A Visual Glossary of Classical Architecture

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by Mark Cartwright
published on 10 March 2013

 

Architectural Elements of the Parthenon

Abacus - a large slab placed above the column capital to support the architrave or an arch placed above it.

Akroterion

Akroterion - a decorative piece added to the roof of a temple at the apex and corners, usually made of clay or bronze and often in the form of a palm or statue, for example of Nike.

Adyton

Adyton - the most sacred inner part of a temple, usually at the end of the cella furthest from the entrance, often with restricted access to the initiated or priests.

Celsus Library, Ephesos

Aedicule - a frame formed by two columns and an entablature with pediment.

Cornice, Temple of Athena, Priene

Architrave - the lowest part of the entablature, the part below the frieze.

Temple of Nike, Athens

Amphiprostyle Temple - when both façades have columns, e.g.: the temple of Nike, Athens.

Phrygian Captive, Corinth

Atlantide - a sculpted male figure acting as a column to support an entablature, named after Atlas.

Arch of Constantine I (South Side)

Attic Story - the part placed above the entablature of a building, e.g.: often seen in triumphal arches.

Roman Buttress

Buttress - a mass placed to support a wall, especially when the wall bears an arch or heavy weight. Flying buttresses support a weight over space and allow for walls to be weakened by the inclusion of niches and windows.

Corinthian Capital

Capital - the crown which joins the top of a column with the abacus and aids in distributing weight. Different types include the simple convex Doric and the highly decorative Corinthian with stylized acanthus leaves.

Caryatids of the Erechtheion

Caryatid - a sculpted female figure acting as a column to support an entablature, e.g.: in the Erechtheion.

Theatre of Delphi

Cavea - the seated area of a theatre, usually built into a natural slope.

Plan of the Parthenon

Cella - the inner area of a temple, usually rectangular and without windows, sometimes columned.  Often subdivided into smaller rooms, the largest of which often housed a large cult statue to  a particular deity.

Architectural Column Orders

Column - used to support the abacus and architrave without the necessity of a wall. There are several types including the simple and earliest the Doric. They may also be free-standing and often commemorate significant historical events such as Trajan’s Column.

Conch - also known as an apse, a recess in a wall often highly decorated or containing a statue.

Cornice

Cornice - the decorative projecting part at the top of the entablature which also aided in drainage of rainwater.

Crepidoma, Temple of Zeus, Olympia

Crepidoma - also crēpis, the three steps on which stand the columns of a temple. The final top step is known as the stylobate.

Plan of the temple of Apollo, Miletus

Decastyle Temple - with ten columns at each façade, e.g.: the temple of Apollo Didymaeus at Miletus.

Dentils

Dentils - a regular series of squares or rectangles used to decorate cornices.

Theatre of Epidaurus

Diazoma - the walkway which horizontally divides the seats in a theatre.

Dipteral Temple - when there are a double row of columns on all sides, e.g.: the Parthenon.

Dodecastyle Temple - with twelve columns at each façade.

Treasury of Atreus, Mycenae

Dromos - the monumental unroofed and walled entrance to a tomb, e.g. at Mycenae.

Column Drums, Olympia

Drum - the individual circular pieces used to construct some types of columns.

Egg and Dart Ornamentation

Egg and Dart Ornamentation - a typical feature of decoration on cornices.

Temple of Portunus

Engaged Columns - columns which are incorporated within a wall.

Capitolium, Brixia

Entablature - the structure which lies horizontally above columns and which is composed of the architrave, frieze and cornice.

Temple of Juno, Agrigento

Entasis - the swelling of a column at its base and centre to give the illusion of being perfectly straight.

Column Flutes

Flute - the curved vertical channel carved in a column.

Gigantomachy of Delphi

Frieze - the widest and central part of the entablature often richly decorated with relief sculpture.

Roman Temple, Nimes, France

Hexastyle Temple - with six columns at each façade, e.g. the Maison Carré at Nimes.

Treasury of The Athenians, Delphi

in antis - when the walls of a portico extend in line with the façade columns.

Detail, Arch of Titus

Intrados - the inner surface of an arch.

Herakles & The Cretan Bull

Metope - a square space in the frieze between two triglyphs, often filled with relief sculpture or ornaments such as shields.

Monolithic Columns

Monolithic Column - a column carved from a single piece of stone.

Temple of Baachus, Baalbek

Octastyle Temple - with eight columns at each façade, e.g.: the temple of Bacchus at Baalbek.

Opisthodomos - The small room at the rear of a temple commonly used as a treasury.

Theatre Paradoi, Epidaurus

Parodoi - the large arched gateways, either side of the skēnē, through which an audience entered a theatre.

The Zanes, Olympia

Pedestal - the block on which stands a column or statue, composed of the plinth, torus, dado and fascia.

Pediment, Pantheon

Pediment - the triangular space above the entablature at the short sides of a temple. Often richly decorated with sculpture in the round.

Parthenon

Peripteral Temple - when all four external sides have columns.

Peristyle

Peristyle - the rows of columns which surround a temple or courtyard.

Pilaster Columns

Pilaster - an ornamental column carved in relief on a wall surface.

Portico, Pantheon

Portico - a space for walking, usually columned, e.g.: at the front of a temple.

Pronaos

Pronaos - the space between the outer columns and cella entrance in a temple.

Propylaea, Athens

Propylon - the monumental gateway to a religious sanctuary or defined space. Often incorporating several separate entrances (propylaia).

Prostyle - a temple with columns only at the front façade.

Sima - the gutter which collected rainwater from the roof of a temple, often containing decorative  spouts at regular intervals.

Odeon Of  Herodes Atticus, Athens

Skēnē - the background on a theatre stage, later examples were monumental in design.

Temple of Poseidon, Sounion, Greece

Stereobate - the surface on which the stylobate stands.

Stoa - a long and narrow columned building often used to enclose a particular space at religious sites and public places such as markets and gymnasia. Used as a meeting place and shelter  from the weather.

Stylobate - the foundation on which a row of columns stand. Often slightly curved to aid drainage.

Tetrastyle Temple - with four columns at each façade.

Tholos of Delphi

Tholos - A circular-shaped temple, the most famous example being at Delphi.

Entablature

Triglyph - a decorative element of a frieze with two vertical grooves. Often used in alteration with metopes.

Arch of Constantine I

Triumphal Arch - a monumental archway to commemorate Roman military victories and other significant events.

Capital

Volutes - the scrolls of an Ionic capital.

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