A Visual Guide to Greek Columns: Types, Styles and Uses

Greek architecture is well-known for its iconic columns, which are key elements in the design of ancient Greek temples and buildings. There are three main types of Greek columns, each with its distinct characteristics:

1. Doric Columns

Doric columns are the simplest and oldest of the three orders. They are characterized by their sturdy and robust appearance. Doric columns have no base and typically feature a plain, fluted shaft with a capital consisting of a circular abacus (a square slab) and a simple square echinus (cushion-like element) without any ornate decorations. The columns support a plain entablature consisting of an architrave, frieze, and a simple cornice.

2. Ionic Columns

Ionic columns are more slender and elegant compared to Doric columns. They are known for their distinctive volutes, or scroll-like ornaments, at the capital. Ionic columns usually have a base, a fluted shaft, and a capital with volutes on either side. The volutes are connected by an architrave, and above the architrave is a frieze with sculptural reliefs. The cornice of Ionic columns is usually more elaborate compared to Doric columns.

3. Corinthian Columns

Corinthian columns are the most ornate and decorative of the three orders. They feature a slender and fluted shaft, a capital adorned with intricate acanthus leaves, and a base. The Corinthian capital is highly recognizable, with its elaborate foliage-like design. Corinthian columns are often associated with luxury and grandeur and are commonly found in more decorative structures, such as temples and public buildings.

These three types of columns were integral to the architectural styles of ancient Greek buildings, and their influence can still be seen in contemporary architecture. The choice of column order often depended on the function, location, and desired aesthetic of the structure. Each order reflects the artistic and cultural values of the time, showcasing the mastery of Greek architectural design and craftsmanship.