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Introduction to Greek Columns

Introduction to Greek Columns


Some of the world's most elegant architecture originated in Greece, where you can still see ancient Greek columns today in a variety of Greek temples and public buildings that were constructed hundreds of years before the common era.   The Greeks developed the three most popular forms of classical columns that are still used today for everything from stately public buildings to comfortable private homes.


Doric columns represent the most basic of Greek columns.  These are also often perceived as sturdier, more "masculine" columns than some of the later styles.  A Doric column was simply a fluted column with a capital (the top part of the column) that was usually a circle topped with a square plinth.  These columns rested directly on the floor of the building without a base to support them.


Over the years, Greek architecture became a bit more elaborate.  Around 500 BCE, the Greek Ionic column became popular.  This style of column tended to be taller and more slender than a Doric column.  It retained the fluted shaft, but placed it on a base that were usually stacked circles, sometimes on top of a square bottom section.  The capital of on Ionic column featured a detail that resembled a rolled scroll placed face down on the top of the column so that the rolled ends curled down on either side.  These scrolls are often referred to as "volutes."


Greek columns continued to evolve and become more elaborate over time.  One style that never gained much popularity and has fallen into disuse today is the Aeolic column, which was more elaborate than an Ionic column but not quite as embellished as the Corinthian column that came later.


The last of the three major styles of Greek columns was the Corinthian, named after the region in which is first became popular.  These were fluted like all other styles of Greek columns and retained the Ionic base, but had ornately crafted capitals that featured leaves and flowers in a stacked rows that curved outward from the center of the column.  Interestingly, Corinthian columns usually supported a flat roof while Doric and Ionic columns usually held up a pitched roof with a triangular edifice. 


The most elaborately detailed of the Greek columns, Corinthian columns were also the most slender in proportion to their height, usually using a ratio of the height being between nine and ten times the diameter of the lower shaft.


Today, homeowners can use any type of Greek column they prefer to enhance their homes both inside and out.  The proportions tend to remain similar to those used in ancient columns, but the details of the base, shaft and capital can be designed to your specific tastes and needs.  Decorative Greek columns can be used to add a touch of classical detail to a large room while dividing the space visually, or you can support a porch or patio with Greek columns that are weight bearing.  The ancient Greeks developed the three main styles of Greek column known today because they were durable and beautiful.  Today, architects and homeowners continue to agree that these lovely Greek columns are a perfect addition to any design.


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