The Ancient Greeks had a unique style of architecture that is still copied today in government buildings and major monuments throughout the world. Greek architecture is known for tall columns, intricate detail, symmetry, harmony, and balance. The Greeks built all sorts of buildings. The main examples of Greek architecture that survive today are the large temples that they built to their gods.
The Greeks built most of their temples and government buildings in three types of styles :Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. These styles (also called "orders") were reflected in the type of columns they used. Most all of the columns had grooves down the sides called fluting. This gave the columns a feeling of depth and balance.
Doric - Doric columns were the most simple and the thickest of the Greek styles. They had no decoration at the base and a simple capital at the top. Doric columns tapered so they were wider on the bottom than at the top.
Ionic - Ionic columns were thinner than the Doric and had a base at the bottom. The capital at the top was decorated with scrolls on each side.
Corinthian - The most decorative of the three orders was the Corinthian. The capital was decorated with scrolls and the leaves of the acanthus plant. The Corinthian order became popular in the later era of Greece and also was heavily copied by the Romans.
Greek Orders by Pearson Scott Foremen
Greek temples were grand buildings with a fairly simple design. The outside was surrounded by a row of columns. Above the columns was a decorative panel of sculpture called the frieze. Above the frieze was a triangle shaped area with more sculptures called the pediment. Inside the temple was an inner chamber that housed the statue of the god or goddess of the temple.
The Parthenon Source: Wikimedia Commons
The most famous temple of Ancient Greece is the Parthenon located on the Acropolis in the city of Athens. It was built for the goddess Athena. The Parthenon was built in the Doric style of architecture. It had 46 outer columns each 6 feet in diameter and 34 feet tall. The inner chamber contained a large gold and ivory statue of Athena.
Besides temples, the Greeks built numerous other types of public buildings and structures. They built large theaters that could hold over 10,000 people. The theaters were usually built into the side of a hill and were designed with acoustics that allowed even the back rows to hear the actors. They also built covered walkways called "stoas" where merchants would sell goods and people held public meetings. Other public buildings included the gymnasium, court house, council building, and sports stadium.
Column - The column is the most prominent element in Ancient Greek architecture. Columns supported the roof, but also gave buildings a feeling of order, strength, and balance.
Capital - The capital was a design at the top of the column. Some were plain (like the Doric) and some were fancy (like the Corinthian).
Frieze - The frieze was a decorative panel above the columns that contained relief sculptures. The sculptures often told a story or recorded an important event.
Pediment - The pediment was a triangle located at each end of the building between the frieze and the roof. It also contained decorative sculptures.
Cella - The inner chamber in a temple was called the cella or the naos.
Propylaea - A processional gateway. The most famous one is at the entrance to the Acropolis in Athens.
Interesting Facts About the Architecture of Ancient Greece
The "tholos" was a small circular temple built by the Greeks.
Major construction projects were managed by an architect who directed the workers and craftsmen.
Many of the Greek temples and sculptures were painted with bright colors.
Roofs generally were constructed with a small slope and covered with ceramic terracotta tiles.
Most temples were built on a base that included two or three steps. This raised the temple above the surrounding land.