Ionic Capital, Metapontum

Ionic Capital, Metapontum

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Greek Columns

Three Greek columns Ionic, Corinthian and Doric made up of the capital, shaft and base. Of the three columns found in Greece, Doric columns are the simplest. They have a capital (the top, or crown) made of a circle topped by a square. The shaft (the tall part of the column) is plain and has 20 sides.

There is no base in the Doric order. The Doric order is very plain, but powerful-looking in its design. Doric, like most Greek styles, works well horizontally on buildings, that’s why it was so good with the long rectangular buildings made by the Greeks. The area above the column, called the frieze [pronounced “freeze”], had simple patterns.

Above the columns are the metopes and triglyphs. The metope [pronounced “met-o-pee”] is a plain, smooth stone section between triglyphs. Sometimes the metopes had statues of heroes or gods on them. The triglyphs are a pattern of 3 vertical lines between the metopes.

The Greeks developed three architectural systems called Doric, Ionic and Corinthian orders, each with their own distinctive proportions and detailing. The column is the most significant element because it defines the general proportions (module = ratio between the height and the width, defined by the semi-diameter of the shaft of the column in its lowest part). One recognizes the order by the shape of the capitals.

, the shaft of the column, which tapers towards the top and has between 16 and 20 flutings, stands without a base on the Stylobate, which is the uppermost step (of 3 or more steps) of a platform called Crepidoma. The capital consists of the Echinus and the quadrangular Abacus and carries the architrave with its Frieze. In Doric order the frieze is made up of metopes, plain, smooth stone sections (sometimes filled with sculpture) between the triglyphs carved with a pattern of three plane vertical arrises, survival of the wooden structure of primitive temples. The triangular pediment is ornemented with acroteriums.

has slenderer and gentler forms than the Doric male order. The crepidoma has more steps (8, 10 or 12) and the column now stands on a base. The flutings of the columns are separated by narrow ridges. The Ionic capital, which is a Greek transformation of the Aeolic capital (Aeolia), has typical volutes on either side. The architrave is made up of three superposed flat sections. The frieze is continuous, without triglyphs to divide it up. This order appeared for the first time in the 6th Century BC in the Greek centers of Ionia (western Asia Minor).

The Corinthian order is similar to the Ionic except in the form of the capital. Its characteristic feature is the acanthus leaves which enclose the circular slender body of the capital. This order was much favoured by the Romans who combined the volutes of the Ionic to the acanthus leaves of the Corinthian orders, creating the composite order.

Following excerpt from:

Characteristics of an Ionic Column

Ionic columns are easy to recognize at first glance in part because of their volutes. A volute is the distinctive spiral whorl design, like a spiral shell, characteristic of the Ionic capital. This design feature, stately and ornate as it may be, presented plenty of problems for early architects.

The Volute

The curvy embellishments decorating an Ionic capital create an inherent structural problem—how can a circular column accommodate a linear capital? In response, some Ionic columns end up being "two-sided" with one very wide pair of volutes, while others squeeze in four sides or two narrower pairs atop the shaft. Some Ionian architects considered the latter design preferable for its symmetry.

But how did the volute come to be? Volutes and their origin have been described in many ways. Perhaps they are decorative scrolls meant to symbolize long-distance communication developments of ancient Greece. Some refer to volutes as curly hair atop a slender shaft or even a ram's horn, but these musings do little to explain where the ornaments come from. Others say that the capital design of an Ionic Column represents a key feature of feminine biology—the ovaries. With egg-and-dart decoration between the volutes, this fertile explanation shouldn't be quickly dismissed.

Other Features

Though Ionic columns are most easily recognizable for their volutes, they feature other unique characteristics that set them apart from Doric and Corinthian equivalents as well. These include:

  • A base of stacked disks
  • Shafts that are usually fluted
  • Shafts that can be flared at both the top and bottom designs between the volutes
  • Relatively flat capitals. Vitruvius once said that "the height of the Ionic capital is only one-third of the thickness of the column"

The Third Capitol

Commissioners Ebenezer O. Grosvenor of Jonesville, James Sherer of Bay City and Alexander Chapoton of Detroit were confirmed by the legislature and Allen J. Bours of Lansing was appointed Secretary. Governors Baldwin (1869-72), Bagley (1873-76), and Croswell (1877-80) served as ex-officio members. The Commission announced a design competition and, according to Mr. O. L. Jenison, "Originally the designs were required to be submitted by 1 December, 1871, but because of the Chicago fire of October 1871 which destroyed or damaged some of the entries, the deadline was extended to 28 December. Altogether there were twenty entries from which the winner was announced on 25 January, 1872, and the architect was Elijah E. Myers, Esq. of Springfield, Ill."

