Art of the Ancient World, C. 5000 B.c.e.–400 C.E.

Ancient Greek Art

What is the Corinthian order?

The Corinthian order was the last of the three Classical Greek Orders of Architecture to develop. The tallest and most elaborate of the three orders, a Corinthian column is built at a ratio of approximately 13:1, which means the height of the column is thirteen times taller than the width. Originally designed for interior use, the Corinthian order features a capital decorated with flowers and leaves of the acanthus plant. While the Doric and Ionic order feature a corniced entablature, the Corinthian entablature is flat. According to the Roman architect and writer Vitruvius, (and later repeated by the Renaissance writer Vasari) the artist and poet Callimachus was inspired to design the Corinthian capital after seeing a basket of overgrown acanthus leaves placed in front of a young girl’s grave in the Greek city-state of Cornith.

The Temple of Olympian Zeus is a Hellenistic temple that was started using the Doric order, but finished years later using the Corinthian order. The temple’s massive columns are over fifty-five feet high. Classically-inspired modern buildings continue to incorporate the Corinthian design, including the General Post Office in New York and the U.S. Capitol building.


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