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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

Credit: Derek Harper (modified by Essential Humanities)

Basic Layout of a Megaron-based Temple

Credit: Essential Humanities

Exterior of a Megaron-based Temple

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 a pediment.

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.

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
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

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

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).1 Elements 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 of Athena, patron deity of Athens.3 (A full-scale
replica of the Parthenon, though made of concrete rather than marble, is found in Nashville.)

Athens Acropolis
Credit: неизвестно

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 the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

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".)
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.

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.)

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.

Social Structure

Greece in the Archaic Period was made up from independent states, called Polis, or city state. The polis
of Athens included about 2,500 sq kilometres of territory, but other Polis with smaller areas of 250 sq

Greek Society was mainly broken up between Free people and Slaves, who were owned by the free
people. Slaves were used as servants and labourers, without any legal rights. Sometimes the slaves were
prisoners of war or bought from foreign slave traders. Although many slaves lived closely with their
owners, few were skilled craftsmen and even fewer were paid.

As Athenian society evolved, free men were divided between Citizens and Metics. A citizen was born
with Athenian parents and were the most powerful group, that could take part in the government of the
Polis. After compulsory service in the army they were expected to be government officials and take part
in Jury Service. A metic was of foreign birth that had migrated to Athens, to either trade or practice a
craft. A metic had to pay taxes and sometimes required to serve in the army. However, they could never
achieve full right s of a Citizen, neither could they own houses or land and were not allowed to speak in
law courts.

The social classes applied to men only, as women all took their social and legal status from their
husband or their male partner. Women in ancient Greece were not permitted to take part in public life.


c.800 BC
The majority of Greek states were governed by groups of rich landowners, called aristocrats; this word
is derived from 'aristoi', meaning best people. This was a system known as 'oligarchy' the rule by the

c.750 BC
Athenian power in the Archaic Period was controlled by Aeropagus, or council. Their policies were
delivered through three magistrates called Archons.

c.500 BC
Democracy was introduced by an aristocrat, Cleisthenes. Who was from family of the Alcmaeo