A Visual Glossary of Classical Architecture


Mark Cartwright
published on 10 March 2013

Architectural Elements of the Parthenon

Abacus - a large slab placed above the column capital to support the architrave or an arch placed above it.


Akroterion - a decorative piece added to the roof of a temple at the apex and corners, usually made of clay or bronze and often in the form of a palm or statue, for example of Nike.

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Adyton - the most sacred inner part of a temple, usually at the end of the cella furthest from the entrance, often with restricted access to the initiated or priests.

Library of Celsus, Ephesus

Aedicule - a frame formed by two columns and an entablature with pediment.

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Cornice, Temple of Athena, Priene

Architrave - the lowest part of the entablature, the part below the frieze.

Temple of Nike, Athens

Amphiprostyle Temple - when both façades have columns, e.g.: the temple of Nike, Athens.

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Phrygian Captive, Corinth

Atlantide - a sculpted male figure acting as a column to support an entablature, named after Atlas.

Arch of Constantine I (South Side)

Attic Story - the part placed above the entablature of a building, e.g.: often seen in triumphal arches.

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Roman Buttress

Buttress - a mass placed to support a wall, especially when the wall bears an arch or heavy weight. Flying buttresses support a weight over space and allow for walls to be weakened by the inclusion of niches and windows.

Corinthian Capital

Capital - the crown which joins the top of a column with the abacus and aids in distributing weight. Different types include the simple convex Doric and the highly decorative Corinthian with stylized acanthus leaves.

Caryatids of the Erechtheion

Caryatid - a sculpted female figure acting as a column to support an entablature, e.g.: in the Erechtheion.

Theatre of Delphi

Cavea - the seated area of a theatre, usually built into a natural slope.

Plan of the Parthenon

Cella - the inner area of a temple, usually rectangular and without windows, sometimes columned.  Often subdivided into smaller rooms, the largest of which often housed a large cult statue to  a particular deity.

Architectural Column Orders

Column - used to support the abacus and architrave without the necessity of a wall. There are several types including the simple and earliest the Doric. They may also be free-standing and often commemorate significant historical events such as Trajan’s Column.

Conch - also known as an apse, a recess in a wall often highly decorated or containing a statue.


Cornice - the decorative projecting part at the top of the entablature which also aided in drainage of rainwater.

Crepidoma, Temple of Zeus, Olympia

Crepidoma - also crēpis, the three steps on which stand the columns of a temple. The final top step is known as the stylobate.

Aerial View of the Temple of Apollo, Miletus

Decastyle Temple - with ten columns at each façade, e.g.: the temple of Apollo Didymaeus at Miletus.


Dentils - a regular series of squares or rectangles used to decorate cornices.

Seating of the Theatre of Epidaurus

Diazoma - the walkway which horizontally divides the seats in a theatre.

Dipteral Temple - when there are a double row of columns on all sides, e.g.: the Parthenon.

Dodecastyle Temple - with twelve columns at each façade.

Treasury of Atreus, Mycenae

Dromos - the monumental unroofed and walled entrance to a tomb, e.g. at Mycenae.

Column Drums, Olympia

Drum - the individual circular pieces used to construct some types of columns.

Egg and Dart Ornamentation

Egg and Dart Ornamentation - a typical feature of decoration on cornices.

Temple of Portunus, Rome

Engaged Columns - columns which are incorporated within a wall.

Architrave, Capitolium, Brixia

Entablature - the structure which lies horizontally above columns and which is composed of the architrave, frieze and cornice.

Doric Temple of Juno, Agrigento

Entasis - the swelling of a column at its base and centre to give the illusion of being perfectly straight.

Column Flutes, Parthenon

Flute - the curved vertical channel carved in a column.

Gigantomachy, Treasury of the Siphians, Delphi

Frieze - the widest and central part of the entablature often richly decorated with relief sculpture.

Roman Temple, Nimes, France

Hexastyle Temple - with six columns at each façade, e.g. the Maison Carré at Nimes.

Treasury of The Athenians, Delphi

in antis - when the walls of a portico extend in line with the façade columns.

Inner Archway, Arch of Titus

Intrados - the inner surface of an arch.

Hercules & The Cretan Bull

Metope - a square space in the frieze between two triglyphs, often filled with relief sculpture or ornaments such as shields.

Monolithic Columns, Corinth

Monolithic Column - a column carved from a single piece of stone.

Temple of Baachus, Baalbek

Octastyle Temple - with eight columns at each façade, e.g.: the temple of Bacchus at Baalbek.

Opisthodomos - The small room at the rear of a temple commonly used as a treasury.

Theatre Parodoi, Epidaurus

Parodoi - the large arched gateways, either side of the skēnē, through which an audience entered a theatre.

The Zanes, Olympia

Pedestal - the block on which stands a column or statue, composed of the plinth, torus, dado and fascia.

Pediment, Pantheon

Pediment - the triangular space above the entablature at the short sides of a temple. Often richly decorated with sculpture in the round.

Parthenon, East Facade

Peripteral Temple - when all four external sides have columns.


Peristyle - the rows of columns which surround a temple or courtyard.

Pilaster Columns

Pilaster - an ornamental column carved in relief on a wall surface.

Portico, Pantheon

Portico - a space for walking, usually columned, e.g.: at the front of a temple.


Pronaos - the space between the outer columns and cella entrance in a temple.

Athenian Propylaea Reconstruction

Propylon - the monumental gateway to a religious sanctuary or defined space. Often incorporating several separate entrances (propylaia).

Treasury of The Athenians, Delphi

Prostyle - a temple with columns only at the front façade.

Lion-shaped Sima

Sima - the gutter which collected rainwater from the roof of a temple, often containing decorative  spouts at regular intervals.

Odeon Of  Herodes Atticus, Athens

Skēnē - the background on a theatre stage, later examples were monumental in design.

Temple of Poseidon, Sounion, Greece

Stereobate - the surface on which the stylobate stands.

Stoa - a long and narrow columned building often used to enclose a particular space at religious sites and public places such as markets and gymnasia. Used as a meeting place and shelter  from the weather.

Stylobate - the foundation on which a row of columns stand. Often slightly curved to aid drainage.

Tetrastyle Temple - with four columns at each façade.

Tholos of Delphi

Tholos - A circular-shaped temple, the most famous example being at Delphi.

Entablature with Metope and Triglyphs

Triglyph - a decorative element of a frieze with two vertical grooves. Often used in alteration with metopes.

Arch of Constantine I

Triumphal Arch - a monumental archway to commemorate Roman military victories and other significant events.

Ionic Capital

Volutes - the scrolls of an Ionic capital.

Editorial Review This Article has been reviewed for accuracy, reliability and adherence to academic standards prior to publication.

About the Author

Mark Cartwright
Mark is a history writer based in Italy. His special interests include pottery, architecture, world mythology and discovering the ideas that all civilizations share in common. He holds an MA in Political Philosophy and is the Publishing Director at AHE.

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Cite This Work

APA Style

Cartwright, M. (2013, March 10). A Visual Glossary of Classical Architecture. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/article/486/

Chicago Style

Cartwright, Mark. "A Visual Glossary of Classical Architecture." Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified March 10, 2013. https://www.ancient.eu/article/486/.

MLA Style

Cartwright, Mark. "A Visual Glossary of Classical Architecture." Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 10 Mar 2013. Web. 15 Sep 2019.

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