Stories of the Ancient Greeks - Charles D. Shaw

The Three Orders of Architecture

Early men, who lived long before the Greeks, made their homes in caves. These men were hunters and perhaps fishermen. When they learned to cultivate the soil, and so had become farmers, they found out how to make dwellings of branches of trees woven together, or of dried sods piled up to form a rude hut.

Men who lived by the milk and flesh of flocks of sheep and goats needed light dwellings which they could easily carry about. They learned to sew together the skins of animals and thus to make tents, which were moved from place to place as the flocks moved.

In rocky countries where loose stones were plenty the inhabitants learned to build huts by piling stones together, so making a kind of artificial cave. People who lived on wide plains where there were no rocks, learned to make bricks of clay. At first these bricks were dried in the sun, as they still are in some countries. Later the art of baking them in a kiln was discovered.

Men who lived in forests built their huts first of wattled or interwoven branches, then of logs. The Greeks were always stone builders. They began by using large, rough blocks rudely fitted together. Then they chiseled the blocks into irregular forms. At last they cut the stones into six-sided blocks and laid them up in regular courses.

We can see that the love of order and beauty was growing in the minds of the Greeks. They did not try to imitate the buildings they had seen in other countries, but developed styles of their own.

The first style we should naturally expect to be plain and simple. This was called the Doric order. Perhaps it arose from imitating the rude log temples of an older time in an earlier settled country when the columns, or pillars, of temples were made of logs. It was said, however, that these Doric pillars were modeled after a man's figure, being six times as high as they were thick, just as a man is about six times as tall as his foot is long.

Doric Capital


The Ionians, another tribe of the Greeks, were building a temple to Artemis, and wished to find some new and beautiful way. So they made a column like a woman; that is, more slender than a man. At the base they put twisted cords like a woman's sandals; and the top, or capital, they curled over, like a woman's hair on each side of her face. This style was called the Ionic order. At Corinth a young girl died. A basket of flowers was placed on her grave, and upon it a tile was laid to keep it from being blown over. This pressed the flowers down and made them Curl over the sides of the basket.

Ionic Capital


An architect, who was walking cemetery, saw this and thought it would make a beautiful capital, or top, for a pillar. He had the design carved in stone and used it in the next temple he built. This style is called the Corinthian order.

Corinthian Capital


Many modern buildings show one or other of these three orders. The Corinthian is the favorite, because it is considered most graceful and beautiful.

The temple of the Parthenon at Athens was of the Doric order, and was one of the finest buildings in the world. When it was built the Corinthian order was unknown.

The Greeks used very fine white marble for their statues and buildings. Often they ornamented them with color and with gold. This added to their beauty, and beauty was what the Grecians dearly loved.