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Greek Architecture - The Doric Order

( Originally Published 1921 )

The Doric Order (p. 79), the most sturdy, is traced by some to an Egyptian prototype, as exemplified at Beni Hasan (pp. 17 B, 18 L, m, p). The origin of the column has given rise to much speculation, but it was probably evolved quite naturally and independently of an Egyptian prototype by splaying the four angles of a square pillar, thus forming an octagonal column, which was further developed into a sixteen-sided column by again splaying the eight edges already obtained, and finally these edges or arrises were rendered more prominent by hollowing out the flat sides between them into flutes. Perrot and Chipiez discuss the origin of this column and its entablature, and suggest that various features of the Order were derived from the simple timber architecture of Mycenaean palaces (p. 79 F). According to this attractive theory, which is convincing to many people, the triglyphs represent the ends of beams resting on the architrave, the mutules the ends of sloping rafters, and the gutter the wooden pegs which held the timbers together. These writers, however, suggest no origin for the capital, and do not entertain the theory of the derivation from the tombs at Beni Hasan in Egypt. An early' form of hut with rough log supports and flat roof (p. 79 C), and a later type with columns and square abacus, and an entablature of architrave, frieze with triglyphs, overhanging cornice, and sloping roof (p. 79 D), are both suggestive of the origin of the structure of Greek temples. Viollet-le-Duc held a decided opinion that the Orders of Greek architecture involved an original stone treatment. He was unable to conceive how the Doric capital could have been derived from a timber form, and he considered the triglyphs in the frieze not as the petrified ends of wooden beams—which in any case could not be seen on all four sides of a building, and which would be very difficult to flute across the grain of the wood—but as original stone uprights, with fluting like columns to express their function of vertical support. He observed that the form of the entablature of the Doric Order could be adapted with unimportant variations to stone as well as to wood, without falsifying the form of the structure, and he could not admit that the Doric Order was evolved from a timber prototype. Garbett goes so far as to call the wooden theory an " insolent libel," and asserts that it is disproved by two facts, for not only is the inclination of the soffit of the stone cornice observed on the ends as well as on the sides of the building, but it does not coincide with the inclination of the roof. Mr. H. H. Statham rejects the timber theory as far as the Doric column and capital are concerned, and points out that its adherents have to explain : (i) that the greater the age of the approximately dated examples, the thicker the columns, while the reverse would have been the case had the original forms been of wood ; (ii) that the characteristic " echinus " moulding under the " abacus " of the Doric column is essentially a stone form, and not easily worked in wood.

The Doric Column (pp. 79 A, 8o) stands without a base directly on a stylobate, usually of three steps, and, including the capital, has a height of from 4 to 61 times the diameter at the base. The circular shaft, diminishing at the top from 3/4 to 2/3 of this diameter, is divided as a rule into 20 shallow flutes or channels separated by sharp " arrises," but sometimes there are 12, as at Assos, 16, as at Sunium, 18, as in the Greek Temple at Pompeii, or 24, as at Paestum (p. 8o C). The division into 20 flutes seems, however, to have been preferred in order that a projection or arris might come under each of the angles of the square abacus above, and at the same time allow of a flute in each centre of the column as seen from the front, back, or sides, and no other number of flutes between twelve and twenty-eight complies with this Greek constructive practice of placing projections over each other. The shaft has normally a slightly convex profile called the " entasis," to counteract the hollow appearance which results from straight-sided columns (p. 126 D). In early works this is often too obtrusive (e.g. Basilica, Paestum), but where it is omitted altogether (e.g. Corinth) the effect is lifeless, and the happy mean may be seen in the Parthenon (p. 89). The shaft terminates in the " hypotrachelion " usually formed of three grooves in archaic examples, and later of one groove, and immediately above it is the continuation of the fluted shaft known as the " trachelion " or necking. The distinctive capital consists of annulets, echinus, and abacus. The annulets or horizontal fillets, from three to five in number, stop the vertical lines of the arrises and flutes of the shaft. The echinus (Gk., sea-urchin), probably so called by Vitruvius on account of its resemblance to the shell of a sea-urchin, is also somewhat similar in outline to a human hand spread to support a book, and varies according to the date of the building ; in the earlier temples at Paestum (p. 8o a, C ) it has considerable projection, and is fuller in outline, approximating to a parabolic section ; whereas in later examples such as the Theseion (p. 8o E) and the Parthenon (p. 8o F) the curve approaches a straight line, and approximates to a hyperbolic curve. The abacus is a square, unmoulded slab which crowns the echinus and forms the topmost member of the capital.

