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Classical architecture is the architecture of classical antiquity; chiefly the impressive public buildings, which have survived to be studied in the modern age. Classical architecture has inspired many more recent architects and has led to neoclassical architecture.

Archaeological use

Classical architecture can be divided into:

Only Greek architecture in the time before Alexander (who died in 324 BC) carries an authentic, ethnic designation. The ancient Greeks were notoriously dismissive of barbaroi – those who spoke Greek non-natively or not at all. The incredible conquests of Alexander and the subsequent application of a veneer of Greek city states to a base of Egyptian, Semitic, and Iranian populations produced an important change. Though speaking Greek remained the touchstone of whether one was a member of civilized culture or not, the ethnic diversification of the Hellenistic world is clear. The formal elements of classical Greek architecture were applied to temples for gods never worshipped in Greecemarker.

The Romans can be seen as the latest Hellenistic empire. Pre-imperial architecture is more or less Etruscanmarker with some Greek elements. By the time the Romans conquered mainland Greece in the 2nd century BC they were importing Greek craftsmen to build major public buildings. The term Roman Art and Roman Architecture has no ethnic meaning relating to Italic Romans. Most art historians assume that it has the ethnic meaning of "Greek-speaking slave" or "Greek-speaking free laborer," in fact.

Architectural use

Most of the styles originating in post-renaissance Europe can be described as classical architecture. This broad use of the term is employed by Sir John Summerson in The Classical Language of Architecture.

The "elements" of classical architecture have been applied in radically different architectural contexts than those for which they were developed. The classical ordersDoric, Ionic, and Corinthian – have meaning in the stylistic history of 5th century BC Greece, shifting to the developments in 1st century AD Gaul, with the styles revived over and over again since then.

See also


  • Sir John Summerson (rev 1980) The Classical Language of Architecture ISBN 978-0500201770. The best brief introduction.

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