Paeonius of Ephesus, with reliefs by Skopas (395-350 BCE), but no frieze.

Tholos of Polycleitus, Epidauros (350 BCE)
Circular temple surrounded by 26 Doric columns. Also has 14 internal Corinthian-style columns.

The Philippeion, Olympia (339 BCE)
Ionic tholos building, surrounded by 18 Ionic-style columns and 9 internal Corinthian columns. Designed by architect and sculptor Leochares (4th Century BCE), it was erected to commemorate Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great.

Temple of Athena Polias, Priene, Asia Minor (334 BCE)
Ionic peripteral hexastyle temple designed by Pythius of Priene. Like the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, it had no frieze.

Temple of Artemis, Sardis, Asia Minor (325 BCE)
Ionic dipteral octastyle temple, one of the biggest temples in Asia Minor, it was left unfinished, and completed by the Romans.

Temple of Dionysus, Teos, Asia Minor (193 BCE)
Ionic peripteral hexastyle temple designed by architect Hermogenes of Priene.


Temple of Apollo Didymaeus, Miletus, Asia Minor (310 BCE - 40 CE)
Ionic dipteral decastyle temple with Corinthian features, designed by Greek architects Paeonius of Ephesus and Daphnis of Miletus.

Temple of the Olympian Zeus, Athens (174 BCE)
One of the largest Corinthian dipteral octastyle temples, it was designed by architect Ossutius. Some of its columns were taken to Rome before the temple was finished and incorporated in the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus where they had a major impact on Roman architecture.

For the top Greek sculptors of the 5th century, see: Myron (fl. 480-444 BCE), Polykleitos, noted for his statue of Hera, and Callimachus (fl. 432-408 BCE).

For the top sculptors of the 4th century BCE, see: Lysippos (c.395-305 BCE), official sculptor to Alexander the Great, and Praxiteles (Active 375-335 BCE), famous for his Aphrodite of Cnidus.

Ancient Greek Architects

Few biographical details are known about the greatest Greek designers. While we know some of their names, and some of the buildings they designed, we know almost nothing about their training, or the extent of their careers. The most famous architects we know about, include:

Daphnis of Miletus,
Demetrius of Ephesus, an Artemision Temple slave (who, according to Pliny (Natural History 16213,-36.96), "completed " the Artemision, c. 440 BC with Paeonios of Ephesus.  Possibly reconstruction after the temple burned in 356)
Hermogenes of Priene,
Hippodamus of Miletus,
Ictinus (mid-5th century BCE),
Libon of Elis,
Mnesicles (mid-5th century BCE),
Paeonius of Ephesus,
Polykleitos the Younger,
Pythius of Priene,
Rhoikos of Samos,
Theodoros of Samos, and
Theodotus (Asclepios Temple, Epidaurus)
to name but a few.

4  Color Sculpture and Architecture: Philadelphia Revives the Ancient Art of Greek Polychrome

Article in Quondam (19/1928) about the Philadelphia Museum of Art reviving Ancient Greek Architectural polychromy:

Color was a vital factor in the art of ancient Greece. Vivid, primary colors were as important as form in its beauty. The Greeks interpreted architecture as the skillful combination of form and color. The invariably introduced color into their work. It was not a minor detail, infrequently used, as is generally assumed. Both their buildings and their sculpture were decorated with color. It is now conceded, after years of discussion, that there were evidences of color on the famous Elgin marbles of the Parthenon.

Although classical Greek architecture has flourished, the importance of color in relation to it has been ignored to such an extent that we have come to accept the monochrome treatment as the pure classical style. For this reason Philadelphia's attempt to revive Greek polychrome architecture and sculpture is looked upon as an audacious undertaking by the conservatives in art circles, and the architects, C. L. Borie, Jr., Horace Trumbauer and C.C. Zantzinger, designers of the new Museum of Art in Fairmount Park, are looked upon as pioneers. C. Paul Jennewein and John Gregory, sculptors, and Leon V. Solon, polychromist, are sharing the limelight focused on the builders of the museum.

