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Fundamentals of Greek Architecture

Updated on August 17, 2018

Greek architecture

Greek architecture is a very specific and influential type of design, which was based off of the post-and-lintel system. The post-and-lintel system is made up of columns, which are large upright posts, with a roof, or architrave, over the top.


Three ancient orders of architecture—the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian—originated in Greece. To these the Romans added the Tuscan, which they made simpler than Doric, and the Composite, which was more ornamental than the Corinthian.

Doric Order

The Doric Order was the first style of Classical Architecture, which is the sophisticated architectural styles of ancient Greece and Rome that set the standards for beauty, harmony, and strength for European architecture. The other two orders are Ionic and Corinthian.

Ionic order

Ruins of a Greek temple. The Ionic order is one of the three orders of classical architecture, alongside the Doric and Corinthian orders. Classical architecture refers to the architecture styles of ancient Greece and Rome, which set the standards for architecture in the Western world.


The Corinthian, with its offshoot the Composite, is stated to be the most ornate of the orders, characterized by slender fluted columns and elaborate capitals decorated with acanthus leaves and scrolls.


A stone carving of a draped female figure, used as a pillar to support the entablature of a Greek or Greek-style building.


A main beam resting across the tops of columns.



a main beam resting across the tops of columns.


capital definition. In architecture, the top portion of a column. Note: The form of the capital often serves to distinguish one style of architecture from another. For example, the Corinthian, Doric, and Ionic styles of Greek architecture all have different capitals.


The shaft, which rests upon the base, is a long, narrow, vertical cylinder that in some orders is articulated with fluting (vertical grooves). The shaft may also taper inward slightly so that it is wider at the bottom than at the top.


An acroterion or acroterium is an architectural ornament placed on a flat base called the acroter or plinth, and mounted at the apex of the pediment of a building in the classical style.


The flat slab on top of a capital, supporting the architrave.


a rounded moulding below an abacus on a Doric or Ionic capital.


An ornamental moulding round the wall of a room just below the ceiling.


one of a series of pendent ornaments, generally in the form of a frustum of a cone, attached to the undersides of the mutules of the Doric entablature.


In classical architecture, a sima is the upturned edge of a roof which acts as a gutter. Sima comes from the Greek simos, meaning bent upwards.


Rectangular block under the soffit of the cornice of the Greek Doric temple, which is studded with guttae. It is supposed to represent the piece of timber through which the wooden pegs were driven in order to hold the rafter in position, and it follows the sloping rake of the roof. In the Roman Doric order the mutule was horizontal, with sometimes a crowning fillet, so that it virtually fulfilled the purpose of the modillion in the Corinthian cornice.


In architecture the frieze is the wide central section part of an entablature and may be plain in the Ionic or Doric order, or decorated with bas-reliefs. Even when neither columns nor pilasters are expressed, on an astylar wall it lies upon the architrave ('main beam') and is capped by the moldings of the cornice. A frieze can be found on many Greek and Roman buildings, the Parthenon Frieze being the most famous, and perhaps the most elaborate.


A fillet between a Doric architrave and frieze.


A tablet in a Doric frieze with three vertical grooves alternating with metopes.


a square space between triglyphs in a Doric frieze.


A rounded shallow concave groove on the shaft of a column, pilaster, etc


An architectural band or fillet especially when one of a series beneath the taenia in a Doric architrave of which each corresponds to a triglyph above and has a row of six guttae on its lower side.


The upper part of a classical building supported by columns or a colonnade, comprising the architrave, frieze, and cornice.


A vestibule at the front of a classical temple, enclosed by a portico and projecting side walls.


The triangular upper part of the front of a classical building, typically surmounting a portico.


a vertical recessed triangular space forming the centre of a pediment, typically decorated.



An antefix is a vertical block which terminates the covering tiles of the roof of a tiled roof. In grand buildings the face of each stone ante-fix was richly carved, often with the anthemion ornament.


A rake is an architectural term for an eave or cornice which runs along the gable end of the roof of a modern residential structure. It may also be called a sloping cornice, a raking cornice. The trim and rafters at this edge are called rake-, verge-, or barge-board or verge- or barge-rafter.


Crepidoma is an architectural term related to ancient Greek buildings. The crepidoma is the platform on which the superstructure of the building is erected. The crepidoma usually has three levels. The levels typically decrease in size incrementally, forming a series of steps along all or some sides of the building.


In classical Greek architecture, the uppermost course of a building's foundations, partly emerging from the groundline.


(especially in Greek and Roman architecture) an open, circular or oval building with a central space for the presentation of dramatic or sporting events surrounded by tiers of seats for spectators.

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Alternate name koilon. Originally referred to the audience space of the Greek theatre, but later became synonymous with the entire auditorium consisting of the spaces for both the audience as well as the performance; corresponds to Roman cavea.


Occasionally used as equivalent to theatron or the Latin cavea but more specifically as a reference to the seating area of the theatre.


(Greek: dancing place) Circular in early Greek theatre construction, semi-circular in Roman constructions, the orchestra was the space between the audience and the stage; primary chorus performance space in Greek theatre; also adapted for use as an arena for Roman "spectacle entertainment".


Side entrance into the orchestra of a Greek theater (one on each side); the space between the audience seating and the skene building; primary entrance/exit for the chorus and used by audience for entrance and exit from theatre; also the song sung by chorus as it first enters the orchestra.


