Ancient Greek architecture is hailed as one of the most sophisticated architectural styles in history. Ancient or archaic Greek architecture is characterized by its distinct formalism, particularly evident in the use of columns, pillars, capitals and friezes.
Each of these architectural elements had variations depending on the period of Greek Architecture it was constructed in. The three styles of ancient Greek architecture are identified as the Doric Order, the Iconic Order, and the Corinthian Order.
Greek columns are the most iconic feature of Greek architecture, though they were also used in Egyptian, Persian and other civilizations. Historically, marble columns provided a new opportunity in architecture as the structural support that they offered meant that ceilings could expand much further than previous designs where all of the structural support came from walls. Thus, the invention of the Greek column meant that Ancient Greek buildings became among the largest on the planet.
Above is an example of the difference in style between the three orders of Greek architecture. The left three illustrations are Doric, the middle three Ionic, and the last two Corinthian. As you can see from the images, the types of columns had distinct conventions around embellishment and detail, with the Corinthian appearing the most ornate of the three.
The most iconic symbol of Greek architecture is the temple, with many temples still standing today. These temples were built to honor the Hellenic gods and were the most widespread form of construction in the Greek empire. Surviving temples can even be found outside Greece in other regions which were once a part of the Grecian culture, such as Turkey (then Anatolia) and Southern Italy. Some surviving temples which did not make the later list of Greek monuments include:
The Temple of Poseidon, Sounion
The Temple of Aphaia, Aegina
The Temple of Apollo, Corinth
The Temple of Hera, Olympia
Although many of these temples are ruins, their former glory is abundantly clear when looking at the sweeping heights and detailing which has lasted for centuries. Temples were not the only area in which the Ancient Greeks excelled, either.
They were also known for their open-air theatres, which have been dates as far back as 525-480 BC and have truly incredible acoustic sound design. Other types of Ancient Greek architecture which have survived into the modern era include processional gateways (propylon), public squares (agora), storied colonnades (stoa), public monuments and monumental tombs (mausoleum) and stadiums.
Grecian Buildings in Australia: Greek Revival Architecture
Greek Revival Architecture was a movement between the 18-19th centuries which gained peak popularity in Northern Europe and the US. It was a revival of the Greek temple style, predominantly of the Doric and Ionic Orders, and was particularly popular for buildings of culture and importance like houses of parliament, museums and memorials.
Australia also rode this wave of Greek revivalism, though the peak of Grecian inspired architecture in Australia occurred much further into the 1900s than the rest of the world. Melbourne in particular has a number of buildings designed with reference to Ancient Greek Architecture and is one of the most prominent places in Australia for the Greek Revivalist movement.
3. Australian Hellenic War Memorial, Canberra
The Australian-Hellenic Memorial is a monument to the soldiers who died in Greece and Crete during the Second World War. The 6th Australian Division joined an Allied force resisting German forces on Mainland Greece.
To honor the battle, the marble memorial is designed in the style of Ancient Greek amphitheaters and surrounded by an olive grove. The Doric column in the middle is symbolic of the birth of democracy and civilization.
2. Victoria Parliament house, Melbourne
Located on Spring Street, the Victorian Parliament house is currently still the meeting place of the Parliament of Victoria. Construction began in 1855 and it has never been fully completed.
Design and construction responsibilities passed through many hands throughout the project and came to resemble the Doric Order of Greek Architecture with its carefully structured and refined columns.
1. Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne
The national war memorial of Victoria, the Shrine of Remembrance was founded in 1934 and commemorates the sacrifice of Australians in war, peacemaking and peacekeeping.
It has over one million visitors annually and conducts more than 200 commemorative ceremonies each year. The architecture of this shrine is greatly inspired by the Tomb of Mausolus at Halicarnassus, again emulating the classical austerity of Ancient Greek society.
Famous Greek Buildings: the 5 most breathtaking symbols of Greek Architecture today
5. Stoa of Attalos, Athens
The Stoa of Attalos was a covered walkway in the Agora of Athens. It was originally built in approximately 150 BC and served a variety of purposes until much of it was burned down in AD 267. Reconstruction began in 1954 on the original foundations, incorporating much of the original materials and structure.
4. The Great Theatre of Epidaurus
Located in Epidaurus, Argolis, the Great Theatre is dedicated to the ancient Greek God of medicine, Asclepius. It is considered the most pristine remaining Ancient Greek theatre due to its intact acoustic engineering features.
The theatre can seat up to 14,000 spectators at capacity and hosted a range of entertainment events, today still used as the stage for many Greek tragedies.
3. Erechtheion, Athens
The Erechteion, also known as the Temple of Athena Polias, is a temple on the northern side of the acropolis, Athens. It was originally constructed to house the statue of Athena Polias and its southern side has six female statues supporting the roof instead of columns.
This building was unique by Greek architectural standards for its asymmetry and it is not known exactly why this building deviated from such conventions.
2. Temple of Hephaistos, Athens
The temple of Hephaistos, formerly (incorrectly) called Theseion or Theseum, is regarded as the best preserved temple from the Ancient Greek period.
It is of the Doric Order and remains largely intact today, dedicated to the Greek god of fire Hephaestus.
1. Parthenon, Athens
The Parthenon is one of the most famous landmarks in the world and is generally regarded as the most influential building in Greek history.
It stands on the citadel of the Athenian Acropolis in Greece and construction began in 447 BC. Though it has served many purposes throughout history, the Parthenon was originally a temple to Athena, the goddess of wisdom and patroness of Athens.