The Doric entablature (p. 79 A, E), usually about one-quarter the height of the Order, is supported by the columns, and has three main divisions : (a) The architrave or principal beam is of considerable depth with its vertical face in one plane ; whereas in the Ionic and Corinthian Orders it is usually stepped in three planes. Separating this from the frieze is a flat moulding called the tenia, and under this, at intervals corresponding to the triglyphs, is a narrow band called the regula with six guttae or small conical drops. (b) The frieze is formed of triglyphs with three upright channels which alternate with metopes or square spaces, often ornamented with groups of fine sculpture, as in the Parthenon (p. 95). The triglyphs are placed at equal distances apart, and come immediately over the centre of each column, and there was usually one over each intercolumniation. At the angles of the temple, however, two triglyphs meet with a bevelled edge, and the intercolumniation between the two outer columns is less by about half a triglyph in width than that of the others. (c) The cornice, the upper or crowning part, consists of cymatium and bird's-beak moulding beneath which is the corona or vertical face. The soffit or underside of the cornice has an inclination approximating to the slope of the roof, and has flat blocks or mutules, which suggest the ends of sloping rafter's. These occur above each triglyph and each metope, and are usually ornamented with eighteen guttae, in three rows of six each.

The principal Doric temples were in Greece, Sicily, and South Italy, as set forth below.


The Heraion, Olympia B.C. 700

Temple of Athena, Corinth B.C. 650

Temple of Poseidon, Pares B.C. 6th century

Temple of Zeus, Olympia B.C. 472—469

The Theseion, Athens B.C. 465 (?)

Temple of Aphaia, AEgina B.C. 470—450

The Parthenon, Athens B.C. 454—438

Temple of Poseidon, Sunium B.C. 440

Temple of Apollo Epicurius B.C. 430

Temple of the Mysteries B.C. 453—310

The Tholos, Epidauros B.C. 4th century

Temple of Themis, Rhamnus B.C. 4th century

Temple of Apollo, Delos B.C. 300


The Great Temple, Selinus B.C. 610—509

The " Basilica," Paestum B.C. 550

Temple of Demeter, Paestum B.C. 550

Temple of Concord, Agrigentum B.C. 550

Temple of Juno, Agrigentum B.C. 550

Temple of Poseidon, Paestum B.C. 500

Temple of Athena, Syracuse B.C. 6th century

Temple of Egesta, Sicily Inc. 5th century

Temples at Selinus B.C. 628—41 o

Temple of Zeus Olympius B.C. 480

The Heraion, Olympia (B.C. 700) (p. 82 C, F), dedicated to Hera, is believed to be the most ancient of all Greek temples hitherto discovered. It stands on a stylobate of two steps, measuring 168 ft. by 64 ft. 6 ins. The naos is very long in proportion to its width, and has on either side a range of eight columns, alternately connected to the naos wall by short transverse walls. The peristyle columns, 17 ft. high, vary much in diameter, and are either monolithic or built up in drums. Pausanias mentions that in the second century two columns in the opisthodomos were of oak, and this suggests that all the columns may have been originally timber, and that as they decayed they may have been replaced by stone columns.

The " Basilica," Paestum (B.C. 550) (p. 82 E, ), in reality a temple, is a unique example, being peripteral nonastyle, 178 ft. by 8o ft., with nine columns to each portico and central line of nine columns in the naos, and is therefore believed to have been dedicated to two deities. The stylobate supports travertine columns, whose fluted shafts have a marked entasis, and support widely projecting capitals, peculiar in having a decorative treatment of the trachelion.

