The Acropolis in Greece
The Acropolis in Greece

The styles of many architectural columns were invented thousands of years ago in Greece. Doric, Ionic and Corinthian orders are the three main column styles developed by the ancient Greeks. These column styles still are used in buildings today.

Doric Order

Doric columns at a building in Washington, DC
Doric columns at a building in Washington, DC

Doric is the simplest Greek column. The column is plain, and it has no base. Doric columns often had statues of gods or heroes on top of them.

Ionic Order

The base of Ionic columns
The base of Ionic columns

Ionic is taller than Doric, and its surface has carved lines from top to bottom. The base of an Ionic column looks like a stack of rings, and the capital on top of the column looks like a giant scroll.

Corinthian Order

The capital of Corinthian columns at the National Archive in Washington, DC
The capital of Corinthian columns at the National Archive in Washington, DC

Corinthian, like Ionic, has carved lines from top to bottom on its surface and a base that looks like a stack of rings. The capital of Corinthian columns, however, has flowers and leaves below a small scroll, making Corinthian columns the most decorative of all the Greek column types.

Height

A row of Doric columns
A row of Doric columns

Doric is the shortest of the Greek columns. The height of a Doric column is five and half times its width. The height of an Ionic column is nine times the width of the column. The height of a Corinthian column is 10 times its width, making it the tallest of the Greek columns.

Examples

The Parthenon in Athens, Greece
The Parthenon in Athens, Greece

The Parthenon in Athens, Greece, is the most famous building with Doric columns. The Temple of Athens on the Acropolis is the most famous Ionic building. The Temple of the Sybil in Rome is a good example of Corinthian columns.