Architecture of ancient Greece

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Architecture was extinct in Greece from the end of the Mycenaean period (about 1200 BC) to the 7th century BC, when plebeian life and prosperity recovered to a point where public building could be undertaken. But since many Greek buildings in the colonization period (8th - 6th century BC), were made of wood or mud-brick or clay, nothing remains of them except for a few ground-plans, and almost no written sources on early architecture or descriptions of these embryonic buildings exist.

Common materials of Greek architecture were wood, used for supports and roof beams; plaster, used for sinks and bathtubs; unbaked brick, used for walls, especially for private homes; limestone and marble, used for columns, walls, and upper portions of temples and public buildings; terracotta, used for roof tiles and ornaments; and metals, especially bronze, used for decorative details. Architects of the Archaic and Classical periods used these building materials to construct five simple types of buildings: religious, civic, domestic, funerary, or recreational themes.



Most of our knowledge of Greek architecture is of the late archaic period (550 - 500 BC), the Periclean age (450 - 430 BC), and the early to pure classical period (430 - 400 BC). Greek examples are considered alongside Hellenistic and Roman periods (since Roman architecture heavily influenced by Greek), and late written sources such as Vitruvius (1st century). This results in a strong bias towards temples, the only buildings which survive in large numbers.

Like Greek painting and sculpture, Greek Architecture in the first half of classical antiquity was not "art for art's sake" in the modern sense. The architect was a craftsman employed by the state or a wealthy private client. No distinction was made between the architect and the building contractor. The architect designed the building, hired the laborers and craftsmen who built it, and was responsible for both its budget and its timely completion. He did not enjoy any of the lofty status accorded to modern architects of public buildings. Even the names of architects are not known before the 5th century. An architect like Iktinos, who designed the Parthenon, who would today be seen as a genius, was treated in his lifetime as no more than a very valuable master tradesman.

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