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Bronze Age palace in Knossos, Crete

Bronze Age palace in Knossos, Crete

The earliest buildings people built in Greece, in the New Stone Age, are small houses or huts, and wooden walls around them for protection. Later there are bigger houses, and stone walls around the villages.

By the Early Bronze Age, we find one bigger house in the middle of the village, and fancier, bigger stone walls.

In the Late Bronze Age, under the influence of West Asia, and the Minoans on Crete, there are palaces and big stone tombs, as well as paved roads and bridges, and dams (and more stone walls).

The Doric temple of Juno in Agrigento, Sicily

The Doric temple of Juno in Agrigento, Sicily

During the Greek Dark Ages people fighting and rioting burned down the palaces, and the roads and bridges and dams mostly fell apart. But at the end of the Dark Ages, with the beginning of the Iron Age and the Archaic period in Greece, people learned from the Egyptians how to build a new type of building: the temple for the gods. Greek architects built their earliest temples in the Doric style. There are houses, but no more palaces. But they did start to build roads and bridges and stone walls again.

Pathenon pediment

Parthenon pediment

In the Classical period, there are more temples, bigger and with new design ideas. The Athenians built the Parthenon in the 440s BC. People begin to build in the Ionic styleDemocracy prevents the Greeks from building palaces or big tombs, because politically all men are supposed to be equal, and so it would look bad to have a big palace even if you could afford it. Instead, the Greeks build public buildings: gymnasia, and stoas, where men can meet and talk.

By the 300s BC, in the Hellenistic period, there are some new architectural types. Less time is spent on temples. The new form is the theater, and people build many theaters all over the Greek world. Also, there is new interest in town planning at this time: people begin to lay out streets in straight lines, instead of just developing naturally. With the conquests of Alexander the Great, architecture becomes an important way to spread Greek culture and show who is in charge in the conquered countries.

Theater of Dionysos on the Acropolis below the Parthenon in Athens

Theater of Dionysos on the Acropolis below the Parthenon in Athens

On the other hand, once the Romans conquer Greece, around 200 -100 BC, they too use architecture to show that they are in charge, and suddenly there is a lot of building in the Roman styleCorinthian architecture became more popular. About 400 AD, the Greeks convert to Christianity, and begin to build churches and monasteries. As Christians, Greek architects turned many old temples into churches.

During the Middle Ages, the Normans took over parts of Greece. They built castles all over.The Byzantine Empire controlled other parts of Greece, and built in a more West Asian style. Finally, in 1453 AD, the Turks took over the Byzantine Empire, and people began to build Islamic mosques in Greece.

Learn by doing: build a model of a Greek temple in Lego or in Minecraft
More Greek architecture

Bibliography and further reading about Greek Architecture:

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