I have long been interested in art and history. Is it any wonder that while I was in college, I combined these two interests by taking several art history classes?
I would like to compare two styles of architecture which might easily be confused: the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome.
What makes these two styles even more confusing for some is the blending of these two styles which took place during the neoclassical period of the late 18th century. Let’s take a look at Greek and Roman architecture.
While both ancient cultures utilized columns, they did so in different ways. For example, a Greek temple usually had a row of free-standing columns surrounding the rectangular stylobate (porch), while early Roman temples only had free-standing columns on the front of the temple, with engaged columns on the sides.
Greek architects were more concerned with creating temples which were pleasing to the eye. For example, they utilized the ‘golden ratio’ (x=2y+1). So, if a temple had 8 columns on the short sides, they would have 17 on the long sides because 17=2(8)+1. Also, Greek columns have a slight bulge in the middle, and the steps have a slight curve in the middle. It is believed that the Greeks did this so that to our eyes, they look straight and level.
With the advent of concrete, Romans gained more freedom with their use of architectural elements. They were able to incorporate arches, vaults and domes into their taller, grander structures.
Parthenon or Pantheon?
Though the names may be confusing, these two ancient temples are very different. The Parthenon, located at the Acropolis in Athens Greece, is a temple to the goddess Athena, and incorporates all the typical elements of a Greek temple. The Pantheon, a temple to “all the gods” located in Rome, has one of the largest domes in the ancient world.
Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: A Global History. 13th ed. Vol. 1 Boston: Thomson Wadsworth, 2009.