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Introduction

Table Summary
SUMMARY OF GREEK ARCHITECTURE
Archaic age
ca. 800-500 BC
Classical age
ca. 500-330 BC
Hellenistic age
ca. 330 BC-0
megaron > peripteral
temple
Athens Acropolis (Parthenon, Propylaea,
Erechtheum)
Alexandria (Library,
Lighthouse)
Doric and Ionic orders Corinthian order

General Features
The foremost type of ancient Greek architecture is the temple; other monumental buildings (e.g.
palaces, civic halls) were generally modelled on temple design. A Greek temple typically served as
the home of a deity statue, before which ceremonies were conducted by priests. Like most cultures
throughout history, however, the general population of ancient Greece did not congregate inside
temples for religious services.3
Until the Archaic period, the Greeks typically constructed monumental buildings from wooden
timbers and clay bricks (like the Aegeans before them). Throughout the Archaic period, these
materials were superseded by stone, of which the supreme type was marble. Lesser varieties of
stone were often enhanced with a veneer of marble dust.2
The Etruscan civilization (ca. 800 BC-0) of central Italy also erected large-scale architecture, in a
style based strongly on that of the Greeks (see reconstruction of an Etruscan temple). Ruins
of Etruscan cities (see examples) are scant, however, as the Etruscans (like the Aegeans) built
mainly with wood and clay, which deteriorates swiftly. The Etruscans made early advances
in arched construction, which were absorbed by the Romans.3,16
Main Article
Archaic Age
ca. 800-500 BC
The Archaic age (see History of Greek Europe) was the formative period of Greek architecture,
during which the typical layouts, proportions, and decorative elements of the Greek temple were
established.
The earliest Greek temple design was essentially a rectangular building with a portico (covered porch
with columns) fitted to the entrance. This plan was based on the Mycenaean megaron (see Aegean
Architecture). Eventually, in order to achieve symmetrical design, a second portico was added to the
opposite end of the building; this was merely a decorative porch (a "false portico") as it lacked an
entrance.H128,2,6,13

Pediment
Credit: Derek Harper (modified by Essential Humanities)

Basic Layout of a Megaron-based Temple
Credit: Essential Humanities

Exterior of a Megaron-based Temple
Credit: Essential Humanities

Pediment
Credit: Derek Harper (modified by Essential Humanities)

Basic Layout of a Megaron-based Temple
Credit: Essential Humanities
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As illustrated above, the roof of a Greek temple has a shallow slope. This results in a low, wide
triangular gable at the top of each portico. Each gable is called apediment.
The standard Greek temple design emerged via embellishment of the megaron plan. Most crucially,
the eaves were extended and supported with a line of columns all the way around the building.3 A
line of columns that surrounds a building is called a peristyle; a building with a peristyle is described
as peripteral.

Well-preserved Example of the Standard Greek Temple Design
Credit: Scott Ware

Basic Layout of a Standard Greek Temple
Credit: Essential Humanities

Exterior of a Standard Greek Temple
Credit: Essential Humanities

Well-preserved Example of the Standard Greek Temple Design
Credit: Scott Ware

Basic Layout of a Standard Greek Temple
Credit: Essential Humanities
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A line of columns, known as a colonnade, usually supports the roof of a building or covered
walkway. In the latter case, the term "colonnade" is sometimes extended to mean the entire structure.
(Likewise, the term arcade may denote a series of arches, or a walkway with a roof supported by
arches.)
The peripteral design is practical as well as aesthetic. A peripteral building is inherently surrounded
by a covered walkway, thus providing shelter to visitors and passers-by. When a public square is
surrounded by peripteral buildings (as was typical in ancient Greece and Rome), the perimeter of the
square is lined with sheltered walkways.
Naturally, architects embellished on the standard temple plan in various ways. For instance, an
opulent effect was sometimes achieved by adding a second peristyle around the first; this is known as
a double peristyle. And while most Greek buildings featured only one story, multi-story designs
were not uncommon. Circular versions of the temple plan also developed; a circular Greek temple-
style building is known as a tholos.

Circular Greek Temple Architecture
Credit: Antonio De Lorenzo and Marina Ventayol

Various Greek Temple Designs
Credit: Napoleon Vier et al. (modified by Essential Humanities)

Modern Example of a Double Peristyle
Credit: Karldupart

Restored Two-story Ancient Greek Building
Credit: Christos Vittoratos

Circular Greek Temple Architecture
Credit: Antonio De Lorenzo and Marina Ventayol

Various Greek Temple Designs
Credit: Napoleon Vier et al. (modified by Essential Humanities)
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With the basic layout established, two distinct styles of Greek temple emerged: the
simple Doric order and the relatively elaborate Ionic order (see Classical Orders).1Elements of both
orders were sometimes mixed in the same building.
Classical Age
ca. 500-330 BC
Throughout the Archaic and Classical periods, the cultural heart of Greece was Athens. The principal
site of Classical architecture is the Athens Acropolis, an elevated plateau at the centre of the city,
reserved for its most sacred buildings. (The acropolis was a standard feature of Greek city-states.)
Following the razing of the Acropolis by the Persians during the Persian Wars (ca. 500-450 BC), the
most celebrated of all Greek structures were erected on this plateau.6
The most famous building in the Doric order, and indeed the crowning work of all Greek architecture,
is the Parthenon. This temple originally housed an enormous statue ofAthena, patron deity of
Athens.3 (A full-scale replica of the Parthenon, though made of concrete rather than marble, is found
in Nashville.)

