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Difference between Greek and Roman columns

Updated July 19, 2017

Roman and Greek columns are a common architectural feature all over the world because of the prominence of the ideas and influence of ancient Rome and Greece. While the columns are often considered to be the same, they have differences.

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Greek columns

The three styles of Greek architecture are Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. Doric columns are the oldest and plainest of the three styles, and they were common on the Greek mainland as well as in southern Italy and Sicily. The Ionic is a prettier column, with more grooves and a more slender shaft. Corinthian columns are perhaps the best known; they are elaborate structures that have plants and vines carved into the stone.

Roman columns

Five divisions make up Roman columns, which mimic the classical Greek columns. This copying, or borrowing, of styles is typical of the Romans because they absorbed culture and ideas from the Greeks when they conquered them. The five styles of Roman columns are Tuscan, Roman Ionic, Roman Doric, Roman Corinthian and Composite.


The differences between the types of columns are generally small and often have more to do with the type of structure they are used in rather than the actual columns. The Greeks often used columns for temples such as the Parthenon, while the Romans tended to use them in public buildings, including the Forum. Roman columns, while similar in appearance to Greek columns, show the influence of what were then new engineering discoveries. Roman Ionic columns are almost the same as their Greek counterparts but more elaborate. Greek columns also tend to have more fluting in the grooves carved into the stone. The Resources section includes links to photograph galleries on the different kinds of columns.

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About the Author

Morgon Luvall Newquist is an aspiring writer and in the midst of earning a degree in Latin at the University of Georgia and has been working as a freelance writer since 2007. Some of her work includes writing how-to guides for eHow, short stories and world-building articles for the video game Iron Grip: Warlord, and various other creative and professional projects.

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