How to Compare & Contrast Greek & Roman Architecture

Written by dorian gray
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Greek architecture inspired Roman architecture, so it is no surprise there are many similarities between the two styles and cultures. Combined, they form the genre that is called classical architecture, but they also have their share of differences. If you understand a little history and are able to identify a few key details, you will easily be able to differentiate Greek and Roman architecture.

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    Consider the building materials. Ancient Greeks typically built with mud, wood, plaster and stone. Naturally, many of these buildings did not survive the test of time. The Greeks did, however, construct their temples with marble or limestone, and many of these examples remain today. Ancient Romans also used these same materials, especially marble and limestone. One of their greatest contributions to modern society was that they perfected the use of concrete, with which many of their structures were constructed. Concrete is a mixture of water, sand and lime mortar. It is strong yet lightweight, allowing the Romans to construct larger and more free-flowing structures.

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    Evaluate the purpose of the building. Most remaining examples of Greek architecture are the temples, which were built as objects of art to honour their gods. For this reason, they were ornate on the outside but rather plain on the inside. A greater variety of Roman building types are still preserved today, due to their advances in material technology, especially concrete. Public spaces like amphitheatres, bathhouses, aqueducts and public housing remain for tourists to explore today. Unlike ancient Greek Architecture, Roman structures were ornate on both the outside and inside, reflecting the pursuit of pleasure---an essential part of Roman culture.

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    Look at the construction details. Greek architecture is typically more rectilinear, and of "post and lintel" construction. An ancient Greek building usually consisted of a pediment supported by columns, which was set on a plinth for a base. Romans are credited with mastering the arch and the dome, two elements you will find often in ancient Roman architecture, but not in ancient Greek architecture. Concrete made these more complex forms possible. Arches are common in aqueducts, bridges and triumphal arches, while domes span large spaces and can be found in temples, emperors' residences and bathhouses.

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    Evaluate the style of columns. Columns, of course, are common and necessary supports in both Greek and Roman architecture. Both cultures employed the Doric, Ionic and Corinthian orders, most easily identifiable by looking at the column capitals. Greek architecture tended to favour the Doric and Ionic columns, which have cleaner lines. The Romans preferred the more ornate Corinthian style.

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