Preparations were underway by late August of 1872 and construction began a month later. By September of 1873, Lansing, a town of 7,000 was readying for the Cornerstone Laying Day with an expected crowd of 30,000 to 50,000 visitors. On October 2, 1873, following a parade and speakers, the five-ton granite cornerstone with its historic documents and memorials was lowered into place and sealed. It was a great occasion.

The editor of the Isabella County Enterprise voiced his opinion, "Gone -- Our wealthy citizens have again gone to see the cornerstone of the new capitol laid. They ought to put some potato bugs under that stone, to let the rising generation see 'what their fathers fit'."

It was a day with few problems. According to The Detroit Post, there was "Nothing to do -- Detectives Bishop and O'Neil who went to Lansing to look out for the light-fingered gentry who were expected to be present at the laying of the cornerstone, returned home yesterday morning thoroughly disgusted, having found nothing to do. For some reason the 'mob' failed to put in an appearance and no case of pocket-picking was reported."

The Portland Observer provided this sidelight, "If any of the bricks from the State Capitol are missing, we know where they are. A few were emptied into this town Thursday night, judging by the shape of their hats that's where they carried them."

On September 23, 1878 with construction and finishing completed, the new Capitol with its 139 rooms, was "ready for delivery." Official dedications followed the inauguration of Governor Croswell on January 1, 1879.

Visitors came from all over to see the new State House. For many it was a new and strange experience which was evident in their questions and comments. One lady after viewing both Legislative Halls remarked, "I s'pose one these is for the Republicans and the other for the Dimmicrats [sic]." Another asked whose initials "A.D.", were on the cornerstone.

On one occasion the building superintendent was escorting a group through the Supreme Court Chamber. He reached the door and said, "Here is the egress." One lady questioned her companion, "What did the gentlemen call it? I've come a good ways and I want to see all there is."

After touring the building and riding in the elevator, a visitor asked if he could go into the "tunnel", but was satisfied when told "the tunnel isn't running today."

Another gentleman asked to see the "libratory." When asked if he meant the State Library, he said he guessed that was it. A visitor viewing the empty shelves in the newly completed library, was told it would be many years before all the shelves were filled with books. Upon reaching Representative Hall with a hundred empty desks, he commented, "It will be a long time before those desks are occupied."

Source: Excerpts taken from Michigan's State Capitol, History Art & Architecture, published by the Michigan Department of Management and Budget, circa 1988.

Michigan State Senate | PO Box 30036 | Lansing, MI 48909-7536
517-373-2400 | Web Site Support

Secrets of the Parthenon

PBS Airdate: January 29, 2008

Architect Mark Wilson Jones believes the enigmatic Salamis Stone, depicting an arm, hands and feet, may be a conversion table for the different measuring systems, Doric, Ionic and Common.

MARK WILSON JONES (University of Bath): This is a tracing I’ve done that shows the stone, and you can immediately see how the main measures work. We have this foot rule here. That’s 327 millimeters, more or less, the Doric foot. And here you have a foot imprint that’s roughly a 307-millimeter-long foot, which we tend to call the Common foot. And there are, in fact other feet. For example, this dimension here is one Ionic foot. So there is a, kind of, whole network of different interrelated measurements here.

NARRATOR: The Salamis Stone represents all the competing ancient Greek measurements: the Doric foot, the Ionic foot, and, for the first time, the Common foot—virtually the same measurement we use today.

Wilson Jones finds evidence of all three measuring systems in the height of the Parthenon.

MARK WILSON JONES: That distance is, at one and the same time, 45 Doric feet, that’s the ruler on the relief it’s also 48 Common feet, which is the foot imprint and it’s 50 Ionic feet, all at the same time. And these are quite exact correspondences.

NARRATOR: So the Salamis Stone may have provided a simple way for ancient workers from different places to calibrate their rulers and cross-reference different units of measurement.

But the Salamis Stone may also be a clue to how the ancient Greeks were using the human body to create what we now regard as ideal proportions.

MARK WILSON JONES: What’s extraordinary about this, is that at the same time as being a practical device, it’s also a kind of model of theory, architectural theory, that a perfect, ideal human body, designed by nature, is a kind of paradigm for how architects should design temples.