In making the statement that the museum represents the first serious attempt to revive Greek polychrome treatment Mr. Solon, a recognized authority on polychromy, did not overlook the attempts that have been made to introduce color in buildings, particularly some of our modern skyscrapers. But he does not take these attempts seriously, inasmuch as the results show no evidence of comprehension of decorative capacities in the means that have been employed. "Color is a dangerous thing to use," he warns. It is a science to know which way colors will affect the proportion of ornament. Colors expand and contract the apparent size of areas.

Up to the present the Philadelphia Museum represents the first attempt to use terra cotta for serious sculptural purposes. Sculptured figures for the pediments as well as the architectural detail and roof tiles are of terra cotta. It is the first time that free standing sculpture has been baked in terra cotta to decorate a building, and it was necessary to build special kilns and revise the normal procedure to meet the conditions.

Besides the polychrome ornamentation there will be three main pediments with sculptured figures in polychrome. The pediments for the East and West pavilions have been completed by John Gregory and C. Paul Jennewein, sculptors, in collaboration with Mr. Solon. Mr. Jennewein is also responsible for the architectural modeling and the center and corner figure ornaments in gilt-bronze.

The building is not a copy of any Greek building, nor are the pediments or figure groups copies of Greek works. They are true to the Greek tradition in the use of color and detail but are entirely original in conception. As such, the museum unquestionably will be an important and beautiful contribution to the world's architectural creations.

Exhaustive research convinced Mr. Solon that the use of color was a highly organized art with the Greeks. They always applied color to certain parts of buildings. It was never used on any important feature that performed the function of supporting the building, such as an exterior wall or the shaft of a column, but was confined to the decorative features. Capitals of columns were decorated, but the shafts or bases never. Although the Greek principle was absolutely adhered to in the Philadelphia Museum certain deviations from Greek practice were necessitated by existing conditions. For instance, the range of observation in Greece is small, whereas the museum will be viewed from long range. Through much experimentation and closest possible cooperation between sculptors and polychomist highly satisfactory results have been evolved at Fairmount Park. In some cases sculptural detail had to be revised to facilitate distribution of color. Only brilliant colors were used on account of their visibility at long range. These colors had to be interrelated, one figure to another and carefully spaced throughout the whole group.


When questioned about the modeling of features Mr. Gregory stated that polychrome sculpture demands that faces be modeled like masks and depend upon color for expression and characteristics. The use of color in sculpture demands flat surfaces. Detail otherwise brought out by modeling is provided by color in polychrome sculpture. He found that the most important thing he had to keep in mind was to work in vertical planes in order to eliminate shadows, inasmuch as the color would be affected by dark shadows.

"The East" demanded, of course, more colorful treatment than "The West," represented by Mr. Jennewein's pediment group for the West Pavilion. The dark-skinned figures of "The East" demanded also the predominating use of a deep ivory tone in the draperies to carry out the harmony with the building material, a matter of vital importance. "Kato" stone was selected for the exterior because of its golden-orange tone clouded with silver-gray, which offers an ideal background for the brilliant colors used in the decorations. It is much warmer in tone than ordinary sandstone.

In giving an interpretation of his group, Mr. Jennewein explained that he based his theme on sacred and profane love, the two great underlying forces behind the development of Western art and civilization.

According to the sculptors one of the problems that demand careful working out was the arrangement of patterns that would permit natural divisions for the cutting of figures so that the joining would not mar the effect. The use of terra cotta imposed a three-foot length, and the central figures, which are to be eleven and one-half feet high, will be in four sections.

Roof tiles of terra cotta, measuring approximately three feet square, also carry out the polychrome effect. They are a grayish blue glaze on the face, with a dark blue edge, so that the coloring of the roof deepens with the foreshortening of the tiles as the building is approached. The beauty of the roof is enhanced by the varying colors of the sky, which are reflected in the surface of the tiles.

In discussing the treatment of polychrome Mr. Solon said that Greek processes would not serve in the American climate, so terra cotta was chosen because of its durability and the availability of all the colors needed.

