Greek Architecture The architecture of ancient Greece is represented by buildings in the sanctuaries and cities of mainland Greece, the Aegean islands, southern Italy and Sicily, and the Ionian coast of Turkey. Monumental Greek architecture began in the archaic period, flourished through the classical and Hellenistic periods, and saw the first of many revivals during the Roman Empire. The roots of Greek architecture lie in the tradition of local Bronze Age house and palaces. The following paper will cover the basic forms of Greek architecture. One of the many types of Greek building structures was Sacred Architecture.
The Greeks conceived of their gods in human form, as anthropomorphic representations of the forces and elements of the natural world. These gods and goddesses were worshiped with sacrifices made at an outdoor altar. At many sanctuaries, the altar was much older than the temple, and some sanctuaries had only an altar. The temple designed simply as a shelter or home for the cult statue and as a storehouse for offerings. This shelter consisted of a cella (back wall), a pronaos (columned porch), an opisthodomus (enclosure), an antae (bronze grills securing the porches), and a colonnade that provided shelter for visitors. The earliest monumental buildings in Greek architecture were the temples. Since these were solidly built and carefully maintained, they had to be replaced only if destroyed.
The architectural orders, Doric on the mainland and Ionic in the eastern Aegean, were developed in the archaic temples, and their lasting example tended to make Greek architecture conservative toward changes in design or in building technology. The Archaic period evolved after the Mycenaen palace collapsed in 1200 BCE during the dark ages when people began rebuilding. This era brought about the introduction of both the Doric and Ionic Orders. The Doric Order, which originated around 400 BCE brought rise to a whole new type of building technique and style. In the archaic temples, stone gradually started to replace wood, and some of the structural details of the early buildings appear to have been copied in stone.
At Thermon, in northwestern Greece, a succession of buildings from the Last Bronze Age throughout the sixth century BCE show the evolution of the Doric temple from a hall shaped like a hairpin to a long rectangular building with a porch at either end and surrounded by columns. The temple of Hera at Olympia, built about 600 BCE, had wooden columns that were gradually replaced by stone ones, probably as votive gifts. The variety of column and capital shapes illustrates the evolution of the Doric order. The earliest columns had a heavy, bulging profile, and their capitals were broad and low. During the archaic period, limestone became the standard building material for foundations, steps, walls, columns, and Doric entablature. Building such as the famous Temple of Aphaia on Aegina illustrate the dramatic influence of the Doric order.
White the Doric order became the standard for mainland Greece, the Ionian colonies in the eastern Aegean were developing a very different system of columns and entablature based on Egyptian and Near Eastern architecture. The tall slender columns, low entablature, and lack of sculptured frieze course were typical of Ionic buildings. The sixth century BCE Ionic temples were unprecedented in size, as large as 55 by 112 m. Wealthy cities each has six major temples, sometimes arranged in a regular sequence, in addition to the standard civic buildings. An outstanding number of Ionic buildings can be found throughout the eastern Aegean.
During the classical period, Athenian Dominance greatly affected architecture. The war between the Greek city-states and Persia (499-480 BCE) interrupted almost all temple building for a generation while the Greeks concentrated on restoring their defensive walls, civic buildings, and the fleet. Athens emerged as the leader, controlling the war chest of the Delian League, Panhellenic league; the city initiated extravagant program to rebuild the sanctuary of Athena on the Acropolis. The Parthenon, Propylaea, Temple of Athena Nike, and the Erechtheum were built entirely of marble and elaborately decorated with carved moldings and sculpture.The architects were Callicrates and Iotinus, and the chief sculptor was Phidias. A large school of builders and sculptors developed in Athens during the second half of the fifth century BCE. Most of these craft workers were freed slaves from the eastern Mediterranean. Perhaps as a consequence there developed in Attica a unique blend of the Doric and Ionic orders seen in the fortified sanctuaries as well as in Athens. The Corinthian order resulted from long civil wars during the fifth century BCE (Classical period). The Ionian cities recovered more quickly from the civil war under Persian sovereignty.
The colossal sixth century BCE temples and altars were replaced on a grander scale. Several Ionian cities were rebuilt on a grid plan that has been credited to Hippodamus of Miletus. The rise of Macedonia and the conquests of Alexander the Great heralded the Hellenistic period. Old building types became more complex: altars, gate buildings, council houses, stoas with two or three levels, and theaters with large attached stage buildings. Many new building types were introduced, including the nymphaeum, monumental tomb, columned hall, choragic monument, clock tower and light house.
Many of these structures were decorated with dramatic marble sculpture. Hellenistic architects made imaginative variations on the standard temple forms, introducing Apses, high podia (stepped or square platforms), and subtle combinations of Doric and Ionic features. Several temples had exterior Corinthinan columns, such as the colossal temple of Zeus Olympius in Athens, begun in 174 BCE. In the Ionic order, Hermogenes of Priene evolved new canons of proportion concerning the temple plan and the height and spacing of columns. His writings were also passed down to Roman architects who emulated his designs.
Long after the Roman army captured Athens, the principles of Greek architecture continued to govern building designs in mainland Greece and in Anatolia and strongly influenced Roman architecture throughout the empire. Greek architecture changed and evolved over a number of years. The creative architecture of the Greeks led to the construction of some of the best known buildings in history. Therefore, the Greek’s advancements in the field of architecture were not only beneficial to their civilizations, but ours as well.