Greek architecture: what it is, origin, history and characteristics

To think of Greece is to see in the mind the figure of the great Greek temples and columns, such as the Parthenon of Athens. These emblematic and iconic symbols are proof of how Greek architecture is striking in the history and construction of Western civilization.

Mythology, art and politics come together to form the Greek architecture that survived the time and has reached our days. These three pillars of ancient Greek society are easily recognized and understood in architectural works. Known also as classical architecture, the Greek style prioritizes public works and outdoors.

The very word "architecture" derives from the Greek and means "arche" - first or principal - and "tékton" - construction, that is, something like the first construction or main construction.

Curious to know more about this architecture that still splashes today in architects and engineers all over the world? Well then come to follow this post with us. Let's tell you all about Greek architecture, check out:

History of Greek architecture

The history of Greek architecture dates back to the 8th century BC and extends to the first century AD. This particular type of architecture refers to the Greek-speaking peoples living in the region of Greece, the Peloponnese, the Aegean islands, the Greek colonies in Ionia (coast of Asia Minor) and in Magna Grecia (Greek colonies in Italy and Sicily).

The architecture of this people is directly related to the Greek mythology, it is no wonder that the greatest works of this period are the temples erected by the gods. It was even in the temples where the social life of the Greeks took place. There they held civic, religious, and sporting events.

But it was not only temples that Greek architecture was formed, there were still theaters, squares and stadiums, places where Greek citizens exercised the newly formed idea of ​​democracy.

Marble was the main material of the Greek constructions, used in practically all works. Beyond it, Greek architecture still made use of stones, wood and bricks, using a docking system very similar to that used by the Egyptians and less sophisticated than that developed by the Romans.

Features of Greek architecture

Greek architecture: poseidon temple

The Greeks were extremely rational and their constructions were mathematically perfect. The Greek architects were based, above all, on calculations, rules, proportions and perspective so that the works expressed greatness and perfect harmony.

The place where the temples were built was also important in Greek architecture, and in this case it is possible to observe that most of the temples were erected in high places so that the effects of light could enhance and enhance the architecture, that, in this way the temples could be seen of different angles, as it is the case of the Temple of Poseidon, located in front of the Aegean Sea.

Check out the other features of Greek architecture:

  • Works for the purpose of public use (theaters, temples and stadiums);
  • Perspective, symmetry and strict proportion;
  • Balance and accuracy in forms;
  • Appreciation of the beautiful and perfect aesthetics;
  • Monumental works;
  • Significant presence of columns and porticoes in every work of Greek origin;

However, not all Greek constructions were exactly the same and followed the same concept. This is because there were three distinct currents within the Greek architecture, differing especially in the ornamentation of the columns. They are: Doric order, Ionian order and Corinthian order. See below how each of them presented itself.


The Doric style developed in mainland Greece and spread throughout Italy. This is the simplest style of all and has few details of ornamentation, conveying a greater sense of firmness. Doric columns are corrugated and have no base.

The greatest representative of the Doric order is the Parthenon, considered the most important monumental work of ancient Greece. The classical temple was built between 447 BC to 438 BC in the city of Athens in honor of the goddess of similar name, Athena.


In the Ionic style, the detailed and detailed finishing at the top and along the column predominates. The drawings of the Ionic style convey lightness to the works. Another important feature of this style are the circular bases.

The Ionian order divided space with the Doric order and developed in the Greek cities in Ionia, Asia Minor and the Aegean Islands.


The Corinthian style is very similar to the Ionian with the differential being even more exuberant in details and ornamentation, being decorated mainly with leaves. However, the Corinthian order was not much explored by the Greeks, due to the excess of details.

It was the Romans who appropriated this style later during the rise of the Roman Empire. At first, the Corinthian style was used inside the buildings, as in the Temple of Apollo Epicurus in Bassae. Long time later the characteristics of the Corinthian style happened to be observed in external ornaments, in places like the Choragico of Lisicratos and the Temple of Zeus Olympia, both in Athens.

Works of Greek Architecture


Parthenon Temple Greece

Greek architecture is famous all over the world thanks to its majestic temples. The most representative of them is the Parthenon, built in Athens in honor of the city's goddess, Athena. Even today it is possible to visit the temple and contemplate the beauty and daring of the ancient Greek architects.

The Temple of Zeus at Olympia, completed in 460 BC and the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, completed in 430 BC and considered one of the wonders of the ancient world, are two other examples of monumental works built by the Greeks. It is also worth mentioning the Temple of Poseidon, built between 444 and 440 BC on the cliffs facing the Aegean Sea.

Most of the temples also had sculptures that carried the stories of Greek mythology or important historical facts of the city where they were built. All the sculptures were always richly decorated with ornaments and paintings.


The stoas were another type of structure very common in ancient Greece, formed by a long row of columns supported by a smooth and covered wall. The stoas were used for the most diverse purposes, among them as place of meeting, storage and sale of goods.


Theater of Dionísio Eleutério

The Greeks also contributed heavily to the theater structure we know of today. It is believed to have formed around the 5th century BC, although there is evidence to show that the Greeks were already meeting in public places for this purpose long before that period.

There is no lack of ancient Greek theaters to exemplify the appreciation that these people had for the meetings and artistic and cultural manifestations. One of the best known is the Theater of Dionysius Eleutherius in Athens, where the plays of Sophocles, Euripides, Aeschylus and Aristophanes were first presented.

However, the largest ancient Greek theater is that of Argos, with capacity for 20 thousand people. The best preserved is the theater of Epidaurus, which to this day receives presentations.


Olympia Stadium

The stadiums are another great legacy that the Greeks left in the world. Initially they were built near natural landfills, but over time they began to gain more elaborate structures, with rows of stones and even steps that served as seats. The most famous stadiums of classical Greek architecture are those of Nemea and Olympia, with capacity for 30 thousand and 45 thousand people, respectively.


What the ancient Greeks did for public buildings is not noticeable in private dwellings. Greek cities resembled labyrinths, with houses built disorderly in narrow, chaotic streets. The first Greek dwellings are from the fourth century BC and were very simple, built with bricks and dirt floor, without any specific project. From the fifth century began to appear the first houses of stone, with walls plastered and decorated with paintings.

Influence of Greek architecture on the world through the centuries

Greek columns

The first to be influenced by Greek architecture were the Romans. They appropriated Greek aesthetics and construction techniques, but added new concepts and ideas. Even with distinctions, similarity is still striking, making Greek and Roman architecture come to be known as classical-style architecture.

With the end of the Roman Empire, the arts and classical architecture fell into oblivion, passing the entire long period of the Middle Ages abandoned. It was the Renaissance, a style emerged in Europe between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, which removed the classic style of the twilight by literally promoting a revival of ancient Greco-Roman culture.

In the 18th century, the neoclassical movement once again brought the Greco-Roman style to light, inspired by the ideas and concepts of classical art and architecture.

Today, classical Greek architecture can be seen in buildings and interior design with designs that excel in the use of symmetrical patterns, refined, exuberant, grandiose ornaments.

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