Anne Lee, "Color Sculpture and Architecture: Philadelphia Revives the Ancient Art of Greek Polychrome" in The Mentor (May 1928) pp. 41-44.

5  Acropolis of Athens

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Coordinates: 37.971421°N 23.726166°E

Acropolis, Athens
The Acropolis of Athens, seen
                                    from Philopappou hill

The Acropolis of Athens (Ancient Greek: Ἀκρόπολις;[1] Modern Greek: Ακρόπολη Αθηνών Akrópoli Athinón) is an ancient citadel located on a high rocky outcrop above the city of Athens and contains the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance, the most famous being the Parthenon. The word acropolis comes from the Greek words ἄκρον (akron, "highest point, extremity") and πόλις (polis, "city").[2] Although there are many other acropoleis in Greece, the significance of the Acropolis of Athens is such that it is commonly known as "The Acropolis" without qualification.

While there is evidence that the hill was inhabited as far back as the fourth millennium BC, it was Pericles (c. 495 – 429 BC) in the fifth century BC who coordinated the construction of the site's most important buildings including the Parthenon, the Propylaia, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike.[3][4] The Parthenon and the other buildings were seriously damaged during the 1687 siege by the Venetians in the Morean War when the Parthenon was being used for gunpowder storage and was hit by a cannonball.[5]

The Acropolis was formally proclaimed as the pre-eminent monument on the European Cultural Heritage list of monuments on 26 March 2007.[6]



View of the Acropolis from the Agora, 2010
View of the Acropolis from the Areopagus, 2010

Early settlement

The Acropolis is located on a flat-topped rock that rises 150 m (490 ft) above sea level in the city of Athens, with a surface area of about 3 hectares (7.4 acres). It was also known as Cecropia, after the legendary serpent-man, Cecrops, the first Athenian king. While the earliest artifacts date to the Middle Neolithic era, there have been documented habitations in Attica from the Early Neolithic (6th millennium BC). There is little doubt that a Mycenaean megaron stood upon the hill during the late Bronze Age. Nothing of this megaron survives except, probably, a single limestone column-base and pieces of several sandstone steps.[7] Soon after the palace was constructed, a Cyclopean massive circuit wall was built, 760 meters long, up to 10 meters high, and ranging from 3.5 to 6 meters thick. This wall would serve as the main defense for the acropolis until the 5th century.[8] The wall consisted of two parapets built with large stone blocks and cemented with an earth mortar called emplekton (Greek: ἔμπλεκτον).[9] The wall follows typical Mycenaean convention in that it followed the natural contour of the terrain and its gate was arranged obliquely, with a parapet and tower overhanging the incomers' right-hand side, thus facilitating defense. There were two lesser approaches up the hill on its north side, consisting of steep, narrow flights of steps cut in the rock. Homer is assumed to refer to this fortification when he mentions the "strong-built House of Erechtheus" (Odyssey 7.81). At some point before the 13th century BC, an earthquake caused a fissure near the northeastern edge of the Acropolis. This fissure extended some 35 meters to a bed of soft marl in which a well was dug.[10] An elaborate set of stairs was built and the well served as an invaluable, protected source of drinking water during times of siege for some portion of the Mycenaean period.[11]

The Dark Ages

There is no conclusive evidence for the existence of a Mycenean palace on top of the Athenian Acropolis. However, if there was such a palace, it seems to have been supplanted by later building activity. Not much is known as to the architectural appearance of the Acropolis until the Archaic era. In the 7th and the 6th centuries BC, the site was taken over by Kylon during the failed Kylonian revolt,[12] and twice by Peisistratos: all attempts directed at seizing political power by coups d'état. Peisistratos built an entry gate or Propylaea and perhaps embarked on the construction of an earlier temple on the site of the Parthenon where fragments of sculptured limestone have been found as well as the foundations of a large unfinished temple.[13] Nevertheless, it seems that a nine-gate wall, the Enneapylon,[14] had been built around the biggest water spring, the "Clepsydra", at the northwestern foot.