Interior of the Nashville Parthenon
Credit: Altairisfar

Athens Acropolis
Credit:

The Parthenon
Credit: Mountain

Nashville Parthenon
Credit: Ryan Kaldari

Interior of the Nashville Parthenon
Credit: Altairisfar

Athens Acropolis
Credit:
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The entrance to the Acropolis is spanned by a magnificent gateway known as the Propylaea. This
type of structure, essentially a classical temple that lacks front and rear walls, may be termed
a classical gateway. The classical gateway experienced a revival across Europe during the
Neoclassical period, the most famous example being theBrandenburg Gate in Berlin.

Brandenburg Gate
Credit: Fersy

The Propylaea
Credit: Glenlarson

Reconstruction of the Propylaea
Credit: public domain

Brandenburg Gate
Credit: Fersy

The Propylaea
Credit: Glenlarson
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The Ionic order flourished principally in Asia Minor; in mainland Greece, Doric reigned supreme
(though many Doric buildings, including the Parthenon and Propylaea, borrow Ionic
elements).2 Nonetheless, the Athens Acropolis also contains the foremost work of Ionic architecture:
the Erechtheum. This temple features an unusual design, with multiple statue chambers and three
entrances; each entrance has its own porch, one of which is the famous Porch of the Caryatids. (A
"caryatid" is a column sculpted into a female figure; the male equivalent is an "atlantid".)

Porch of the Caryatids
Credit: Psy guy

The Erechtheum
Credit: Stan Shebs

The Erechtheum
Credit: Dorieo21

Porch of the Caryatids
Credit: Psy guy

The Erechtheum
Credit: Stan Shebs
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The Classical age also witnessed the development of the Corinthian order (a derivative of the Ionic
order; see Classical Orders), though it was rarely used prior to the Roman age.3,6
Other Building Types
Along with temples, the Greek temple design was used (and, to varying degrees, reshaped) by
Archaic and Classical architects for other monumental structures, including administrative
buildings, commercial halls, libraries, tombs, and monuments.

Ancient Greek Monument
Credit: DerHexer

Ruins of an Ancient Greek Administrative Building
Credit: Clipper

Restored Ancient Greek Commercial Hall
Credit: Christos Vittoratos

Ancient Greek Monument
Credit: DerHexer

Ruins of an Ancient Greek Administrative Building
Credit: Clipper
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Another important form of Greek architecture was venue seating, installed in such places
as theatres (open-air structures for dramatic performance), odeons (smaller, roofed structures for
musical performance), and hippodromes (horse tracks; see example). By constructing the stage (of a
theatre or odeon) or track (of a hippodrome) at the base of a natural incline, wooden or
stone benches could be installed in ascending rows upon the incline.5 (Venues with continuous
seating all the way around the performance area would not be erected until Roman times.)

Partly Restored Ruins of an Ancient Greek Odeon
Credit: Nikthestoned

Ruins of an Ancient Greek Theatre
Credit:

Partly Restored Ruins of an Ancient Greek Odeon
Credit: Nikthestoned

Ruins of an Ancient Greek Theatre
Credit:
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Hellenistic Age
ca. 330 BC-0
With the Macedonian embrace of Greek ways and the vast conquests of Alexander,
the Hellenistic age witnessed a rapid diffusion of Greek culture, southward across Egypt
and eastward across Southwest and Central Asia (see History of Greek Europe). Greek architecture
filled many cities throughout these regions (some of which exceeded any Greek city-state in size),
including Seleucia (Iraq), Pergamum (Turkey), Antioch (Turkey), and Alexandria (Egypt).
The variety of Greek architecture expanded during this period (due to local cultural influences and the
sheer amount of construction), as did size (thanks to advances in engineering).3,6
Overall, Hellenistic architecture is remembered for its unprecedented quantity, diversity, and
scale. Alexandria, the cultural capital (and largest city) of the Hellenistic age (see reconstruction),
erected the two most famous Hellenistic buildings: the Library of Alexandria (see reconstruction)
and the Lighthouse of Alexandria. Unfortunately, neither has survived.

Lighthouse of Alexandria
Credit: Emad Victor Shenouda
Addendum
Key Definitions
The Essential Humanities definition of art is a beautiful human creation. Art can be divided into two
basic types: fine art (aka pure art), which is simply experienced (e.g. painting, sculpture,
architecture), and applied art (aka decorative art), which is actually used (e.g. pottery, clothing,
furniture).
Fine art (which has always strongly influenced applied art) is the primary concern of Essential
Humanities. Five great fine arts are recognized: painting (flat visual art), sculpture (three-dimensional
visual art), architecture (the visual art of building design; may be considered a special branch of
sculpture), music (sound art), and literature (word art). These five media are "great" in that they
(arguably) comprise the most expressive and universally appreciated forms of art.
Ages of Western Visual Art
Western visual art can be divided into eight ages. For discussion of the overall course of Western art,
see Core Regions of Western Art and Western Aesthetics.
AGES OF WESTERN ART
3000-2000 BC 2000-1000 BC 1000 BC-0 0-1000 1000-present
1 2 3 4

7


5 6

8
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Aegean
ca. 3000-1200 BC
Greek
ca. 1200 BC-0
Roman
ca. 0-500
Medieval
ca. 500-1500
Renaissance
ca. 1400-1600
Baroque
ca. 1600-1800
Neoclassical/Romantic
ca. 1750-1900
Modern
ca. 1850-