Horizontal walkway separating upper and lower sections of theatron (Latin cavea ) seating; passages or aisles in Greek theatres concentric with the outer wall; corresponds to Roman praecinctio.


A proscenium is the metaphorical vertical plane of space in a theatre, usually surrounded on the top and sides by a physical proscenium arch (whether or not truly "arched") and on the bottom by the stage floor itself, which serves as the frame into which the audience observes from a more or less unified angle the events taking place upon the stage during a theatrical performance.

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New ancient chapel shaped Roman temple distyle to Doric Greek columns and parapets with palm leaves.Facade of the Maison Carree in NimesAmphiprostyle tetrastyle Peripteral octasyle
New ancient chapel shaped Roman temple distyle to Doric Greek columns and parapets with palm leaves.
New ancient chapel shaped Roman temple distyle to Doric Greek columns and parapets with palm leaves.
Facade of the Maison Carree in Nimes
Facade of the Maison Carree in Nimes
Amphiprostyle tetrastyle
Amphiprostyle tetrastyle
Peripteral octasyle
Peripteral octasyle


Distyle in antis describes a small temple with two columns at the front, which are set between the projecting walls of the pronaos or porch, like the Temple of Nemesis at Rhamnus.

Amphiprostyle tetrastyle

Amphiprostyle tetrastyle describes a small temple that has columns at both ends which stand clear of the naos.Tetrastyle indicates that the columns are four in number, like those of the Temple on the Ilissus in Athens.

Peripteral hexastyle

Peripteral hexastyle describes a temple with a single row of peripheral columns around the naos, with six columns across the front, like the Theseion in Athens.

Peripteral octastyle

Peripteral octastyle describes a temple with a single row of columns around the naos, with eight columns across the front, like the Parthenon, Athens.

Dipteral decastyle

Dipteral decastyle describes the huge temple of Apollo at Didyma, with the naos surrounded by a double row of columns, (Figure 6.) with ten columns across the entrance front.

Pseudo-periteral heptastyle

The Temple of the Olympian Zeus, Agrigento, is termed Pseudo-periteral heptastyle, because its encircling colonnade has pseudo columns that are attached to the walls of the naos. Heptastyle means that it has seven columns across the entrance front.

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a continuous base supporting a row of columns in classical Greek architecture.


An anta is an architectural term describing the posts or pillars on either side of a doorway or entrance of a Greek temple - the slightly projecting piers which terminate the walls of the naos.


An opisthodomos can refer to either the rear room of an ancient Greek temple or to the inner shrine, also called the adyton ('not to be entered'); the confusion arises from the lack of agreement in ancient inscriptions. In modern scholarship, it usually refers to the rear porch of a temple.


Greek, pteron, a wing, the feathery fronds suggesting the wings of a bird. The Fern Lover's Companion George Henry Tilton. It comes from two Greek words orthos, meaning straight, and pteron, meaning a wing. The Insect Folk Margaret Warner Morley.


the inner chamber or sanctuary of a Greek or other ancient temple.


a vestibule at the front of a classical temple, enclosed by a portico and projecting side walls.

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a dome-shaped tomb of ancient Greek origin, especially one dating from the Mycenaean period.


Agora: the social hub and financial marketplace, on and around a centrally located, large open space


An acropolis (Greek: ἀκρόπολις; from akros or akron, "highest", "topmost", "outermost" and polis, "city"; plural in English: acropoles, acropoleis or acropolises) is asettlement, especially a citadel, built upon an area of elevated ground—frequently a hill with precipitous sides, chosen for purposes of defense.

Acropolis of Athens
Acropolis of Athens | Source


The gymnasium in Ancient Greece functioned as a training facility for competitors in public games. It was also a place for socializing and engaging in intellectual pursuits.

Ancient gymnasium at Sardis
Ancient gymnasium at Sardis | Source


"Stadium" is the Latin form of the Greek word "stadion" (στάδιον), a measure of length equalling the length of 600 human feet.As feet are of variable length the exact length of a stadion depends on the exact length adopted for 1 foot at a given place and time. Although in modern terms 1 stadion = 600 ft (180 m), in a given historical context it may actually signify a length up to 15% larger or smaller.

Stadium at Delphi
Stadium at Delphi | Source


Aqueduct (bridge), a bridge that is constructed to convey water over an obstacle, such as a ravine or valley

Aqueduct, Delos, Greece. Remains of an Ancient Greek water course on the island of Delos. Artist: Unknown
Aqueduct, Delos, Greece. Remains of an Ancient Greek water course on the island of Delos. Artist: Unknown

Christy, Wyvill James (1879). "Bargeboard" in A universal dictionary for architects, civil engineers, surveyors, sculptors ... London: Griffith and Farren.

Banister Fletcher

James Steven Curl "Dictionary of Architecture"

D.K Ching " Global History of Architecture"

"Mutule". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911.

A Brief History of the Olympic Games by David C. Young, p. 20

Harper, Douglas. "acropolis". Online Etymology Dictionary.

Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.

Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus

D.K Ching " Visual Dictionary of Architecture"

Thanks for reading.


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    • livetech profile image

      Paul Levy 

      17 months ago from United Kingdom

      It's amazing to see how Architecture relates with history and culture - and how it has changed so much since them - but fundamentally the same. I thank you for writing this.


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