|Greek Building, Materials, Columns and Roof Types|
..Geometric and Orientalizing Period (c. 1100-650 B.C.)
Greek ArchitectureA History Brief
Few remains from early Greek structures
give us a sense of what architecture consisted of during this period.
These earlier buildings were either domestic
houses or palaces. There were two types of houses that were
constructed: the northern and the southern
style. The northern style house was a circular hut made of sticks
covered with thatch and eventually evolved into a horseshoe shape.The
southern style plan was rectangular; a columned porch was added to the
The Greeks began to develop their own style of temple building during this period. The plan of the temple remained rectangular. It consisted of steps, a platform, an anta, a porch (sometimes separate from the structure), a cella, and a pteron. Two wide steps surrounded the exterior of the temple. The anta was the wall surrounding the cella. The pteron, a surrounding colonnade or row of columns, was a Greek innovation. A colonnade usually surrounded the porch. There were two styles of columns that came to be known as Greek orders: the Doric and the Ionic.
Classical Period (ca. 475-323 B.C.)
This is probably the most dominant period
of Greek architecture. Most of the temples
built during this time were Doric. Even so,
many refinements were made in order to balance the structure of the
the Great defeated the Greeks in the 4th century B.C., the Greeks
began to be influenced by Eastern
styles. Small temples were still constructed in the Doric
style. These temples were now two stories high. Large temples
were built in the Ionic style. Although the
majority of the structures were in one of these two styles, Corinthian
columns were used more and more.
Mud-brick (mud or clay mixed with straw or grass), adobe (sun-dried brick), stone, and wood were used for domestic houses and temples in the Geometric and Orientalizing period. Materials shifted mainly to marble and limestone in the Archaic period. A new material called terra cotta (baked tile), was used for roofing during this period and was also used as an ornamental material for peaks and gables.
There were two main types of roofs which were characteristic of Greek architecture: Laconian and Corinthian. Laconian roofs were made up of large, concave pan tiles and convex cover tiles. Corinthian roofs were made with flat pan tiles and pitched cover tiles. When determining the roof type, all roofs consisting of curved tiles are classified as Laconian, while roofs with flat tiles are Corinthian. Many pieces of Laconian roofs have been found at Sparta, while examples of Corinthian style were found at Delphi and Olympia. The majority of the temples constructed before the seventh century BC had roofs that were made of clay or thatch, supported by wooden posts.
In ancient Greece three types
of columns can be found; Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian.
All three types of columns have three separate parts to their structure
(base, shaft, and capital) with the exception of Doric which has no base.
The base is all one piece as well as the capital. The shaft is composed of
several pieces which fit together in a tongue-and-groove type of securing.
Columns were constructed in a raw fashion first before the final product
Of the three columns found in Greece, Doric
columns are the most basic and undecorative, with a square and circular
capital and a plain 20 sided shaft. There is no base leaving this column
with a very straightforward but powerful presence in its design. During
the Archaic period, Doric columns were shorter
compared to their height and diameter. Doric capitals showed an evolution
from a broad flaring to a more compact form. Doric, like most Greek
styles, emitted a strong horizontal presence in its architectural design.
The area above the columns, the frieze and architrave, had no set style
and is found to have a wide variety only following the simple pattern.
Above each column a triglyph (vertical band) was carved and between each
of these was a metope filled with sculpture
of history, myths, religious
Ionic columns were more slender and narrowly fluted than Doric, and also had what is called entasis; which is a convex swelling to prevent an illusion of concavity in a column shaft. A large base was added consisting of a textured profile like that of stacked rings. Ionic capitals consist of a scroll-like portion above a decorative shaft portion. The Ionic style has a more decorative capital. Instead of the single scene carvings of the Doric style in the frieze, the Ionic had a continuous band of carvings.
The Corinthian columns are the most decorative and usually the most appealing to the modern eye. They too use entasis to correct the optical illusions of the massive Greek structures. The Corinthian capitals have flowering, leaf-like structures below a lesser scroll design than that of Ionian capitals. The shaft has indented sides and the base is a more refined version of the Ionian. Unlike the Doric and Ionian roofs, which are at a slant, the Corinthian roofs are flat. The Corinthian frieze is the same as the Ionic frieze, but on a smaller scale.
