Materials Used in Ancient Greek Architecture

Ancient Greek architecture utilized many types of marble and limestone.
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Greece has given the world the gift of philosophy, plumbing, coin money and their architectural works have inspired the designs of modern buildings. From Chicago's Soldier Field to the U.S. Capitol Building, Greek architecture is implemented in buildings on a global scale. Before new cutting techniques were developed in ancient Greece, materials consisted of wood and clay. As complicated stone-cutting techniques advanced, architects were able to use stone like limestone and marble that were previously too difficult to work with.

1 Wood and Clay

Greek buildings in the colonization period (8th to 6th century BC) were constructed of wood and bricks made from clay. Like the structures themselves, very few written sources about these early buildings have survived. Princeton University sheds light by explaining that wood was primarily used for structural supports and roof beams and clay bricks were used for the walls. Although thatch was used as roofing for many homes, the ancient Greeks also used roof tiles made from clay.

2 Limestone

Limestone was cultivated from quarries and favored by architects as it is easy to cut. Perikles, an architect who oversaw several projects including the construction of the Parthenon (447 to 432 B.C.) and other monuments atop the Akropolis, chose to use limestone. He oversaw its extraction while supervising the artists who shaped each piece on location before it was moved to the building site for placement. Limestone was primarily used in sparing amounts in temple relief slabs. However, limestone is fragile and can crack more so than other substances which is why marble was commonly preferred.

3 Pentelikon Marble

According to Litos Online, Pentelikon marble was common in ancient quarries and was widely used in architecture and decorative sculpting, especially for finishing surfaces. This marble type was used in well-known structures such as the Erechtheum, the Theseum, the Propylaea of the Acropolis, the temple of Olympus Zeus, in parts of the Parthenon, and numerous other monuments and temples throughout ancient Greece. Pentelikon marble was white at the time of its use in ancient construction. Today this marble has some gray coloration to it.

4 Pink of Epirus Limestone

As its name suggests, this type of limestone was quarried in ancient times in Epirus and is identified by a yellowish color with light shades of pink that contain shafts of red and gray veins running through it. This type of limestone was used in small amounts to provide decorative touches of color. Today this marble has retained its color and is used in the interior rooms of royal residences and in the veneers of the lobby of the Archaeological Museum of Athens.

Jen Saunders is an entrepreneur and veteran journalist who covers a wide range of topics. She made the transition to writing after having spent 12 years in England where she studied and taught English literature.