Greek Architectural Orders

Architectural order describes the style of building. In Classical architecture, each order is identifiable by means of its proportions and profiles as well as by various aesthetic details. The style of column employed serves as a useful index of the style itself, so identifying the order of the column will then, in turn, situate the order employed in the structure as a whole.

The Parthenon of Athens

The Parthenon, 447-432 BC, Athens

There are three distinct orders in Ancient Greek architecture: Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. These three were later adopted by the Romans, who modified their capitals. The Roman adoption of the Greek orders took place in the 1st century BC. The three Ancient Greek orders have since been consistently used in neo-classical European architecture.

Sometimes the Doric order is considered the earliest order, but there is no evidence to support this. Rather, the Doric and Ionic orders seem to have appeared at around the same time, the Ionic in eastern Greece and the Doric in the west and mainland. Both the Doric and the Ionic order appear to have originated in wood. The Temple of Hera in Olympia is the oldest well-preserved temple of Doric architecture. It was built just after 600 BC. The Doric order later spread across Greece and into Sicily where it was the chief order for monumental architecture for 800 years.

Anatomy of a Column

Doric order

The Doric order originated on the mainland and western Greece. It is the simplest of the orders, characterized by short, faceted, heavy columns with plain, round capitals and no base. With a height that is only four to eight times its diameter, the columns are the most squat of all orders. The shaft of the Doric order is channeled with 20 flutes. The capital consists of a necking which is of a simple form. The echinus is convex and the abacus is square.

Above the capital is a square abacus connecting the capital to the entablature. The entablature is divided into three horizontal registers, the lower part of which is either smooth or divided by horizontal lines. The upper half is distinctive for the Doric order. The frieze of the Doric entablature is divided into triglyphs and metopes. A triglyph is a unit consisting of three vertical bands which are separated by grooves. Metopes are the plain or carved reliefs between two triglyphs.

The Greek forms of the Doric order come without an individual base. They instead are placed directly on the stylobate. Later forms, however, came with the conventional base consisting of a plinth and a torus. The Roman versions of the Doric order have smaller proportions. As a result, they appear lighter than the Greek orders.

Ionic order

The Ionic order came from eastern Greece, where its origins are entwined with the similar but little known Aeolic order. It is distinguished by slender, fluted pillars with a large base and two opposed volutes (also called scrolls) in the echinus of the capital. The echinus itself is decorated with an egg-and-dart motif. The Ionic shaft comes with four more flutes than the Doric counterpart (totalling 24). The Ionic base has two convex moldings called tori which are separated by a scotia.

The Ionic order is also marked by an entasis, a curved tapering in the column shaft. A column of the ionic order is nine times its lower diameter. The shaft itself is eight diameters high. The architrave of the entablature commonly consists of three stepped bands (fasciae). The frieze comes without the Doric triglyph and metope. The frieze sometimes comes with a continuous ornament such as carved figures instead.

Corinthian order

The Corinthian order is the most ornate of the Greek orders, characterized by a slender fluted column having an ornate capital decorated with two rows of acanthus leaves and four scrolls. It is commonly regarded as the most elegant of the three orders. The shaft of the Corinthian order has 24 flutes. The column is commonly ten diameters high.

The Roman writer Vitruvius credited the invention of the Corinthian order to Callimachus, a Greek sculptor of the 5th century BC. The oldest known building built according to this order is the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens, constructed from 335 to 334 BC. The Corinthian order was raised to rank by the writings of Vitruvius in the 1st century BC.


Choragic Monument of Lysicrates, Athens (335-334 BC)

Ancient Greek Architecture

One of the Architectural problems of the Ancient world, that concerned me as a student of Architecture in Rome, was the Arc. Namely this Architectural solution, that for my professors was a Roman invention, unknown in the Ancient Greek World.


Colosseum of Rome, completed in the 1st century CE

The same view prevails today, after 35 years. I noticed that in one of my last trip to southern Italy, where the tour guide of Taormina (Tavroménio) repeated just the same, namely that the Arc was a Roman invention. So I decided to get involved with it, to ascertain the fact, since, from the first moment, I felt that something should be happening in this ancient world, all of whose achievements we see with our own logic, without following it’s own mentality.

Turning, then, to the inquiry procedure with the eyes of the Ancients, I met unknown places and secret cults, playing a key role in shaping the architecture and formed a cosmic standard, with axes and shapes, through which the ancient satisfy their religious Needs. At the same time, they were trying to convert Theory into Action, with structures and symbols, placing the Sacred Temples in specific points, with axial relations between them. Here I met a world where Art was a component of a Global Logic, they should be working together as a whole. So insinuated that behind wars and conflicts, there was a Structured Authority, he had the wit to impose it’s will through advising, having Religion as instrument.

To solve the problem of the Ancient’s Logic only with the use of the findings and unilaterally, without putting your imagination to work and without entering into their shoes, it’s like using on a modern PC only as a calculator! This, however, increases the success of amateurs versus professionals, as is the Schliemann case.

Seeing, then, the fantastic effort of the volume “History of the Greek Nation” I felt – in the past – much more Confident. But today, after all my researches, I found that there are some key differences in the results and come to the conclusion that something is amiss. This I realized when I noticed that sixteen volumes, about 10,000 pages, are based on 159 collaborators archaeologists, historians, philologists, etc. and only report an architect and a mathematical, and none of the other professionals, for a period of 101.941 years.
But we know at least 754 Ancient Scientists (G. Georgakopoulos “Ancient Greek Scientists”), of whom 117 were architects and for a period of 1.200 years they were basically structurally implementing the theories of the Ancient Greeks. Furthermore, we must bear in mind that the architect of the time was a painter, sculptor, engineer, etc. But we know also that the architect of today has the most comprehensive training and profound knowledge of the Past through the History of Art, the Present constructing Buildings and the Future by processing future proposals. And all this implies: Building Design, Static Knowledge, Functional Needs Design, Interior Design, in deapth knowledge of the materials, Topography, Mathematics, Prospectively, Construction Details, social Structures knowledge a thousand of other things, resulting in a Global Knowledge.
So when this Professional is Absent, all individual analysis of Archaeological findings, of Historical facts, or of Philosophical thinking may be possible, but the system does not work Spherically (as a whole) – especially when other professions are missing in the process of analysis.

The result of all the above is that the prevailing opinion around the world is that the architecture of the Greeks is only the Linear Surface with Rhythms: Doric – Ionic – Corinthian and Formulas: Prostyle Amphiprostyle – Pavilion – Dipteral etc. I felt, therefore, the professional curiosity to study the subject of Construction Knowledge of the Ancient Greeks, and based on ideology tireless researchers, covering the Gaps which exist in the area of Greek knowledge, while I took into account tall the views of colleagues and professionals in other scientific areas.


Odeon of Herodes Atticcus, Athens

As, however, i went on in my investigations, construction-wise, I kept falling on puzzles and riddles, that opened access to other spaces; thus, I walked into a Labyrinth of Knowledge, whose road was not closed in front of me and that I followed; and without much effort, when I looked into the problems with eye of the Ancient entering in their mentality, I saw solutions. As one good God is in front of me that opened me the way; perhaps it was Apollo, maybe it was Dionysus, who knows? Using Pythagoras as a Key to open latched doors and understand the symbolism on the Sacred Temples until the Labyrinth lead me to a circular space; there, on one hand, as Petal Inclined I see seated people dressed as Greeks, watching in agony there in front of me, the Goathorned.
I bit my lips, because I realized that the Goathorned actor was playing Dionysus Revelation.

The researcher – G. Baltoyannis