Archaic Acropolis

A temple to Athena Polias (protectress of the city) was erected around 570–550 BC. This Doric limestone building, from which many relics survive, is referred to as the Hekatompedon (Greek for "hundred–footed"), Ur-Parthenon (German for "original Parthenon" or "primitive Parthenon"), H–Architecture or Bluebeard temple, after the pedimental three-bodied man-serpent sculpture, whose beards were painted dark blue. Whether this temple replaced an older one, or just a sacred precinct or altar, is not known. Probably, the Hekatompedon was built where the Parthenon now stands.[15]

Between 529–520 BC yet another temple was built by the Peisistratids, the Old Temple of Athena, usually referred to as the Arkhaios Neōs (ἀρχαῖος νεώς, "ancient temple"). This temple of Athena Polias was built upon the Doerpfeld foundations,[16] between the Erechtheion and the still-standing Parthenon. Arkhaios Neōs was destroyed by the Persian invasion in 480 BC. However, the temple was probably reconstructed since in 454 BC the treasury of the Delian League was transferred in its opisthodomos. The temple may have been burnt down in 406/405 BC as Xenophon mentions that the old temple of Athena was set on fire. Pausanias does not mention it in his 2nd century AD Description of Greece.[17]

Around 500 BC the Ur-Parthenon was dismantled to make place for a newer and grander building, the "Older Parthenon" (often called Pre-Parthenon, "early Parthenon"). Athenians decided to stop the construction of the Olympieion which was related with the tyrant Peisistratos and his sons and instead used the Piraeus limestone destined for the Olympieion to build the Older Parthenon. To accommodate it, the south part of the summit was cleared, made level by adding some 8,000 two-ton blocks of limestone, a foundation 11 m (36 ft) deep at some points, and the rest filled with earth kept in place by the retaining wall. However, after the victorious Battle of Marathon in 490 BC, the plan was revised and marble was used instead. The limestone phase of the building is referred to as Pre-Parthenon I, the marble phase as Pre-Parthenon II. In 485 BC, construction stalled to save resources as Xerxes took the throne.[18] The Older Parthenon was still under construction when the Persians sacked the city in 480 BC. The building was burned and looted, along with the Ancient Temple and practically everything else on the rock.[19][20] After the Persian crisis had subsided, the Athenians incorporated many of the unfinished temple's architectural members (unfluted column drums, triglyphs, metopes, etc.) into the newly built northern curtain wall of the Acropolis, where they serve as a prominent "war memorial" and can still be seen today. The devastated site was cleared of debris. Statuary, cult objects, religious offerings and unsalvageable architectural members were buried ceremoniously in several deeply dug pits on the hill, serving conveniently as a fill for the artificial plateau created around the classic Parthenon. This "Persian debris" is the richest archaeological deposit excavated on the Acropolis and is well known throughout Greece.[21]

The Periclean building program

After winning at Eurymedon in 468 BC, Cimon and Themistocles ordered the reconstruction of the southern and northern walls of the Acropolis. Most of the major temples, including the Parthenon, were rebuilt under the leadership of Pericles during the Golden Age of Athens (460–430 BC). Phidias, a great Athenian sculptor, and Ictinus and Callicrates, two famous architects, were responsible for the reconstruction.[22]

In 437 BC, Mnesicles started building the Propylaea, a monumental gate at the western end of the Acropolis with Doric columns of Pentelic marble, partly built upon the old propylaea of Peristratus.[23] These colonnades were almost finished in 432 BC and had two wings, the northern one decorated with paintings by Polygnotus.[24] Around the same time, south of the Propylaea, building started on the small Ionic Temple of Athena Nike in Pentelic marble with tetrastyle porches, preserving the essentials of Greek temple design. After an interruption caused by the Peloponnesian War, the temple was finished in the time of Nicias' peace, between 421 BC and 409 BC.[25]

