Greek Architecture


The architecture of ancient Greece is represented by buildings in the
sanctuaries and cities of mainland Greece, the Aegean islands, southern
Italy and Sicily, and the Ionian coast of Turkey. Monumental Greek
architecture began in the archaic period, flourished through the classical
and Hellenistic periods, and saw the first of many revivals during the
Roman Empire. The roots of Greek architecture lie in the tradition of local
Bronze Age house and palaces. The following paper will cover the basic
forms of Greek architecture.

One of the many types of Greek building structures was Sacred
Architecture. The Greeks conceived of their gods in human form, as
anthropomorphic representations of the forces and elements of the natural
world. These gods and goddesses were worshiped with sacrifices made at an
outdoor altar. At many sanctuaries, the altar was much older than the
temple, and some sanctuaries had only an altar. The temple designed simply
as a shelter or home for the cult statue and as a storehouse for offerings.
This shelter consisted of a cella (back wall), a pronaos (columned porch),
an opisthodomus (enclosure), an antae (bronze grills securing the porches),
and a colonnade that provided shelter for visitors.

The earliest monumental buildings in Greek architecture were the
temples. Since these were solidly built and carefully maintained, they had
to be replaced only if destroyed. The architectural orders, Doric on the
mainland and Ionic in the eastern Aegean, were developed in the archaic
temples, and their lasting example tended to make Greek architecture
conservative toward changes in design or in building technology.

The Archaic period evolved after the Mycenaen palace collapsed in 1200
BCE during the dark ages when people began rebuilding. This era brought
about the introduction of both the Doric and Ionic Orders.

The Doric Order, which originated around 400 BCE brought rise to a
whole new type of building technique and style. In the archaic temples,
stone gradually started to replace wood, and some of the structural details
of the early buildings appear to have been copied in stone. At Thermon, in
northwestern Greece, a succession of buildings from the Last Bronze Age
throughout the sixth century BCE show the evolution of the Doric temple
from a hall shaped like a hairpin to a long rectangular building with a
porch at either end and surrounded by columns. The temple of Hera at
Olympia, built about 600 BCE, had wooden columns that were gradually
replaced by stone ones, probably as votive gifts. The variety of column and
capital shapes illustrates the evolution of the Doric order. The earliest
columns had a heavy, bulging profile, and their capitals were broad and
low. During the archaic period, limestone became the standard building
material for foundations, steps, walls, columns, and Doric entablature.
Building such as the famous Temple of Aphaia on Aegina illustrate the
dramatic influence of the Doric order.

White the Doric order became the standard for mainland Greece, the
Ionian colonies in the eastern Aegean were developing a very different
system of columns and entablature based on Egyptian and Near Eastern
architecture. The tall slender columns, low entablature, and lack of
sculptured frieze course were typical of Ionic buildings. The sixth century
BCE Ionic temples were unprecedented in size, as large as 55 by 112 m.
Wealthy cities each has six major temples, sometimes arranged in a regular
sequence, in addition to the standard civic buildings. An outstanding
number of Ionic buildings can be found throughout the eastern Aegean.

During the classical period, Athenian Dominance greatly affected
architecture. The war between the Greek city-states and Persia (499-480
BCE) interrupted almost all temple building for a generation while the
Greeks concentrated on restoring their defensive walls, civic buildings,
and the fleet. Athens emerged as the leader, controlling the war chest of
the Delian League, Panhellenic league; the city initiated extravagant
program to rebuild the sanctuary of Athena on the Acropolis. The Parthenon,
Propylaea, Temple of Athena Nike, and the Erechtheum were built entirely of
marble and elaborately decorated with carved moldings and sculpture.The
architects were Callicrates and Iotinus, and the chief sculptor was
Phidias. A large school of builders and sculptors developed in Athens
during the second half of the fifth century BCE. Most of these craft
workers were freed slaves from the eastern Mediterranean. Perhaps as a
consequence there developed in Attica a unique blend of the Doric and Ionic
orders seen in the fortified sanctuaries as well as in Athens.

The Corinthian order resulted from long civil wars during the fifth
century BCE (Classical period). The Ionian cities recovered more quickly
from the civil war under Persian sovereignty. The colossal sixth century
BCE temples and