Ancient Greek Architecture: One of the Leading Ones
Pooja Patel is an Architect by profession. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Arch (B.Arch.). She is an Architect at SDCPL – Gharpedia. Her writing weaves creative ideas and tips that offer a sustainable approach and informative content in the field of architecture and interiors. Apart from being blogger, she also participates in Architectural design & detailing at SDCPL. You can easily connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn & Instagram.
Greek Civilization was one of the richest and the finest civilizations in the history of humankind. And they were literally the harbingers of some civilized trends in Europe, Grecian architecture is one of them. It is the Greeks who had gifted the world some of the finest examples of ancient architecture with certain uniqueness. Tagged as ancient Greek architecture, the genre includes some classic examples of historical structures, giant buildings, and super-big complexes, etc.
The history of Greek Civilization can be traced from quite a long time ago with some of the classic structures of the ancient era such as theaters, stadium, temples, and many more constructional wonders. Later, the Romans were highly inspired by the Greek Architecture, structures, proportion, simplicity, and their perspective. Moreover, Greek architecture and the style further paved the way for creating several classical architectural orders, which exerted a significant influence on the Western culture. The influence of Greek architecture in the Western world dates back to the Renaissance era and is found even today.
Brief About the Greek Architecture
Greek architecture was mostly developed by the Greek natives whose background and ethnicity flourished in the main areas of Greece such as the Aegean Islands, Peloponnese and colonies of Anatolia and Italy. Although the architecture mainly found recognition during 900BC to 1st century AD, there are structures which are older by age and probably was constructed around 600BC.
Ancient Greek Temples
Most of the Ancient Greek structures today are ruins and many of them were temples. Ancient Greek architecture was extremely famous and the mastery of construction of tall and wide range of temples was the specialty of this class of artistic constructions. Apart from the temples, some of the classic examples from the ancient Greek architecture comprises of open-air theaters, professional gateways, Public Square, storied colonnade, town council building, stadium, public monuments, and monumental tombs.
Ancient Greek architecture had five different classical orders such as Doric, Ionic, Tuscan, Composite, and Corinthian.
Influences on Ancient Greek Architecture
The Geographic location of Greece has had a huge impact on the architecture. The presence of rock, deep coastlines, and rugged mountains with forests made stones available in abundance. With the easy availability of stones, building materials became simple to access. Apart from that, clay was available through Greece and the Islands, mostly near Athens for the potters to create vessels, architectural decorations, and more.
Greece has a favorable Mediterranean climate with sufficient heat in summer and medium cold in winter. Therefore, the architecture was mostly climate responsive and was inspired by the coolness of the climate. Most of the temples were constructed on hilltops with the facility of visual focus of gatherings and processions.
Greece is usually blessed by numbers of sunny days along with bright blue sky and ocean almost all the year around. The clear light helps to draw focus on the details of outdoors, seashore, and rocky outcrops. The building materials of the ancient constructions were shade prone and they used to change its colors in accordance to the day’s light due to reflection.
Greek religious beliefs were mostly based on worship of the nature. Olympus Mountain was considered to be a heavenly abode according to Greek Mythology. Ancient Greek people believed in the concept of worshipping the nature. This impact was further seen in the architecture and structures they created. The temples of Greek mostly reflected the beauty of nature and had a specified order and symmetry.
Greek Art In The Form Of Human Sculptures
As far as the art history of the place is concerned, it is divided into four periods: The Proto-geometric, the Geometric, the Archaic, and the Classical. These periods saw the emergence of different arts such as Severe Classical, High Classical, and Late Classical trend, respectively. This art was further found in the depiction of human art in pottery. Moreover, apart from the structures, the impact was widely observed in the temples.
Building designs and contemporary culture had always been interlinked in ancient Greece, but in many instances, the design was displayed as a true reflection of culture, rather than being a part of the cultural context of the society. Have a flick through on how culture influences the design and architecture of a place: The Relation Between Building Designs and Culture!
Five Different Classical Architecture Orders
As said earlier, there were five different classical architecture orders. The first three had a major influence on genuine innovation. The combination of structure observed different styles and designs of columns with and without a base.
The wooden pillars were found in the Doric columns with stone. The Ionic order originated during the 6th century BCE and boasted of richly crafted sculptures. The Corinthian columns were found in Athens, which emerged during the 5th century BCE. These orders were adopted by the Western World, and the examples of these orders are still very prominent in today’s world.