Construction of the elegant temple of Erechtheion in Pentelic marble (421–406 BC) was in accordance with a complex plan which took account of the extremely uneven ground and the need to circumvent several shrines in the area. The entrance, facing east, is lined with six Ionic columns. Unusually, the temple has two porches, one on the northwest corner borne by Ionic columns, the other, to the southwest, supported by huge female figures or Caryatids. The eastern part of the temple was dedicated to Athena Polias, while the western part, serving the cult of the archaic king Poseidon-Erechtheus, housed the altars of Hephaestus and Voutos, brother of Erechtheus. Little is known about the original plan of the interior which was destroyed by fire in the first century BC and has been rebuilt several times.[26][27]

During the same period, a combination of sacred precincts including the temples of Athena Polias, Poseidon, Erechtheus, Cecrops, Herse, Pandrosos and Aglauros, with its Kore Porch (Porch of the Maidens) or Caryatids' balcony was begun.[28] Between the temple of Athena Nike and the Parthenon, there was the Sanctuary of Artemis Brauronia (or the Brauroneion), the goddess represented as a bear and worshipped in the deme of Brauron. According to Pausanias, a wooden statue or xoanon of the goddess and a statue of Artemis made by Praxiteles in the 4th century BC were both in the sanctuary.[29]

Behind the Propylaea, Phidias' gigantic bronze statue of Athena Promachos ("Athena who fights in the front line"), built between 450 BC and 448 BC, dominated. The base was 1.50 m (4 ft 11 in) high, while the total height of the statue was 9 m (30 ft). The goddess held a lance whose gilt tip could be seen as a reflection by crews on ships rounding Cape Sounion, and a giant shield on the left side, decorated by Mys with images of the fight between the Centaurs and the Lapiths.[30] Other monuments that have left almost nothing visible to the present day are the Chalkotheke, the Pandroseion, Pandion's sanctuary, Athena's altar, Zeus Polieus's sanctuary and, from Roman times, the circular temple of Augustus and Rome.[31]

Hellenistic and Roman period

During the Hellenistic and Roman periods, many of the existing buildings in the area of the Acropolis were repaired., due to damage from age, and occasionally, war.[32] Monuments to foreign kings were erected, notably those of the Attalid kings of Pergamon Attalos II (in front of the NW corner of the Parthenon), and Eumenes II, in front of the Propylaia. These were rededicated during the early Roman Empire to Augustus or Claudius (uncertain), and Agrippa, respectively.[33] Eumenes was also responsible for constructing a stoa on the South slope, not unlike that of Attalos in the Agora below.[34]

During the Julio-Claudian period, the Temple of Rome and Augustus, a small, round edifice, about 23 meters from the Parthenon, was to be the last significant ancient construction on the summit of the rock.[35] Around the same time, on the North slope, in a cave next to the one dedicated to Pan since the classical period, a sanctuary was founded where the archons dedicated to Apollo on taking office.[36] In 161 AD, on the South slope, the Roman Herodes Atticus built his grand amphitheatre or Odeon. It was destroyed by the invading Herulians a century later but was reconstructed in the 1950s.[37]

During the 3rd century, under threat from a Herulian invasion, repairs were made to the Acropolis walls, and the "Beulé Gate" was constructed to restrict entrance in front of the Propylaia, thus returning the Acropolis to use as a fortress.[32]

Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman period

Depiction of the Venetian siege of the Acropolis of Athens in 1687.

In the Byzantine period, the Parthenon was turned into a church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary.[38] Under the Latin Duchy of Athens, the Acropolis functioned as the city's administrative center, with the Parthenon as its cathedral, and the Propylaia as part of the Ducal Palace.[39] A large tower was added, the "Frankopyrgos", demolished in the 19th century.[40]

After the Ottoman conquest of Greece, the Parthenon was used as the garrison headquarters of the Turkish army,[41] and the Erechtheum was turned into the Governor's private Harem. The buildings of the Acropolis suffered significant damage during the 1687 siege by the Venetians in the Morean War. The Parthenon, which was being used as a gunpowder magazine, was hit by artillery fire and severely damaged.[42]

