How ancient Greece built their homes

Text by: Parashie Sidhwani

I had visited Greece about four years ago. Being that little geeky kid, I was mesmerized by what I had seen there. But to be honest, what captured me from reality was the Greek architecture, the houses to the apartment buildings and to the temples, all of them looked like my idealized dream. In order to learn more about the same, I decided to do some further research which is why I have written this article, to make you realize the true essence of Greek architecture and why you are missing out on so much if you haven’t seen the houses and temples yet.

The Ancient Greeks built many fascinating structures with famously known styles. Yes, of course, they had houses and temples, but what makes their style so unique is the strict regulations which included following one of the three main orders: Doric, Ionic or Corinthian which have several rules for each category themselves. Their houses included elements we have probably never heard off before, such as slave rooms, Gynaikons, Androns and craft rooms. Additionally, apart from these unfamiliar types of rooms, they also had the usual’s such as bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms and courtyards.

A diagram of three different temples designed in the three different styles.

A diagram of three different temples designed in the three different styles. Source: Internet

Greek buildings had three styles which were Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. The Doric Order (which was one of the most commonly used orders) was usually recognized by its columns and entablature. The entablature is the upper part of a classical building. The entablature included the architrave which is a horizontal line directly on the main column and the frieze which included patterns of Triglyph and Metope. The Triglyph is a panel with three horizontal lines and Metope is the space between the Trigylph. The columns were wider at the base than the top, one of the most common rules of architecture used today. The main column supports the weight of the ceiling and each column has 20 grooves which are known as flutes. The columns were directly paved on the base which is known as Stylobate. It was the first stone temple architecture that was made up to support the weight of the ceiling. And coming to the most relevant revolutions of today’s world in common world architecture, the use of stone instead of wood.

The interiors of an Ancient Greek bedroom.

The interiors of an Ancient Greek bedroom. Source: Internet

Bedrooms

The Greeks had separate bedrooms for men and women. Yes, you read it right. Although this system was complicated, what made it basic was its simple furnishing. They were simply furnished with a bed and a chest of drawers (to keep clothes in). Furthermore, as the name suggests, slave rooms were only meant for slaves. Once again, they had different slave rooms for men and women. Slave rooms had very less furnishing. The men’s slave rooms were usually located near the men’s dining room, while the women’s slave room was usually located near the women’s quarters.

Women spinning and weaving and taking care of their children in a Gynaikon.

Women spinning and weaving and taking care of their children in a Gynaikon. Source: Internet

Separate Rooms for Men, Women, and Slaves

Next up, Gynaikons (also known as Gnaeceaums) were special rooms for women. In rooms like these, they looked after children, weaved and spun, entertained their female friends and relatives. If a male walked into the room, he would have to face unbearable consequences. Yes, it was the women who ruled the Earth before and we can only imagine this with envy.

Furthermore, Androns were rooms only for men, where they entertained their male friends and business colleagues. They held symposia which were drinking parties and guess what, women could not enter this room unless they were female slaves or entertainers.

Pots found from ruins of an Ancient Greek house.

Pots found from ruins of an Ancient Greek house. Source: Internet

Store Rooms, Kitchens and Bath

Storerooms were places where the family stored food in pots known as Amphorae and Pithoi that were used to store olives, olive oil, grains, and wine. They also had a kitchen where they cooked on pots. Bathrooms were owned exclusively by wealthy people, while the general public had to use outdoor baths.

A remake of a courtyard from Ancient Greece.

A remake of a courtyard from Ancient Greece. Photo credit: Internet

Craft Rooms and Courtyards

They had craft rooms where the slaves worked to make shoes and jewelry. These houses were usually built around courtyards that had a well and altars. What makes their houses unique is their planning, their logic and their science of reasoning and thought which has been reflected in their designs.

 

The ruins of the Parthenon, located in Athens.

The ruins of the Parthenon, located in Athens. Source: Internet

Temples

Religion was their frozen thought of man out of which they decided to build temples. Temples were usually made of stone walls and wooden roofs as these materials would protect the idol of their god which was known as the Cult Statue. They usually had columns and scales. To build these prestigious temples, architects used numerical and geometrical relationships.

Temples were designed in a particular way, just like the rules they had set for their architecture. They had ornamental patterns all around, shaped in long narrow rectangles. These rectangles were usually symmetrical and the sides were roughly three times longer than the height of the temple.

The various elements that temples usually had for their design were: friezes, columns (the lower part), capitals (above column) and pediments (roofs which are usually triangular and have sculptural decors). This is why the Greek temples are known as the creation of par excellence, of mind and spirit in terms of equilibrium. A few famous examples are The Temple of Hephaestus and Parthenon. Aren’t these names quite striking? That’s because these temples play an extremely important role in tourism even today because of how reputable Greek ones are all around the world.

The ruins of  ‘The Odeon of Herodes Atticus’, one of the most famous Greek theatres.

The ruins of ‘The Odeon of Herodes Atticus’, one of the most famous Greek theatres. Source: Internet

Theatres

Now, coming to one of the most striking parts of their architecture, theatres. Theatres were built to worship the Wine God, Dionysus. Theatres were built on a sloped hill so the back row of the seats were elevated. They were usually built out of wood or stone. They were arranged in a semi-circle as they created the entrance for the actors were on the left and right side. The special effects that they had were: different backgrounds like caves, palaces, temples and they had a top platform from which people acted like gods as the power of god played an extremely important role in their religion.

In conclusion, Greek architecture is the order of balanced adjustment with details of work and a hint of history, hence creating a symmetrical result of arrangement and proportion. This is why there are but two truths in the world: the Bible and Greek architecture.

Parashie Sidhwani

Parashie Sidhwani

About our writing program student:

Parashie Sidhwani is a Grade 9 student at Oberoi International School, Mumbai. She is greatly passionate about tennis, art, piano, and writing. Although she dreamt of being an astronaut at NASA, she wishes to pursue journalism or architecture in the future. 

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References

Khan Academy. “Introduction to Greek architecture.” Khan Academy. n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2020. ​https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ancient-art-civilizations/greek-art/beg inners-guide-greece/a/introduction-to-greek-architecture 

Mark Cartwright. “Greek Architecture.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2020. ​https://www.ancient.eu/Greek_Architecture/​

N.a. “Greek Architecture: History, Characteristics.” Visual-arts-cork.com. 3 Jul. 2015. Web. 13 Jan. 2020. ​http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/architecture/greek.htm​

Saugat Adhikari. “Top 10 Magnificent Examples of Ancient Greek Architecture.” Ancient History Lists. 4 Jun. 2019. Web. 13 Jan. 2020. ​https://www.ancienthistorylists.com/greek-history/top-10-magnificent-ancient-gr eek-architecture/​

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