In today’s society, we take architecture for granted. It is everywhere today, but in ancient Greece, it was far rarer. Churches, cathedrals, temples, statues, and big hotels are all examples of modern architecture. Similarly, in ancient Greece there were temples, amphitheaters, and sports arenas; however, they weren’t everywhere like they are today. Today there isn’t one architectural element that every building has in common; though, there was in ancient Greece. Columns were a defining part of Greek architecture and used in the building of their temples, a central structure of their society.
Ancient Greek architects created three different orders of classical architecture, which are primarily recognized by the style of columns they used. An order is a combination of a specific style of column with its base and the entablature it supports. The first order created was the Doric order. It has fluted, tapered columns, with no base and a simple capital at the top. One example of the Doric order is the famous Parthenon, which housed the statue of Athena.
The second order the Greeks developed was the Ionic Order. These columns are slimmer and straighter with a base at the bottom and a capital that is decorated with scrolls. The Temple of Artemis, which has been named one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, is an example of the Ionic Order. The third and last order developed was the Corinthian Order. It was similar to the Ionic but had additional acanthus and fern leaves next to the scrolls on its capital. An impressive example of this is the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Columns are used frequently throughout Ancient Greek architecture but are most commonly seen in the structure of their temples.
Greek temples were the most important public structure in their society. They were not built for congregational worship but to honor and serve as a home to a specific Deity. In the article Greek Temples it states, It was the needs of the gods that were most important. They controlled the forces of nature the sun and rain, which nourished their crops, and the winds that drove their ships. Therefore, the temples were built with exactness and followed a specific architectural order. They were built using the finest materials — at first using wood and mud but later changed to using stone and marble.
A statue representing the god or goddess was placed in the center of the temple. The priests were the only people allowed in the temple to perform sacred rituals on behalf of the community. Public participation was limited to taking part in religious festivals and processions. These culminated in lavish sacrifices of prime livestock at the god’s altar which stood within the temenos but outside the temple proper (Greek Temples.) These festivals were an important part of the Greek community. Austin Cline expressed in the article Method of Sacrifice in Ancient Greece This was a communal affair – not only were all of the members of the community there, eating together and bonding socially, but it was believed that the gods were participating directly as well. The importance of the temple was central to the lives of the Ancient Greeks.
In Ancient Greek Architecture, columns were a key component to many of their structures. This is frequently seen in the building of their temples, which is a critical component to their community. The design of the columns used reflected the three different architectural orders developed by the Greeks. The temples themselves provided a way for them to house and honor their Gods and Goddess, as well as brought their community together. The influence of Ancient Greek architecture moves far beyond the ancients to modern society and is reflected in our government and public buildings today.
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