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What Is an Order of Architecture? What Is a Classical Order of Architecture?

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Orders of Architecture - 18th Century Engraving

This 18th century engraving illustrates classical column styles described in the Five Orders of Architecture by Giacomo da Vignola.

Public Domain Image: 18th century French engraving from Encyclopédie vol. 18
Definition:

An Order of Architecture is a set or rules or principles for designing buildings. A Classical order of architecture is an approach to building design established in Greece or Rome during the Classical period, roughly 850 BC through 476 AD.

Temples and important public buildings were constructed according to five distinct Orders of Architecture, each using a different type of column and, above the column, a different style entablature.

The Greek Orders of Architecture
In ancient times, about 500 years BC, the Greeks developed three Orders of Architecture, using three distinct column styles:

The Roman Orders of Architecture
During the reign of the Roman Empire, roughly 44 BC-476 AD, the Romans imitated the Greek Orders of Architecture. They also added their own variations using two distinct column styles:

Rediscovering the Classical Orders
The Classical Orders of Architecture might have become lost to history if it weren't for the writings of early scholars and architects. The Roman architect Marcus Vitruvius, who lived during first century BC, documented the three Greek Orders and the Tuscan Order in his famous treatise De Architectura, or Ten Books on Architecture (compare prices).

More than 1,500 years later, the Italian Renaissance architect Giacomo da Vignola wrote an important treatise in which he described all five Classical Orders of Architecture. Published in 1563, Vignola's treatise, The Five Orders of Architecture (compare prices), became a guide for builders throughout western Europe.

Terms to Know About the Architectural Orders
Glossary of Greek Orders from our Guide to Ancient and Classical History

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