Greek Architecture

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Greek Architecture: History and Mechanics

Throughout history, there have been several significant architectural movements. The last, and perhaps most enduring movement is that of Classic Greece. Although for centuries, the architecture of ancient Greece has been admired, mimicked, and replicated, its beginnings are somewhat surprising to one unfamiliar with the history of the region. It is important to understand the history and mechanics of Classic Greek architecture in order to fully appreciate its form, function, and beauty. "Ancient Greek architects strove for the precision and excellence of workmanship that are the hallmarks of Greek art in general. The formulas they invented as early as the sixth century B.C. have influenced the architecture of the past two millennia" (metmuseum.org).

"The first inhabitants of the Greek peninsula, who are believed to be Neolithic, built very primitive and basic structures. The houses were mainly built with a circular, oval, apsidal, or rectangular shape… They used mud bricks and stones in the mud with reeds or brush to help build the house. Most of the houses had one room, there were very rarely two" (thinkquest.org). These simple homes are the primary foundation for the Grecian style of architecture. Though Neolithic in nature, the first Architects laid the basic foundations for all architecture to follow in Greece and the rest of the world. The shapes of these early homes carry through all the way from the Ionic to the Corinthian order.

"The next group of settlers were the Minoan architects. Their towns were mostly residential with little or no temples and public places. Unlike earlier people, their houses were private and had many rooms…to separate rooms, they would use only pillars" (thinkquest.org). These new people introduced several different aspects to the foundation of Grecian architecture, namely, the openness of the houses and rooms. It is this culture, which is mostly accredited with introducing the mechanics of the ancient Grecian forms of architecture. "The first advanced culture in Greece, and indeed in all of Europe, was created by a people referred to today as the Minoans. Their civilization flourished from about 2200 to 1450 B.C. on Crete, the large island located about one hundred miles southeast of the Greek mainland" (Nardo, 12). The Minoans are credited with founding the architecture that ancient Greece is now so famous for. One of the most famous examples of Minoan architecture is "…the palace at Knossos, their chief city, located near the northern coast of the island, was five stories high and consisted of hundreds of interconnected rooms" (Nardo, 12). Nardo states "there is evidence that these were highly sophisticated buildings with modern-style plumbing features, such as flush toilets and clay pipes carrying hot and cold water. As many as thirty to fifty thousand people lived in the palace at Knossos and in the city that surrounded it. And there were dozens, perhaps hundreds of Minoan cities and towns on Crete and the islands of the Aegean Sea, the inlet of the Mediterranean Sea bordering eastern Greece" (Nardo, 12). "Because the Minoans kept few records and no histories, their culture had been largely forgotten by the time of the classical Greeks. Yet a few vague memories of Minoan days remained, passed on by word of mouth over the course of many centuries" (Nardo, 13). It is this little bit of information that was orally passed down which became the foundation for the classical Greek style, when combined with the Egyptian influences to come. "Greek Life was dominated by religion and so it is not surprising that the temples of ancient Greece were the biggest and most beautiful. They also had a political purpose as they were often built to celebrate civic power and pride, or offer thanksgiving to the patron deity of a city for success in war" (ancientgreece.com). The main purpose for the temples was to house and protect...
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