Reconstruction of the Acropolis and Areios Pagos in Athens, Leo von Klenze, 1846

In subsequent years, the Acropolis was a site of bustling human activity with many Byzantine, Frankish, and Ottoman structures. The dominant feature during the Ottoman period was a mosque inside the Parthenon, complete with a minaret. Following the Greek War of Independence, most features that dated from the Byzantine, Frankish and Ottoman periods were cleared from the site in an attempt to restore the monument to its original form, "cleansed" of all later additions.[43]

Archaeological remains

Remains of the Theatre of Dionysus as of 2007

The entrance to the Acropolis was a monumental gateway called the Propylaea. To the south of the entrance is the tiny Temple of Athena Nike. At the centre of the Acropolis is the Parthenon or Temple of Athena Parthenos (Athena the Virgin). East of the entrance and north of the Parthenon is the temple known as the Erechtheum. South of the platform that forms the top of the Acropolis there are also the remains of an outdoor theatre called Theatre of Dionysus. A few hundred metres away, there is the now partially reconstructed Theatre of Herodes Atticus.[44]

All the valuable ancient artifacts are situated in the Acropolis Museum, which resides on the southern slope of the same rock, 280 metres from the Parthenon.[45]

Site plan

Site plan of the Acropolis at Athens showing the major archaeological remains

Parthenon Old Temple of Athena Erechtheum Statue of Athena Promachos Propylaea Temple of Athena Nike Eleusinion Sanctuary of Artemis Brauronia or
                              Brauroneion Chalkotheke Pandroseion Arrephorion Altar of Athena Polias Sanctuary of Zeus Polieus Sanctuary of Pandion Odeon of Herodes Atticus Stoa of Eumenes Sanctuary of Asclepius or
                              Asclepieion Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus Odeon of Pericles Temenos of Dionysus Eleuthereus Aglaureion Site plan of the Acropolis at
                                this image
  1. Parthenon
  2. Old Temple of Athena
  3. Erechtheum
  4. Statue of Athena Promachos
  5. Propylaea
  6. Temple of Athena Nike
  7. Eleusinion
  8. Sanctuary of Artemis Brauronia or Brauroneion
  9. Chalkotheke
  10. Pandroseion
  11. Arrephorion
  12. Altar of Athena
  13. Sanctuary of Zeus Polieus
  14. Sanctuary of Pandion
  15. Odeon of Herodes Atticus
  16. Stoa of Eumenes
  17. Sanctuary of Asclepius or Asclepieion
  18. Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus
  19. Odeon of Pericles
  20. Temenos of Dionysus Eleuthereus
  21. Aglaureion

The Acropolis Restoration Project

Looking east toward the  Acropolis under construction in summer 2014.

The Project began in 1975 and is now nearing completion. The aim of the restoration was to reverse the decay of centuries of attrition, pollution, destruction stemming from military use, and misguided past restorations. The project included collection and identification of all stone fragments, even small ones, from the Acropolis and its slopes and the attempt was made to restore as much as possible using reassembled original material (Anastylosis) - with new marble from Mount Penteli used sparingly. All restoration was made using titanium dowels and is designed to be completely reversible, in case future experts decide to change things. A combination of cutting-edge modern technology and extensive research and reinvention of ancient techniques were used.[46]

The Parthenon colonnades, largely destroyed by Venetian bombardment in the 17th century, were restored, with many wrongly assembled columns now properly placed. The roof and floor of the Propylaea were partly restored, with sections of the roof made of new marble and decorated with blue and gold inserts, as in the original.[46] Restoration of the Temple of Athena Nike was completed in 2010.[47]

A total of 2,675 tons of architectural members were restored, with 686 stones reassembled from fragments of the originals, 905 patched with new marble, and 186 parts made entirely of new marble. A total of 530 cubic meters of new Pentelic marble were used.[48]

Cultural significance

Every four years, the Athenians held a festival called the Panathenaea that rivaled the Olympic Games in popularity. During the festival, a procession (believed to be depicted on the Parthenon frieze) traveled through the city via the Panathenaic Way and culminated on the Acropolis. There, a new robe of woven wool (peplos) was placed on either the statue of Athena Polias in the Erechtheum (during a regular Panathenaea) or on the statue of Athena Parthenos in the Parthenon (during the Great Panathenaea, held every four years).[49]

Within the later tradition of Western Civilization and classical revival the Acropolis, from at least the mid-18th century on, has often been invoked as a key symbol of the Greek legacy and of the glories of Classical Greece.


