The Ancient Greek Temple Architecture originated during the Archaic period (8-6 centuries BC). All the constructions of that time were made out of megaliths. Megaliths are European monuments of 4-3 thousand years BC. The most famous example of megalith is Stonehenge in England, dated approximately by 3000 BC. A megalith was constructed of horizontal stones, which were simply put over vertical stones without any mortar to connect them. Vertical stones in Ancient Greek Architecture were converted into Columns, whereas the horizontal stones were converted to Entablature (upmost part of the all construction). Together Columns and Entablature (and Base too) formed an Architectural order.
Architectural orders can be divided into 3 types: Doric order, Ionic order and Corinthian order. The Doric order finds its origin in the town of Olympia in mainland of Ancient Greece, where the population of Dorians lived. The first Dorian temple was probably the Temple of Gera (dated by the end of 8 century BC). It is from this temple that the Ancient Greek Architecture sprung. It is believed that it was the first temple of stone to have ever been built. Before it the Greeks built temples with columns of wood around constructions of limestone bricks, but The Temple of Gera has columns of stone, which in their time were gifts to the temple from different Greek communities. That is why the columns of this temple differed from one another – both in period and in the way they were crafted.
The Temple of Gera in Olympia (the end of 8 century BC)
Dorian columns of Archaic period were large, wide at the bottom, with simple and also large capitals (upmost parts of columns). They had a common basis with the temple itself. The Entablature of Doric order in this period had almost the same height as columns. In Classical period (5th to 4th century BC) the Doric order columns used to be higher with smaller capitals and their entablature was narrower than in the Archaic period.
Ionic order appeared on the islands and Asian coast of Aegean sea, where the population of Ionians lived. The Ionic order was different from the Doric. Its columns were taller and had their own individual bases. Ionic capitals had volutes from the different sides of corpus of columns. Like the Doric order, the Ionic architectural order, too, underwent changes in its appearance during the Archaic and Classical periods. Also Doric and Ionic entablatures were different and had their own constructions. The architectural differences of these two orders created different perceptions in the eye of the spectator: the Doric order (especially the column) could be seen as the body of man, Ionic – as the body of a woman.
Doric and Ionic orders developed simultaneously and did not overlap until a certain point in time. In 5 century BC all the polises (city-states) of Greece came together to build a united fleet to fight the Persians. Athens became the center of that united Greece. It was there, in the Acropolis (the top of the city) that the building of a fortress was started. The main aim of that fortress was to demonstrate the power of a new Greece and protect the shrines of Gods from enemies. That is why Acropolis represented a complex of temples with a fortress wall around it. In those temples both architectural orders were merged to portray a new united Greece. This is why there are both Doric order’s and Ionic order’s buildings in the Acropolis.
Tre Acropolis in Athens/The reconstruction of Acropolis in Athens
Just as the Doric order was interpreted like body of man and Ionic – like body of woman, the Corinthian order was interpreted like body of girl. This style originated later than the two former orders , during the Hellinistic period (323-30 years BC) in the city of Corinth. Like Ionic order Corinth order has got 3 parts – an individual base, a column’s shaft and a capital. There is a legend about Corinth capital’s origin. One day sculptor Callimachus found in a cemetery a basket which was put on a bush of acanthus. That plant grew through the basket. Callimachus sketched it and as a consequence his drawing formed the construction of Corinth capital. This is why the Corinth capital is structured not as simple as Doric’s and Ionic’s capitals. The corpus of Corinth column in contrast to one of Ionic is taller and thinner. Corinth Entablature has the same height as late Ionic one but they have different constructions.
All three types of columns have got long gutters on their shafts which called flutes. They interpreted like folds of man’s costume in Doric order, woman’s dress in Ionic order and girl’s tunic in Corinth order. This perception of Ancient Greek orders as human body is called Anthropomorphism. It is this characteristic that marks it stand out among all other architectural styles in later periods.
The Types of Architectural Orders