The Temple of Poseidon, Paestum (B.C. 500) (pp. 8o C, 81, 82 A, B, D, G), is one of the best preserved of all early Greek temples. It is peripteral hexastyle, measuring 197 ft. by 8o ft., and is built of coarse travertine stone in which are fossil plants and aqueous weeds, and the stone was originally covered with fine stucco. It has a stylobate of three steps, supporting columns 28 ft. high with a lower diameter of 6 ft. 6 ins., and an upper of 4 ft. 9 ins., which gives a ratio of height to lower diameter of 4.3 to I—a very sturdy proportion. The shafts are fluted, and have an entasis, and are surmounted with capitals of pleasing outline (p. 8o C), supporting an entablature and sculptureless pediment. This temple is an exceptionally interesting one in being the only existing example with internal colonnades (p. 81 B) of Doric columns, still surmounted by smaller Doric columns, which it is believed was a usual method of supporting the wooden roof.

The Temple of Zeus Olympius, Agrigentum (Girgenti) (B.C. 480) (pp. 76 G, 82), of which Theron was the architect, is of exceptional design, and ranks as second in size among Greek temples. It is of coarse stone origin-ally covered with marble-dust cement, pseudo-peripteral septastyle in plan with seven half-columns on the front and fourteen on each side. These external attached half-columns are of great size, 13 ft. in diameter, and have corresponding pilasters on the interior. The large triple naos is believed to have been lighted by windows high in the wall, but the building was never completed, and the illustrations are from suggested restorations by Professor Cockerell. Owing to its immense size, Greek structural principles had to be sacrificed, for half-columns, echinus, abacus, and even the architrave were all built up of small pieces of stone, and furthermore the architrave itself is supported, not only by the half-columns, but by the intervening screen wall to which they are attached.

The Temple of Zeus, Olympia (B.C. 472-469), designed by Libon, is peripteral hexastyle on plan with thirteen columns on each side, which equal those of the Parthenon in height, but are greater in diameter. Paeonius and Alcamenes made this temple specially famous by their sculptured pediments, and in the Museum on the site there are large fragments pieced together in the positions indicated by the subjects and the relative size and attitude of the figures.

The Theseion, Athens (? B.C. 465) (pp. 85, 92 A), is now generally believed to have been the Temple of Hephaestos; and although it is the best-preserved Doric temple in Greece, both its date and name are matters of doubt. It stands on an artificial foundation of limestone blocks, and is built of Pentelic marble. In Mediaeval times the temple was converted into a church, and an apse was added at the east end. It is peripteral hexastyle on plan, with thirteen columns on each flank, and stands on a stylobate of two steps (p. 85 L). The naos is only about 20 ft. wide, and required no internal columns. The existing lacunaria in the ambulatory, especially at the eastern end, still retain some of the original colouring (p. 85 H, K). The metopes, in high relief, at the eastern end of the north and south facades represent the exploits of Theseus (p. 85 A, C). Under the eastern portico (p. 85 F) is the sculptured frieze, 2 ft. 8 ins. high, representing a contest in the presence of six seated divinities, while the sculptured frieze of the western portico represents the battle of the Centaurs and Lapithae (p. 85 E, N). The pediment originally had sculptures, none of which now remain.

The Temple of Aphaia, AEgina (B.C. 470–450) (p. 86) belongs to the peripteral hexastyle class, and some columns are monolithic and some built in drums. The soft yellow limestone of which it was built was originally coated with thin stucco, and thus the temple is well preserved. The naos had two rows of five columns, probably supporting smaller columns which helped to support the roof (p. 86 E, F, H). In the floor of the pronaos there remain square holes into which a metal screen was fixed, and the posticum is curiously divided by two projecting blocks of masonry. Frieze sculptures, cymatium moulding, and roof slabs were in Parian marble, and the whole entablature glowed with colour, while elaborately carved acroteria and ridge tiles finished off the roof ends (p. 86 A, B, C). The pediments contained remarkable sculptures of the archaic period, and those on the west, which are the best preserved, represent the struggle between Greeks and Trojans over the body of Patroclos, which lies at the feet of Athena (p. 86 C). The eastern elevation as restored has the metal grille to the pronaos, and the sculptured pediment which probably represented an earlier expedition against Troy (p. 86 D). The original sculptures are in the Munich Museum, and there are excellent reproductions in the British Museum, where the suggested colouring is applied to the various mouldings.