  1. Thucydides 2.15.3: "ἡ Ἀκρόπολις ἡ νῦν οὖσα πόλις ῆν".
  2. acro-. (n.d.). In Greek, Acropolis means "Highest City". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved September 29, 2008, from website: Quote: "[From Greek akros, extreme; see ak- in Indo-European roots.]"
  3. Hurwit 2000, p. 87
  4. "History", Odysseus. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  5. Nicholas Reeves and Dyfri Williams, "The Parthenon in Ruins", British Museum Magazine 57 (spring/summer 2007), pp. 36-38. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  6. "Acropolis proclaimed top European Cultural Heritage Monument". 2007-03-27. Retrieved 2010-12-23.
  7. Castleden, Rodney. Mycenaeans. Routledge. pp. 64–. ISBN 978-1-134-22782-2.
  8. Hurwit 2000, p. 74-75.
  9. ἔμπλεκτος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  10. Hurwit 2000, p. 78.
  11. "The springs and fountains of the Acropolis hill", Hydria Project. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  12. Pomeroy, Sarah B. (1999). Ancient Greece: A Political, Social, and Cultural History. Oxford University Press. pp. 163–. ISBN 978-0-19-509742-9.
  13. "Peisistratos", Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  14. "Acropolis fortification wall", Odysseus. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  15. Hurwit 2000, p. 111.
  16. Hurwit 2000, p. 121.
  17. (Greek) [1], Retrieved 5 June 2012
  18. Manolis Korres, Topographic Issues of the Acropolis, Archaeology of the City of Athens; Retrieved 7 June 2012
  19. "Athens, Pre-Parthenon (Building)", Perseus Digital Library. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
  20. Dörpfeld, W: Der aeltere Parthenon, Ath. Mitt, XVII, 1892, pp. 158–89. (German)
  21. Kavvadias, Panagiotis, Kawerau, Georg: Die Ausgrabung der Akropolis vom Jahre 1885 bis zum Jahre 1890, Athens, 1906 (German)
  22. "Ictinus and Callicrates with Phidias", Architecture Week. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
  23. "Mnesicles", Retrieved 6 December 2012.
  24. McCulloch, John Ramsay (1841). A Dictionary, Geographical, Statistical, and Historical: Of the Various Countries, Places and Principal Natural Objects in the World. Longman, Orme, Brown, Green and Longmans. pp. 205–.
  25. Mark, Ira S. (1993). The Sanctuary of Athena Nike in Athens: Architectural Stages and Chronology. ASCSA. pp. 72–. ISBN 978-0-87661-526-3.
  26. Thomas Sakoulas, "Erechtheion", Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  27. Venieri, "Erechtheion", Odysseus. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  28. "The Acropolis of Athens". Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  29. "The Sanctuary of Artemis Brauronia", Acropolis Museum. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  30. Mikalson, Jon D. (2011). Ancient Greek Religion. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 73–. ISBN 978-1-4443-5819-3. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  31. Brouskarē, Maria S. (1997). The monuments of the Acropolis. pp 56-57: Ministry of Culture, Archeological Receipts Fund. ISBN 978-960-214-158-8. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  32. Travlos, John, Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Athens, London: Thames and Hudson, 1971. p.54.
  33. Hurwit 2000 p. 278
  34. "The Stoa of Eumenes", The Acropolis of Athens. Greek Thesaurus. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  35. Hurwit 2000, p. 279.
  36. Nulton, Peter, The Sanctuary of Apollo Hypoakraios and Imperial Athens, Archaeologia Transatlantica XXI, 2003.
  37. Steves, Rick (2011). Rick Steves' Greece: Athens & the Peloponnese. Avalon Travel. pp. 115–. ISBN 978-1-61238-060-5. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  38. "The Partenon", Ancient Greece. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  39. Melton, J. Gordon; Baumann, Martin (21 September 2010). Religions of the World, Second Edition: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices. ABC-CLIO. pp. 233–. ISBN 978-1-59884-204-3.
  40. Neils, Jenifer (5 September 2005). The Parthenon: From Antiquity to the Present. Cambridge University Press. pp. 346–. ISBN 978-0-521-82093-6.
  41. Hellenistic ministry of culture History of the Acropolis of Athens
  42. "Acropolis, Athens: Long description", UNESCO. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  43. Nicholas Reeves and Dyfri Williams, "The Parthenon in Ruins", British Museum Magazine, No 57, 2007, pages 36–38. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  44. Evan Hadingham, "Unlocking Mysteries of the Parthenon", Smithsonian magazine, February 2008. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  45. "The Acropolis Museum". Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  46. Fani Mallouchou-Tufano, "The Restoration of the Athenian Acropolis", University of Michigan. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  47. "2010 – 2011, The progress of restoration on the Acropolis", The Acropolis Restoration News, July 2011. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  48. "Acropolis Restoration Project-Lecture by Maria Ioannidou, Director, Acropolis Restoration Service", Columbia University. Retrieved 9 February 2013.Panathenaic Festical".


