Greek and Roman Architecture is very similar but there are a few things that help you to separate the two. To compare the two we can take a look at two very well know ruins, the Greek Parthenon and the Roman Pantheon.
Some say it’s the most beautiful building in the world. The Parthenon was built in Athens Greece to honor the Gods. Ictinus and Callicrates designed this beautifully proportioned building. It is made of marble. The triangular roof trusses were made of wood and covered with terra-cotta tiles. Minute adjustments to horizontal lines and manipulation of shape and placement made the Parthenon appear to be visually perfect, a sort of optical illusion. The construction shows the common architecture of the Greeks.
The Parthenon sits on a base called the stylobate, which can be approached from any side. The colonnade, a row of columns supported the weight of the roof. A lintel, or a cross piece, called the architrave sat on the capitals at the top of the columns. The capital is a decorative detail which helps distinguish ones style or order of Greek architecture. The Parthenon is of the Doric order with the shaft of the column fluted, and the column resting on the stylobate without a base. The Doric capital consists of a square abacus (Plate) at the top and a simple curved echinus (dish) below. A second set of beams with a decorative panel called a frieze runs the length and width of the building. The extended trusses create an overhang that sits above both the architrave and frieze. These three items together: 1. Architrave 2. Frieze 3. Cornice creates what is known as the entablature. The triangular shape of the roof forms a pediment, what we might call a gable, at the front and back of the building. Astounding sculptures and be found on these pediments.
In Rome they took a lot of the Greek architecture and added their own twist. Here and there they expanded with little touches that made it clear it was Roman architecture. The Pantheon was also built as a temple for the Gods. The Romans absorbed much of the Greek post and lintel architecture for the temple but incorporated the roundheaded arch and barrel vault. The flawlessness of the arch and vault led to the accomplishment of the dome. The temple was made of bricks from Volcano ash and lime; this allowed sturdy and rapid building. The bricks were then faced with a veneer marble or plaster.
When the Romans built they built on a raised podium instead of a stylobate. It could only be approached from the front by a single set of steps. The interior space called a cella was expanded to the edges of the podium that would have been a porch at the side and rear of the building. They would keep what was called a portico at the front of the building.
In Pompeii and Herculaneum, Roman houses were preserved under the ash of Mount Vesuvius. A typical house layout is described of having an atrium (a space open to the sky) with a pool in the entry. The rear of the houses opened into a colonnaded garden called a peristyle. These houses also had libraries, picture and sculpture galleries, kitchens, dinning, sleeping and rooms for conversation and reading. Houses like this show what the Romans fund to be in, education, art, and social entertainment.
Throughout Greek architecture you can see the three Greek orders being used to fit the different types of architecture on the buildings. The three orders were Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. The Doric is the oldest of the Greek orders.
Within each one of these orders distinct decorative details were used. A few of the popular Greek motifs are;
Egg and Dart
Bead and Reel
Perseus Digital Library Project. Ed. Gregory R. Crane. May 31st 2009). Tufts University. 5-31-09 http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/.
Guilloche with Rosettes
The Romans added two orders in addition to the Greek orders, the Tuscan order and Composite order.
Tuscan Order Composite Order
The Romans would often leave the Doric column unfluted and less massive. The Roman Ionic and Corinthian columns were almost identical to the Greek columns despite a few decorative details that the Romans would put their signature motifs on. A few of the signature Roman motifs are;
Floral arrangements as wreaths
Fanciful Figures (Griffins)
The Greeks also displayed Frescos paintings on their walls as well as mosaics. They had their Art and Sculptures in galleries. They also had what is called a Trajan’s Column. This is a unique column that tells stories of battles and Rome by carvings that spiral up to the top of the column.
Greek and Roman Furniture
Greek and Roman Colors
Color is not just something to look at but color is used to reflect climate, political and social atmosphere, and exposure to other cultures. Colors of ancient Greece include; Stellar, Slate, and mist blues; scarlet; pale violet and medium malachite and olive greens; sun yellows; ivory white; marble pink, clay beige; copper brown, and charcoal.
Roman Colors included; magenta, rich gold, Pompeii red and Roman greens, accented with black.
Ancient ruins help us to see the colors thought to be used by the Romans and Greeks. Although the colors are not as rich and bold as they were, it helps give us a glimpse of years ago.
Greek and Roman Furniture
Both Greek and Roman furniture was put together with the Mortise-Tenon or Dowel joints. These are very strong joints that are still used today in some furniture. If joints were not used they would bound the pieces together with straps of leather.
Both the Greeks and Romans also had a popular chair the Klismos chair. It was more comfortable than the Throne chair that was made out of stone. They both also had couches and beds. There was not much difference between the bed and couch. The couch was often set in an entertainment area for guest to lie on while eating and relaxing. Although the Greeks did have similar pieces of furniture the decorating was a bit different. The Greeks often decorated with vases while the Romans with there sculpture’s.