Morphology of Ancient Temples


A ncient Greek Temples followed a tripartite heightwise articulation having a base, a body and a crowning. The base is the crepis consists of three steps and the upper is called stylovates.
the body of the temple is the columns and the walls of the cella behind them.

The crowning of the temple consits of the entablature and the pediments. The entablature consists of three distinct heightwise parts: the epistyle or architrave, the frieze (diazoma) and the cornice. On the two narrow sides of the temple, in correspondence to the pitched roof and above the entablature, are the triangular pediments.

Three orders or styles can be distinguished in ancient Greek architecture: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. The first two can be traced back to the Archaic period, while the third, the Corinthian, which is a variant of the Ionic, was created later, in the fourth century BC, and was mainly disseminated during the period of Roman rule. Doric temples hava clarity and are severe and robust.. Ionic temples are more elegant with richer decoration, variety and grace. .

Ancient Greek architecture is essentially an architecture of beams on pillars; there are no arches, no cantilevers or other features that dynamically emphasize their height. The external columns and the overlying entablature are the principal bearers of the order.


D oric columns do not have a distinct base and are set directly on the uppermost step of the crepis, the stylobate. Their shaft has flutes and their diameter decreases appreciably upwards. It is usually comprised of drums (spondyloi) with horizontal joins between them.

The Doric column is relatively plain, with an echinus of characteristic profile and an overlying square slab, the abacus. The architrave in the Doric order is plain too. Its upper edge is decorated with a continuous taenia and with regulae at intervals, each of which bears six guttae.

The Doric frieze or diazoma consists of triglyphs and metopes. The triglyphs, which correspond to the columns and the axis of the intercolumniation, are of characteristic shape with two glyphs and two half-glyphs. The metopes are virtually square plaques, which close the interstices between the tryglyphs and are decorated with relief representations on the richer monuments.

The cornice projects markedly above the frieze, so as to protect it and the architrave from rainwater. The shadow it casts over the underlying members increases its role in the crowning of the building. In correspondence to each triglyph and each metope, the under surface of the cornice is decorated with rectangular plaques, the mutules, each one of which bears three rows of six guttae.
Both pediments formed by the pitched roof, which covers the entire building, are bounded by raking cornices, without mutules. The pediments are closed behind by a wall, the tympanum. As a rule the pediment is decorated with sculptures, which stand on the horizontal cornice and are protected by the raking cornices.


I n the Ionic order the columns have bases.The column capital is of elongated shape, on its long sides, front and back, there are pairs of volutes, while on the narrow sides the so-called cushions or pulvini, reel-like surfaces. This composite member rests on an echinus which is adorned all round by Ionic cymatium while higher up is also an abacus, on which the architraves are bedded. The face of the architraves consists as a rule of three regulae of equal height, crowned by a cymatium and immediately above runs the frieze, which here too is continuous and decorated with relief representations.

The cornice projects to protect the underlying members from rainwater, is undecorated and has a concave under-surface. The sima also extended above the cornice on the long sides and the rainwater collected in it was channelled to lion-head waterspouts set at intervals. The pediments of monuments in the Ionic order were analogous to those of the Doric ones. Here too there was a sima above the raking cornices, but without waterspouts, while acroteria adorned the three angles.


T he architectural member that differentiates the Corinthian order from the Ionic is the column capital, which is embellished with acanthus leaves in two successive rows, and pairs of volutes that meet in twos at its four corners.


T he remarkable and impressive quality of ancient Greek temples is expressed in the famous visual refinements, the imperceptible deviation from the geometric forms, the purpose of which was to endow the inanimate buildings with organic vitality.

In the Parthenon the visual refinements are present in their most consummate form. All the lines of the crepis are very slightly convex and not exactly straight. The columns incline very slightly inwards, towards the cella, and their shafts have a barely perceptible swelling, the entasis, which reaches its maximum at 2/5 of their height. The corner columns of each side are very slightly thicker than the rest and the distance between them and the adjacent ones is slightly less than the normal intercolumniations. The entablature has an analogous curvature to the crepis.


I n all the ancient Greek temples the antae formed at the ends of the long walls of the cella ended above in antae capitals or epicrana. The peristasis around the cella was covered by marble ceilings that were formed from oblong plaques on the under surface of which were square recesses, the coffers.