NARRATOR: Among the first to record that Greek temples were based on the ideal human body was the Roman architect, Marcus Vitruvius. He studied the proportions of temples like the Parthenon, in the first century B.C.E., 400 years after it was built.

MANOLIS KORRES: Vitruvius’s work gives us the overall frame which is necessary to understand the system of proportions of the Parthenon.

NARRATOR: According to Vitruvius, Greek architects believed in an objective basis of beauty that mirrors the proportions of an ideal human body. They observed, among many examples, that the span from finger tip to finger tip is a fixed ratio to total height, and height is a fixed ratio to the distance between the navel and the foot.

Two thousand years after the Parthenon, another artist was also searching for an objective basis of beauty.

MARK WILSON JONES: This is a very famous image. It’s drawn by Leonardo da Vinci, in the Renaissance, and it’s based on Vitruvius’s description of the ideal the human body. And he encapsulates this idea of its theoretical importance. And what’s really interesting for us is that when we superimpose the Salamis relief on this drawing, we see that there’s a remarkable correspondence. There are differences, but it’s the same principle. You have the same interest in the anthropomorphic principle of getting a kind of sacred fundamental justification for these measures.

NARRATOR: Da Vinci’s ideal Renaissance man famously stands in a circle surrounded by a square. Da Vinci named this image “Vitruvian Man” after the Roman architect.

The ratio of the radius of the circle to a side of the square is 1 to 1.6. That ratio is sometimes attributed to the Greek mathematician, Pythagoras, who lived 100 years before the building of the Parthenon. In the Victorian age, it became known as the “golden ratio.” It was a mathematical formula for beauty. For centuries many scholars believed the golden ratio gave the Parthenon its tremendous power and perfect proportions. Most notably, the ratio of height to width on its facades is a golden ratio.

Today the golden ratio’s use in the Parthenon has been largely discredited, but Manolis Korres and most scholars believe another ratio does in fact appear in much of the building.

MANOLIS KORRES: The width, for instance is 30 meters and 80 centimeters the length is 69 meters and 51 centimeters, the ratio being 4:9.

NARRATOR: The 4:9 ratio is also found between the width of the columns and the distance between their centers, and the height of the facade to its width.

JEFFREY M. HURWIT: The Parthenon, like a statue, exemplifies a certain symmetria, a certain harmony of part to part and of part to the whole. There’s no question that the harmony of the building, which is clearly one of its most visible characteristics is dependent upon a certain mathematical system of proportions.

MARK WILSON JONES: For the Greeks, there was nothing better than a design based on the coming together of measures, of proportions and harmonies and shapes. It’s rather like an orchestrated piece of music in which the harmonies of the various instruments are, sort of, fused together in a wonderful, glorious, orchestrated symphony.

NARRATOR: With something like the Salamis Stone’s use of the human body as units of measure, and the idealized human form to define perfect proportions, the Parthenon literally embodies the words of the Greek philosopher Protagoras, who lived in Athens during the construction of the Parthenon, “Man is the measure of all things”.


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Order, also called order of architecture, any of several styles of classical or Neoclassical architecture that are defined by the particular type of column and entablature they use as a basic unit. A column consists of a shaft together with its base and its capital. The column supports a section of an entablature, which constitutes the upper horizontal part of a classical building and is itself composed of (from bottom to top) an architrave, frieze, and cornice. The form of the capital is the most distinguishing characteristic of a particular order. There are five major orders: Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Tuscan, and Composite.

There are many separate elements that make up a complete column and entablature. At the bottom of the column is the stylobate this is a continuous flat pavement on which a row of columns is supported. Rising out of the stylobate is the plinth, a square or circular block that is the lowest part of the base. Atop the plinth and forming the remainder of the base are one or more circular moldings that have varying profiles these may include a torus (a convex molding that is semicircular in profile), a scotia (with a concave profile), and one or more fillets, or narrow bands.

The shaft, which rests upon the base, is a long, narrow, vertical cylinder that in some orders is articulated with fluting (vertical grooves). The shaft may also taper inward slightly so that it is wider at the bottom than at the top.

Atop the shaft is the capital, which serves to concentrate the weight of the entablature on the shaft and also acts as an aesthetic transition between those two elements. In its simplest form (the Doric), the capital consists (in ascending order) of three parts the necking, which is a continuation of the shaft but which is set off from it visually by one or more narrow grooves the echinus, a circular block that bulges outward at its uppermost portion in order to better support the abacus and the abacus itself, a square block that directly supports the entablature above and transmits its weight to the rest of the column below.