Materials Used in Greek Architecture
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the Greeks were highly influenced by marble, and for that reason, most of the buildings were made of that material. Despite the presence of wood, these materials were not significantly used. The Early 8th century BCE had temples made of thatch roofs. The late 7th century BCE consisted of temples made of durable stone, which were usually the mixture of two materials.
The architectural designs on the stone columns were much influenced by the ancient wooden architectural designs. When it came to the stone, limestone had always been the main choice with protection of marble dust stucco. Apart from that, pure white marble was also significantly used. The best marbles were usually taken from Mt. Pentelikon near Athens, Paros, and Naxos.
Prominent Structures of Greek Architecture
Sculptors from Geek and abroad made carvings of freestanding and relief structures usually found on the buildings. Paintings were highly influenced by these structures within proper intricate detailing.
Temples of Greek Architecture:
Tholos, Greek Temple
The temples were one of the most recognized specimens of opulent Greek architecture. The early Greek temples were created in honor of the divinities. These temples were made from wood, and mud-brick materials, which were neither climate proof nor that long-lasting. The concept of naos however found its ways in the 10th century BCE. The Greek architecture however moved from the temporary materials to the permanent ones during the 8th century BCE.
Greek Temple Plans
The Doric order found its way in the Greek mainland during the Archaic period. Thus, temples found its prominent way in Greek architecture during the sixth and fifth century BCE. One of the most famous examples of Classical Greek Architecture is the Periclean Parthenon of Athens based on the Doric order structure.
Tholos is one of the most significant examples of unique Grecian temple plans. The temple usually had a circular plan. The most famous examples of Tholos architecture were the sanctuary of Apollo in Delphi and Sanctuary of Asclepius at Epidauros, which are still prevalent with their reminiscence.
Stoa of Greek Architecture:
Stoa of Eumenes, the Acropolis, Greece
Stoa of Athens
The Stoa is considered today as one of the prominent types of Greek architectural design that included a covered walkway or colonnade designed for public use. Most of the examples of Stoa were from the Doric order based on a single level. The later examples of Stoa had been found in the Hellenistic and Roman with two-story structures. The later structures were prime examples of interior space mostly used as shops.
Cities such as Athens and Corinth have some of the prime and famous stoas. The Stoa Poikile or Painted Stoa of the fifth century BCE helped in sheltering the different Greek military exploits during the battle of Marathon. The Royal Stoa or Stoa Basileios of the fifth century BCE acted as a seat for the chief civic officials.
The Stoa of Attalos was another prominent example, however, of a later period. Some of the other examples of Stoa included the South Stoa and Stoa Poikile of Athens.
Bouleuterion of Greek Architecture:
Stoa of Attalos
Today, the Bouleuterion is one of the classic examples of the civic building in Greek cities. These places were usually used for handling all the civic matters and the construction represented the citizenry of polis. It was a covered, centralized building and had stepped seating arrangement surrounding the central speaker. The main speaker had an altar. The City of Priène and the City of Miletus had some of the most famous Bouleuterion of the area.
Altar of Greek Architecture:
The Oracle of Delphi
Blood sacrifice had a significant impact on Greek architecture and was important for Greek rituals. These altars needed proper architecture and had prominent monumental scale. The Altar of Hieron II at Syracuse, Sicily is in existence as one of the fine examples of the altars from the era of third century BCE. The Altar of Zeus of Pergamon built in the second century BCE is yet another fine example of altar. These structures were highly decorated and most of them had open stairs, which are still visible.
Theatre Made of Greek Architectural Style:
The Greek architecture was a big, open space mostly used for drama performances. The theaters were mostly constructed around the hillsides and sloping terrains. The Greek theater had a seating area, stage and space for performing chorus. The Greek theater had hugely inspired the Roman theaters in the later age.
Miletus Greek Theatre
Ancient Epidaurus Theater
The Ancient Theatre of Thassos
The theatrical performance was used for sacred festivals and had an association with sanctuaries. The Theatre of Dionysus from Athenian Acropolis is one of the most prominent types of theatre adopted based on Greek architecture, which we can see as a fine example.
Fortification in Greek Architecture:
The Mycenaean Fortifications from the Bronze Greece Age was one of the most popular Megalithic architecture or the Cyclopean architecture. This structure was a prime representation of the Bronze Age.