External links


6  Buildings and structures of the Athens classical agora

Excerpted from [with a few added links]

View of the ancient agora. The temple of Hephaestus is to the left and the Stoa of Attalos to the right.

Plan showing major buildings and structures of the agora of Athens as it was in the 5th century BC
  1. Peristyle Court
  2. Mint
  3. Enneakrounos
  4. South Stoa I and South Stoa II
  5. Aiakeion(?)
  6. Strategeion
  7. Agoraios Kolonos
  8. Tholos
  9. Agora stone
  10. Monument of the Eponymous Heroes
  11. Metroon (Old Bouleuterion)
  12. New Bouleuterion
  13. Temple of Hephaestus (Hephaestion)
  14. Temple of Apollo Patroos
  15. Stoa of Zeus
  16. Altar of the Twelve Gods
  17. Stoa Basileios (Royal stoa)
  18. Temple of Aphrodite Urania
  19. Stoa of Hermes
  20. Stoa Poikile

7  Sanctuary of Olympia Greece

Site Plan and links from,_Greece

Site plan:

Plan Olympia sanctuary-en.svg

1. Northwest Propylon,
2. Prytaneion,
3. Philippeion,
4. Temple of Hera,
5. Pelopion,
6. Nymphaeum of Herodes Atticus,
7. Metroon, 8. Treasuries,
9. Crypt (arched way to the stadium),
10. Stadium,
11. Echo Stoa,
12. Building of Ptolemy II and Arsinoe II,
13. Hestia stoa,
14. Hellenistic building,
15. Temple of Zeus,
16. Altar of Zeus,
17. Ex-voto of Achaeans,
18. Ex-voto of Mikythos,
19. Nike of Paeonius,
20. Gymnasion,
21. Palaestra,
22. Theokoleon,
23. Heroon,
24. Pheidias' workshop and paleochristian basilica,
25. Baths of Kladeos,
26. Greek baths,
27. and 28. Hostels,
29. Leonidaion,
30. South baths,
31. Bouleuterion,
32. South stoa,
33. Villa of Nero.

I. Sicyon,
 II. Syracuse,
III. Epidamnus(?),
IV. Byzantium(?),
V. Sybaris(?),
VI. Cyrene(?),
VII. Unidentified,
VIII. Altar(?),
IX. Selinunte,
X. Metapontum,
XI. Megara,
XII. Gela.

8   Delphi Sacred Area


Delphi, a town on Mount Parnassus in the south of mainland Greece, is the site of the 4th century BC Temple of Apollo, once home to a legendary oracle, the Pythia. The extensive mountainside archaeological complex contains the remains of the sanctuaries of Apollo and Athena Pronaia, plus a stadium and a theater. Delphi Archaeological Museum displays artifacts found among the ruins.


9  Additional Internet links