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Bronze Age palace in Knossos, Crete

Greek architecture: a Bronze Age palace in Knossos, Crete

The first buildings in Greece

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.

Stone Age Greek architecture
Neolithic Greece
More Greek art history
All our ancient Greece articles

Bronze Age palaces

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

Minoan/Mycenaean architecture
West Asian Bronze Age
Egyptian palaces

In the Late Bronze Age, under the influence of West Asia and Egypt, 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

Greek architecture: The Doric temple of Juno in Agrigento, Sicily

Archaic Greek temples

During the Greek Dark Ages people fighting and rioting burned down the palaces, and the roads and bridges and dams mostly fell apart.

The first Greek temples
Etruscan temples
New Kingdom Egyptian temples
Assyrian palaces

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.

What is the Doric order?

Greek architects built their earliest temples in the Doric order. There are houses, but no more palaces. But they did start to build roads and bridges and stone walls again.

Pathenon pediment

Parthenon pediment

What about the Parthenon?

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 order.

The Parthenon
The Ionic order
Classical Greek architecture

Democracy 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.

Hellenistic theaters

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.

Greek theaters
Greek tragedy and comedy

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

Roman architecture

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 style. The Corinthian order  became more popular.

The Corinthian order
Roman architecture

Christian churches and monasteries

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.

Early Christian churches
What is a monastery?

Castles in the Middle Ages

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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