The Parthenon, Athens (B.C. 454–438) (pp. 75, 79, 87, 88) was erected on the Acropolis, south of the old Temple of Athena (pp. iv, 75) in the time of Pericles, and dedicated to Athena Parthenos, the virgin Athena. Ictinus and Callicrates were the architects, and Pheidias was the master sculptor. The temple is peripteral octastyle on plan, with seventeen columns on the flanks, and stands on a stylobate of three steps, which measures 101 ft. 4 ins. by 228 ft. 2 ins. along the top, i.e. a relation of breadth to length of about 4 to 9. Each of the steps is about i ft. 8 ins. high and 2 ft. 4 ins. wide, and as these were too steep to ascend with comfort intermediate steps were provided at the centre of the east and west ends (p. 87 A). The principal doorway on the east led into the naos, which, as it measured Too Attic ft. in length, was called the " Hecatompedon." The naos, 63 ft. wide, had two rows of ten Doric columns, 3 ft. 8 ins. in diameter, with sixteen flutes, as could be seen by the marks of their bases on the marble paving, while three columns across the western end carried the aisle round three sides of the naos. To the west of the naos was the Parthenon or virgin's chamber, from which the temple took its name, and which differentiates this temple from most others. It appears to have been used as the hieratic treasury, and was entered from the opisthodomos by a large doorway corresponding to the eastern one, and its roof was sup-ported by four Ionic columns (p. 87 E, F). The naos and virgin's chamber were enclosed by walls about 4 ft. thick, and the whole temple was en-circled by an ambulatory 9 ft. wide on the sides and 11 ft. in the front and rear. The pronaos and opisthodomos, each about 6o ft. by 12 ft., were planned in a somewhat unusual manner with six columns about 5j- ft. in diameter and 33 ft. high, forming a prostyle portico on an upper stylobate of two steps. Both pronaos and opisthodomos were used as treasuries, and, in order to render them secure, lofty metal grilles extending from floor to roof were fixed between the columns, with the entrance gates in the central intercolumniation. The naos columns, as in the Temple of Poseidon, Paestum (p. 8r B), probably supported an upper row of smaller Doric columns, carrying the roof timbers. The method of lighting the naos is uncertain, and theories have already been discussed (p. 74). Near the western end of the naos stood the famous statue of Athena Parthenos, one of the most marvellous works of Pheidias, representing Athena fully armed with spear, helmet, aegis, and shield, supporting a winged Victory in her right hand (p. 87 H). It was a " chryselephantine " or gold and ivory statue, about 40 ft. high including pedestal, and the gold plates which formed the drapery, armour, and accessories over the wooden core were detachable, so that they could be removed in case of danger. The face, hands, and feet were of ivory, and the eyes of precious stones.

