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Ionic order: the parts of an Ionic temple

A new way to build temples

Around 500 BC, Greek architectural styles changed so that instead of building temples in the old Doric style, people began to want their new temples for the gods to be built in the new Ionic style.

What’s the Doric order?
Classical architecture
Greek architecture
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Ionic temples are a little fancier and more delicate than Doric temples, without being as elaborate as Corinthian temples. The details of Doric temples imitated older wooden temples, but in stone.

How about the Corinthian order?

By the time people were building Ionic temples, they weren’t thinking so much about the old wooden temples anymore. Instead, they wanted to make their temples seem more delicate and lighter, like they were going to lift off into the sky and go up to the gods, even though they were built of heavy stone.

But they were still concerned with rhythm, just the way they had been earlier. Greek architects still felt that architecture was a way to take chaos – a jumble of rocks – and turn it into order. They still felt that architecture was related to music: both should have a pattern, or a beat, and a melody.

Rhythm in Greek temples
Nomos and physis

In Ionic temples, architects replaced the beat of the triglyphs and metopes on the architrave with a running frieze. In musical terms, you might say there was less emphasis on the beat and more on the melody.


Differences between Doric and Ionic

  1. In Ionic temples, the columns have a small base to stand on, instead of sitting right on the floor.
  2. In the Ionic order, the columns are still fluted, but they have more flutes than Doric columns.
  3. At the top of the columns, there’s a double curve in stone, under the architrave (ARR-kuh-trayv).
  4. On the architrave, there is a continuous frieze (FREEZE) where the triglyphs and metopes would be on a Doric temple.

What are triglyphs and metopes?
What are fluted columns?

Did you find out what you wanted to know about the Ionic order in Greek architecture? Let us know in the comments!

More about the Doric order
More about the Corinthian Order

Bibliography and further reading about Greek architectural orders:

Ancient Greek Architects at Work, by J. J. Coulton (1982). An interesting look at how Greek architects worked.

Greek Architecture, by A. W. Lawrence, R. A. Tomlinson (5th edition 1996). Might be a bit out of date.

More about the Corinthian Order home