The architecture of the first millennium BCE from Greece portrays a significant amount of fortification walls. Some of the prominent examples of Fortifications in Greece include Attika, a territory in Athens boasting a mix of Classical and Hellenistic walls built in squared masonry blocks and Palairos in Epirus.
Houses of Greek Architecture:
Ancient Greek House
The Greek houses from the Archaic and Classical periods had a very simple and minimalistic design. The houses had a courtyard which was the center for carrying out different ritual practices. The courtyard was the place where women spent most of their time because women weren’t allowed to leave house.
The ground floor consisted of kitchen and storage rooms. Some of them even had animal pens. One of the chief features of the ground floor room was andron, the main area where males carried out their drinking party. The second floor had quarters for female and children referred to as gynaikeion.
Greek House layout
The houses in the southwest area of the Athenian Agora consisted of mud bricks made of tiled roofs and stone socles. The floors were usually made of beaten clay where the vernacular architecture comes into play. The City of Olynthus in Chalcidice, Greece had so many preserved houses from 348BCE. The houses were further arranged in the Hippodamian grid plan.
Fountain Building of Greek Architecture:
As the name suggests, the fountain house was usually the public area designed for drinking clean water. Moreover, jars and containers were also filled in this area. Women who were extensively isolated from society mostly visited the fountain building to collect water. This habit gave them a chance to interact with others.
The Southeast Fountain House of Athenian Agora (circa 530BCE) and Ceramic Water Jars found in the Etruscan tomb of Vulci portrayed a picture of the fountain buildings and the culture of that era.
Major Influence of Greek Architecture to the World
It was the ancient Greek architecture that introduced colonnade to the world, which still has an important impact on the world. The different rows of columns had an impact of entablature and consist of cornice, architrave, and freeze. The columns have become an important holding for the base of the roof.
The Oslo Trading Building from Norway consisted of columns porches on the South. The Chamber of Commerce in Dougherty County, Georgia also boasted of the Ionic order of columns in the South. Greek architecture has had an important influence on the world.
Prominent Examples of Ancient Greek Architecture
Ancient Greek architecture flourished significantly with outstanding structures. It is even believed that Hellenic people had literally brought these magnificent structures from heaven to earth. Some of the prime examples of Greek Architecture which are famous even today include the following:
Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens:
Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens
This temple dedicated to the “Olympian Zeus” is often referred to as the Olympieion or Columns of Olympian Zeus. The building of Temple began during the 6th century by Peisistratos and completed under the reign of Roman Emperor, Hadrian in 131AD. According to Ancient History, Encyclopedia (Published in Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens), “its unusually tall columns and ambitious layout made the temple one of the largest ever built in the ancient world.”
Temple of Apollo, Delphi:
Temple of Apollo, Delphi
In the heart of Delphi, lies the very famous temple, The Temple of Apollo. It was built by the most famous architects, Trophonius and Agamedes during the 7th century BCE. The temple consists of six columns in front and fifteen on the sides.
The Theatre of Epidaurus:
Theatre of Epidaurus
The Theatre of Epidaurus was large and could hold 13,000-14,000 people at a time. The theater precisely boosts of the Hellenistic feel.
Some of the other prominent examples of the Ancient Greek Architecture in today’s world are Stoa of Attalos, Agora; Erechtheion, Acropolis; Temple of Hera, Olympia; Temple of Artemis, Corfu and more.
Greek Architecture has played an important role in inspiring most of the architectures in today’s generation. Although considered mostly ruined, Greek architecture still stands to be one of the richest architectural styles of all time. The dominance of Greek architecture is still prominent in today’s generation. This has however contributed to the rising popularity of Greek culture. If you visit at the ancient regions of Greece, you will surely find these structures exceptionally triumphant and tall. Greek architecture is one of the oldest and richest ones. The presence of Greek architectural monuments gives us a hang about the rich civilization of that glorious ancient era.
I hope you loved the article on ancient Greek Architecture. If you go through the timeline, there are many other architectural styles from the earliest civilizations to the modern architecture or contemporary architectures, which had played a major role in shaping the prominent architectural styles of the period. Have a look at them here:
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Kazi Ubaid is a freelance writer, professional blogger, ghost writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. He uses that curiosity, combined with his experience as a freelance business owner to write about subjects valuable to small business.