When building the first temples, ancient Greek architects ran into many problems, the first being the problem of design. When an architect first began his temple, he had to begin at the bottom and work his way up. The foundation must be strong and level in order for the temple to be a success. One mistake in the beginning would have been impossible to correct. One important restriction in drawing the design plans was the size of the paper. They only had small pieces of paper, made from papyrus. Although many pieces were glued together to make a bigger piece of paper, it still was not large enough to show enough of the necessary details of the drawing to the builders. As a result, details were overlooked and many serious errors may have been caused. The Greeks came up with two solutions to help this problem. The first was to design simple buildings. The second was to have the architect at the site to tell the builders exactly what he wanted. Another problem architects came upon, was the demand for large temples. If the width of the building was increased, the weight of the columns had to increase. The solution to this problem was a simplistic design. The basic plan was a long rectangular hall with a portico of columns around all four sides. This plan did not cause an increase in the roof span, and consequently did not put extra weight on the columns. There are many buildings which show the classic Greek style of architecture. These buildings, however, contain many different aspects, ranging from the roof type, to size, to column type.
There were two Temples of Hera at Samos, which are called the First Temple of Hera at Samos, and the Second Temple of Hera at Samos. They were two of the earliest Greek temples which show their primitive way of constructing temples, as opposed to the later temples on the Acropolis. The first temple of Hera at Samos was built in the first half of the eighth century BC. It had a simple design with a rectangular hall 100 feet long, with posts down the middle. Later, wooden posts were added around the four sides, each with a circular stone base. It is believed that the addition of the posts around the temple, or the portico, was an attempt at monumental architecture. The portico was an important step which eventually led to the characteristic white columns of later Greek temples. The walls of the temple were made of two kinds of stones with little binding. Neither the roofs, nor the columns were made of durable materials. The second temple of Hera was built at the same site in the middle of the seventh century BC. The second temple was similar to the first, with two exceptions: the row of columns down the center had been excluded, and the portico was included in the design from the beginning. The roof was still made of clay, and the columns were still made of wood.
The Parthenon temple to Athena was destroyed in 480 BC by the Persians, just ten years after the miraculous victory of the Greeks over the Persians in the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. The temple that was destroyed was a temple which had been built in celebration of the victory and as a thank you to the gods. The Greeks made an oath after the defeat, the Oath of Plataia, not to rebuild any of the destroyed temples, as a reminder of the constant Persian strength and threat. Pericles decided, several years later, that the Acropolis (a big hill in the center of Athens where the Mycenean palace had once stood) should be rebuilt into a magnificent, gorgeous group of temples, dedicated to the gods. Pericles wanted the Parthenon to be the centerpiece of the new Acropolis. The Parthenon was built in honor of the goddess Athena Parthenos (which means maiden). Construction of the Parthenon began in 447 BC, by the architects, Iktinos and Kallikrates. In building the Parthenon, only Pentelic marble was used, except for the wooden roof frame and bronze casings. The Parthenon is a Doric building with many Ionic aspects. There were eight columns in front, and seventeen on each side. There were six pronaos and opis columns, which were Ionic. This opposed the traditional Doric style of two columns. Also opposing Doric style were the eight columns in front and back of the Parthenon. The Parthenon was completed in 432 BC.
There was once a jagged, narrow road which led up to the Acropolis. The Athenian people had decided that this road was not a satisfactory ascent to the Acropolis, so a ramp was built. Soon after the ramp was built, The first Propylaia was built and then destroyed by the Persians in 480 BC. The new Propylaia was designed and built by Mnesikles from 437-432 BC. The Propylaia was the Doric gateway onto the Acropolis in Athens. It was built on two different levels, due to the uneven ground. The Propylaia served as a gateway from the land of the humans, to the land of the gods on the Acropolis. In the interior, two parallel rows of three Ionic columns were used, which were taller than the Doric columns in the front and the rear of the temple. This helped to balance the building, since it was built on two levels.
The Erechtheion, an Ionic temple, also on the Acropolis in Athens, was started 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. Within the east hall, there were one room reserved for a sculpture of Athena Polias, and one reserved for Poseidon. The west part of the Erechtheion was built on two levels. It is on the north side that six statues of young women, or caryatids, are found.
The temple of Athena
Nike (=victory) was a small isolated Ionic temple
near the Propylaia. It was created about 420 BC,
during the Peloponnesian
War. The Athenians worshipped Nike Athena in hopes of a victory over
and their allies. The Athenians had been fighting on land and sea
against them and desperately needed another victory. The theme of victory
is shown by the frieze running on the temple, of a victory over the Persians.
The temple has a portico 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 confinement of space, due to the massive neighboring
monuments, and perhaps due to lack of money,
because of the war.