The most prominent external features are the fluted marble columns of the peristyle, which rest on the stylobate (pp. 8o F, 126 C) . The thirty-two columns still standing are about 6 ft. 2 ins. in diameter at the base and about 51 times this diameter or 34 ft. 3 ins. high, and the diameter diminishes to 4 ft. 9 3/4 ins. under the annulets, while the angle columns are 6 ft. 3 ins. in diameter at the base and 4 ft. 11 ins. under the annulets. The columns support an entablature about 11 ft. high (p. 126 c), which has the usual divisions of architrave, frieze, and cornice (pp. 79 A, 87 C). The architrave was ornamented with bronze shields, probably presented by Alexander the Great in B.C. 334, and with dedicatory inscriptions in bronze letters. The joints of the marble roof-slabs above the cornice were masked by carved antefixae, which formed an ornamental cresting along the sides of the building (pp. 79 H, 87 C). The pediments, which have an inclination of 131 degrees, terminated the roof at each end of the temple, and had acroteria of anthemion ornament at the apex and lower angles (pp. 79 A, 87 B, D). The peristyle ceiling was enriched with " lacunaria " and marble beams, and some at the western end are still in position. The optical refinements used in the different parts of the Parthenon have already been described (p. 71). The tympana in the pediments were filled with the finest sculpture of Pheidias. On the eastern pediment is represented the birth of Athena, and on the western the contest of Athena and Poseidon for the soil of Attica. The celebrated Panathenaic frieze was carved along the top of the exterior of the naos wall and just below the peristyle ceiling, and was taken across the east and west ends above the six columns of the pronaos and opisthodomos. It is 3 ft. 4 ins. high, in very slight relief of about 1- ins., and the sculpture is treated in such a way as to be seen effectively by the light reflected up from the white marble pavement below, the shadows being thrown upwards (p. 87 A). It represents the Panathenaic procession (p. 125 H) which went every fourth year to the Acropolis to present the " peplos " to the goddess Athena, and it portrays the preparations of Athenian knights, and the great procession of cavalry, chariots, men with olive branches, musicians, youths, sacrificial animals, maidens with sacrificial vessels, magistrates and gods, all terminating in a great central group at the eastern end over the principal entrance to the temple, while the great chryselephantine statue of Athena in the naos was seen through the open door (p. 87 H). Out of an original total length of 525 ft., only 335 ft. are in existence. The western frieze, excepting the three central figures, is in its original position ; the greater portion of that belonging to the northern, southern, and eastern sides is in the British Museum, while the remainder, with the exception of eight fragments of the eastern frieze in the Louvre, is in the Athens Museum. The sculptured metopes (p. 125 K, M), about 4 ft. 5 ins. square, numbering fourteen on -each front and thirty-two on each side, are in high relief. Those on the eastern facade represent contests between gods and giants; on the western, between Greeks and Amazons; on the southern, between Centaurs and Lapithae ; and on the northern, scenes from the siege of Troy. Traces of bright colours have been found on the sculptures in pediment, metope, and frieze. This miracle of architecture, compact of glistening marble, marvellous sculpture, and glowing colour, has thrown its glamour over men through all the ages, and more than justifies the poetic description of Emerson :

" Earth proudly wears the Parthenon
As the best gem upon her zone."

In the sixth century the Parthenon was converted into a Christian church, dedicated to the " Divine Wisdom," and an apse was formed at its eastern end. In A.D. 1204, under the Frankish Dukes of Athens, it became a Latin church, in A.D. 1456 it was converted into a mosque, and in A.D. 1687, during the capture of Athens by the Venetians, it was much damaged by a shell which fell into a portion of the building used as a powder magazine. In A.D. 1688 Athens was restored to the Turks, and the building suffered considerable injury at their hands ; but in A.D. 1801, through the instrumentality of Lord Elgin, many of the sculptures were removed to the British Museum. In A.D.1831 Greece became an independent kingdom, and still the Parthenon remains her greatest historic monument and her most precious heritage.

The Temple of Apollo Epicurius, Bassae, near Phigaleia, in Arcadia (B.C. 430) (p. 91), of which Ictinus was the architect, was an exceptional design in which all three Greek Orders of Architecture—Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian—were introduced. It is a peripteral hexastyle temple with fifteen columns on each flank, all built up in drums. The building is constructed of a hard, grey limestone, now covered with a beautiful pink lichen which gives it a mellow and picturesque appearance. The principal facade faces north, an unusual arrangement, apparently due to its erection on the site of an earlier temple. The statue of Apollo was placed at one side of the southern end of the naos, which formed the sanctuary of the earlier, oriented temple, and light was admitted by an opening in the eastern wall. Owing to the narrowness of the naos, instead of internal rows of columns there is a range of five Ionic half-columns on each side attached to short, cross walls projecting into the naos. These have an original treatment of capital, with angle volutes and high moulded bases (p. 93 C). The two columns farthest from the entrance on each side are joined to walls placed diagonally with those of the naos, while the single column at the southern end was of the Corinthian Order, of which it is generally believed to be the earliest example (p. 105 F). The lighting of the interior is conjectural, but the naos, north of the more ancient sanctuary, was probably hypaethral to admit light to the celebrated frieze above the half-columns (p. 91 F). This sculptured frieze, portions of which are in the British Museum, is about 2 ft. high and 100 ft. long, and represents battles of Centaurs and Lapithae, and of Athenians and Amazons. The roof was covered with Parian marble slabs, measuring 3 ft. 6 ins. by 2 ft., and less than 2 ins. thick. The ceilings of peristyle, pronaos, and opisthodomos were richly treated with marble panels or lacunaria.

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