Classical Greek Architecture is one of the most well known forms of architecture. It is broken down into three orders, the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. The orders are determined by the way the capitol of the column is sculpted.
The Doric order, the oldest and simplest of the three orders, originated around 400 BC. It was developed by the Dorian Greeks and later modified by the Romans. Placed directly on the stylobate, the Doric column was about seven times as tall as its diameter, a ratio probably derived from the height of a man in relation to foot size. Fluted to provide visual depth and swelling to subtle convex curves, it rose to a capital, under an abacus, the square block that joined the architrave. Surmounting the columns was a Doric frieze of alternating triglyphs and metopes. They were intended to be sturdy and lacked elegant design.
The Ionic order originated along the coast of the Asia Minor. The Ionic is lighter than the Doric and more graceful, with a slender shaft about eleven times its diameter (approximately a womans height in proportion to the size of her foot. Its components are a tiered base, a delicate shaft with softer, spaced fluting, and a capital formed of paired scrolls (volutes) capped by a highly decorated abacus. Usually subdivided into three projecting bands, the Ionic architrave normally consists of a continuous sculptural frieze. The Ionic order was more popular in the eastern parts of Greece where there was an emphasis on elegance and ornamentation.
The Corinthian order is the most decorative and complicated of the three orders. It is also the last, not arriving until the middle of the fourth centenary, BC. Adored by the Romans, it is considerably more decorative, even opulent. Taller and more slender than the Ionic, its column culminates in an inverted bell shape encrusted with stylized acanthus leaves, an ingenious transition from a circular shaft to a rectangular architrave.
Like multiple layers of a cake, the columns consisted of stone drums that were roughed out in the quarry. After delivery to the site, the drums were fitted with metal pegs coated with lead to resist corrosion and stacked into columns. The assembled columns were then finished under the supervision of the architect, who personally controlled the entire project.
The Parthenon, built in honor of the Goddess Athena, is considered to be the greatest Doric temple ever built. It was constructed between 447 and 432 BC by the Greek sculptor Phidias and the Greek architects Ictenus and Callicrates. It is the largest temple in Greece. The Parthenon is called octo style because it has eight columns in the front and the back of it and is surrounded by a colonnade. Inside, it is constructed as most temples were. The central chamber, or cella, faced east, with a wood figure of Athena covered in gold and ivory in it. There was a porch, at the east end and a porch at the west end. At the back of the temple is a chamber called the Parthenon, or chamber of the Virgin, which was used as a treasury and held the sacrifices. This was a common layout among Greek temples. The Parthenon is made of beautiful white marble and contains 46 closely packed Doric columns. The excellent craftsmanship and design of the Parthenon makes it a masterpiece.
The Erechtheion, an Ionic temple, began construction in 421 BC and finished in 406 BC. The temple was made out of white Pentelic marble. It replaced the old Temple of Athena Polias. When it was built the architects and builders had to be careful not to make the Erechtheion more beautiful or bigger than the neighboring Parthenon. Instead, the Erechtheion complements the Parthenon nicely. The east porch was built in the Ionic style, as was the north.
The temple of Nike Athena was a small isolated Ionic temple near the Propylaia. It was created near 420 BC, during the Peloponnesian War. The Athenians worshiped Nike Athena in hopes of a victory over the Spartans and their enemies. The theme of victory is shown by the frieze running on the temple, of a victory over their enemies. The temple has a series of four short and sturdy Ionic columns in the front and back of the cella. The cella is the main room of the temple where the statue is kept. The temple looks the same from the front and the back. In having the same view from both sides, the temple served two purposes. It overlooked the city below, while it welcomed people from the back on the Acropolis. Each column rested on a three-stepped base, instead of the usual two-stepped one. It is thought that the short sturdy columns were built because of the lack of space, due to the massive neighboring monuments.
The Temple of Apollo at Bassae, in Arcadia, was begun in the fifth century BC. but probably not completed till the fourth. A notable feature of this temple is the use of all three Greek Orders. The Doric was used outside, and the Ionic and Corinthian were used within the temple. Most of the building is made of a hard, fine-grained gray limestone, but marble was used for the sculptures and the more decorative parts. The temple was built in honor of the Goddess of Sun.
Classic Greek architecture is reflected on modern day buildings such as the Lincoln Memorial, and the U.S treasury. The Lincoln Memorial uses the Doric order. Elements of Greek architecture can be found in many homes, capitol buildings and college campuses. With only one form and three modes of expression, the perfection of proportion and clarity of outline, subtlety of refinement, and visual appearance of solids and spaces in equilibrium, the Greek temple has never been surpassed. The elegance and beauty of Greek architecture will remain timeless and continue to be used through out history.