The entablature is composed of three horizontal sections that are visually separated from each other by moldings and bands. The three parts of the entablature (in ascending order) are called the architrave, frieze, and cornice.

The unit used in the measurement of columns is the diameter of the shaft at the base thus, a column may be described as being eight (lower) diameters high.

Ancient Greek architecture developed two distinct orders, the Doric and the Ionic, together with a third (Corinthian) capital, which, with modifications, were adopted by the Romans in the 1st century bc and have been used ever since in Western architecture.

The Doric order is characterized by a slightly tapered column that is the most squat of all the orders, measuring in height (including the capital) only about four to eight lower diameters. The Greek forms of the Doric order have no individual base and instead rest directly on the stylobate, although subsequent forms of Doric frequently were given a conventional plinth-and-torus base. The Doric shaft is channeled with 20 shallow flutes. The capital, as stated before, consists of a simple necking a spreading, convex echinus and a square abacus. The frieze section of the Doric entablature is distinctive. It is composed of projecting triglyphs (units each consisting of three vertical bands separated by grooves) that alternate with receding square panels, called metopes, that may be either plain or carved with sculptured reliefs. The Roman forms of the Doric order have smaller proportions and appear lighter and more graceful than their Greek counterparts.

The Ionic order differs from the Doric in having more flutes on its shaft and in the scrolls, or volutes, that droop over the front and rear portions of the echinus in the capital. The echinus itself is carved with an egg-and-dart motif. The height of the entire Ionic order—column, base, capital, and entablature— is nine lower diameters. The base of the column has two tori (convex moldings) separated by a scotia. The shaft, which is eight lower diameters high, has 24 flutes. On the entablature, the architrave is usually made up of three stepped fasciae (bands). The frieze lacks the Doric triglyph and metope, and hence this area can hold a continuous band of carved ornament, such as figural groups.

The Corinthian order is the most elegant of the five orders. Its distinguishing characteristic is the striking capital, which is carved with two staggered rows of stylized acanthus leaves and four scrolls. The shaft has 24 sharp-edged flutes, while the column is 10 diameters high.

The Tuscan order is a Roman adaptation of the Doric. The Tuscan has an unfluted shaft and a simple echinus-abacus capital. It is similar in proportion and profile to the Roman Doric but is much plainer. The column is seven diameters high. This order is the most solid in appearance of all the orders.

The Composite order, which was not ranked as a separate order until the Renaissance, is a late Roman development of the Corinthian. It is called Composite because its capital is composed of Ionic volutes and Corinthian acanthus-leaf decoration. The column is 10 diameters high.

The Doric and Ionic orders originated nearly simultaneously on opposite shores of the Aegean Sea the Doric on the Greek mainland and the Ionic in the Greek cities of Asia Minor. (The volutes of the Ionic capital were adapted from Phoenician and Egyptian capital designs.) The Doric may be considered the earlier order of the two only in its developed form. Both orders originated in temples constructed out of wood. The earliest well-preserved example of Doric architecture is the Temple of Hera at Olympia, built soon after 600 bc . From these beginnings, the evolution of the stone Doric column can be traced in architectural remains in Greece, Sicily, and southern Italy, where the Doric was to remain the chief order for monumental buildings for the next eight centuries.

The Greeks as well as the Romans regarded the Corinthian as only a variant capital to be substituted for the Ionic. The first known use of a Corinthian capital on the outside of a building is that of the choragic Monument of Lysicrates (Athens, 335/334 bc ). The Corinthian was raised to the rank of an order by the 1st-century- bc Roman writer and architect Vitruvius.

The Romans adopted the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders and modified them to produce the Tuscan order, which is a simplified form of the Doric, and the Composite order, which is a combination of the Ionic and Corinthian orders. Another Roman innovation was the superposed order when columns adorned several successive stories of a building, they were normally of different orders, in an ascending sequence from heaviest to most slender. Thus columns of the Doric order were assigned to the ground floor of a building, Ionic ones to the middle story, and Corinthian or Composite ones to the top story. To avoid the complications of separate orders for each story, the architects of the Renaissance invented the Colossal order, which is composed of columns extending the height of two or more stories of a building.

