Typical Greek Temple Plan

The plan of a typical Greek temple is the same for all orders (Doric, Ionic, etc.) The innermost room (cella, or naos) contains the cult statue of the god. A single or double peristyle colonnade surrounds the cella. The temple is roofed in terracotta, with wooden beams and rafters – fire is a constant hazard. Public worship is carried on outside the temple, which is designed and situated for maximum impact in the context of the surrounding landscape.

In the plan to the left, A = Antae (pilasters). The opisthodomos is a false porch behind the cella, often added for reasons of symmetry. Its place might alternatively be occupied by an enclosed adytum (treasure room) The pteroma is the side passage between colonnade (pteron) and cella. An X marks the location of the cult statue.

A typical formula for the column count in a classical Greek temple is n = 2d +1, where d is the number of columns wide and n is the number of columns on the long side. For example, a temple 6 columns wide might be ideally 13 columns long, as in the present illustration. The Parthenon in Athens, which is 8 columns wide by 17 columns long, also follows this rule. In practice, though, the column counts of other Greek temples can be different. For example, the "Poseidon" temple at Paestum is 6 columns wide but 14, rather than 13, columns long.


All photos and text copyright © 1998 Michael D. Gunther.
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