Vitruvius was the only ancient Greek or Roman writer on architecture whose works survived the Middle Ages. When his handbook for Roman architects, De architectura, was rediscovered in the early 15th century, Vitruvius was at once hailed as the authority on classical architecture. Based on his writings, Italian architects of the Renaissance and Baroque periods developed an aesthetic canon that established rules for superposing the classical orders. The architects also laid down rules for the proportions of the orders and their parts down to the most minute members. The exact proportional dimensions of every element of an order was specified, so that, given the diameter of the column or any other dimension, the entire order and all of its separate elements could be reconstructed through routine calculations. The rules were thus carried to extravagant lengths that were undreamed of by the Greeks and rarely observed by the Romans.

Succeeding artistic periods witnessed revivals of the archaeologically “correct” use of the orders, though many architects continued to use the various orders with the utmost freedom. In Modernist architecture of the 20th century, the orders passed from use as superfluous ornament, their structural functions having been taken over by columns and piers made of steel or reinforced concrete.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen, Corrections Manager.

An antefix is a vertical block which terminates the covering tiles of the roof of a tiled roof. In grand buildings the face of each stone ante-fix was richly carved, often with the anthemion ornament.

A rake is an architectural term for an eave or cornice which runs along the gable end of the roof of a modern residential structure. It may also be called a sloping cornice, a raking cornice. The trim and rafters at this edge are called rake-, verge-, or barge-board or verge- or barge-rafter.

One of the five orders of classical architecture, which also include: Tuscan, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite. The Doric order was developed in Greece and adopted by the Romans. Identifying features include columns that are stouter than the other orders, often 6 to 7 times as tall as the diameter at the base. In Greece Doric columns rested directly on the floor without the benefit of a pedestal or base moulding. Roman Doric columns tend to be slimmer and sit upon an Attic base. The Doric entablature is characterized by the triglyphs and metopes.
More on Doric columns and the Doric order

The edge of a roof. In most structures the eaves project beyond the surface of the wall protecting it from rain and snow.

Bryen Salas

Mr. Salas first co-founded the company in 2012 with a vision into the future. He took the role of Vice President of Sales from 2012-2017 leading the company to become one of the top selling vaporizer brands sold in the State of Washington. Throughout these years, Mr. Salas was critical in supporting the functions of Ionics' supply chain, product development, marketing, human resources and technology.

The Ionic Order

The Ionic Order was born in Ionia, a coastal region of central Anatolia, in the early 6th century B.C., there were many Greek settlements in that location. It is primarily identified by its capital, with its rolled-up cushion-like form on either side creating the distinctive volutes. Vitruvius describes it as the combination of the severity of the Doric and the delicacy of the Corinthian. It is possible to identify this style as something born combinating elements from the two different classical stiles born in Greece.

Ionic order columns on the Western and Southern Life Insurance building, Cincinnati, Ohio.

How to Distinguish a Ionic Building

Depending on the location and the time in which the single edifice was built, we can find different forms of the Ionic order. The so-called “attic base” it is the best known and most common. It is the way in which Romans used to call this way of shaping columns, at the top and at the bottom there were two torus, divided by a scotia (hollow conclave molding). These are the main features of the Ionic style:

  • The shaft of the column is put on the base and has grooves in a rounded edge
  • The capital is composed of two volutes in a spiral shape, in which ovules and arrows alternate
  • The abacus above the capital is flattened and the echinus is small

Above the capital, it is possible to find an entablature. It is composed by a tripartite architrave, with three overlapping plates each one is higher and more prominent than the one that lays below.

The frieze lays on it, and often has painted representations, developed along the entire perimeter of the temple that usually create a long narration.

Ionic style: Column and entablature

Renaissance architectural theorists inspired themselves to Vitruvius, to look at the Ionic order compairing it to the Doric, and to the Coritnhian orders. The Ionic is a natural order for post-Renaissance libraries and courts of justice, learned and civilized.

Iconic Ionic Temples

  • TheTemple of Hera on Samos was the first of the greatest Ionic temples. It was built by the architect Rhoikos between 570 and 560 BC, but it stood for only a decade because of an earthquake.
  • The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was a 6th-century Ionic temple and it was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Parthenon, although it conforms mainly to the Doric order, also has some Ionic elements.
  • The Erechtheum and the Temple of Athena are also examples of the pure Ionic mode. They are both on the Athens Acropolis.

Temple of Athena Nike, V secolo BC (425 BC) Atene, Greece.

Modern Examples of Ionic Style

There are many buildings embodying Ionic style’s features: the Cathedral of Treviso and the Crystal Palace in Madrid, these are the reasons because today everyone calls Ionic style a classic.

The Cathedral of Treviso

Watch the video: The Volute of the Ionic Capital