Corinthian order

he Corinthian order is one of the three principal classical orders of ancient Greek and Roman architecture. The other two are the Doric and Ionic. When classical architecture was revived during the Renaissance, two more orders were added to the canon, the Tuscan order and the Composite order. The Corinthian, with its offshoot the Composite, is the most ornate of the orders, characterized by slender fluted columns and an elaborate capitals decorated with acanthus leaves and scrolls.
The name "Corinthian" is derived from the Greek city of Corinth, although the order first appeared used externally at Athens. Although of Greek origin, the Corinthian order was actually seldom used in Greek architecture. It came into its own in Roman practice, following precedents set by the Temple of Mars Ultor in the Forum of Augustus (ca. 2 AD).[1] It is employed in southern Gaul at the Maison Carrée, Nîmes (illustration, below) and at the comparable podium temple at Vienne. Other prime examples noted by Mark Wilson Jones are the lower order of the Basilica Ulpia and the arch at Ancona (both of the reign of Trajan, 98-117) the "column of Phocas" (re-erected in Late Antiquity but 2nd century in origin), and the "Temple of Bacchus" at Baalbek (ca. 150 CE).

The oldest known example of a Corinthian column is in the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae in Arcadia, ca 450420 BC. It is not part of the order of the temple itself, which has a Doric colonnade surrounding the temple and an Ionic order within the cella enclosure. A single Corinthian column stands free, centered within the cella. This is a mysterious feature, and archaeologists debate what this shows: some state that it is simply an example of a votive column. A few examples of Corinthian columns in Greece during the next century are all used inside temples. A more famous example, and the first documented use of the Corinthian order on the exterior of a structure, is the circular Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens, erected ca 334 BC.

Model capital? from the tholos at Epidaurus (Archaeological Museum of Epidaurus)
A Corinthian capital carefully buried in Antiquity in the foundations of the circular tholos at Epidaurus was recovered during modern archaeological campaigns. Its enigmatic presence and preservation have been explained by a sculptor's model for stone-masons to follow[6] in erecting the temple dedicated to Asclepius, credited in Antiquity to Polykleitos the Younger, the son of the Classical Greek sculptor Polykleitos, the Elder. The temple was erected in the 4th century BCE. These capitals, in one of the most-visited sacred sites of Greece, influenced later Hellenistic and Roman designs for the Corinthian order. The concave sides of the abacus meet at a sharp keel edge, easily damaged, which in later and post-Renaissance practice has generally been replaced by a canted corner. Behind the scrolls the spreading cylindrical form of the central shaft is plainly visible.
Much later, the Roman writer Vitruvius (c. 75 BCE — c. 15 BCE) related that the Corinthian order had been invented by Callimachus, a Greek architect and sculptor who was inspired by the sight of a votive basket that had been left on the grave of a young girl. A few of her toys were in it, and a square tile had been placed over the basket, to protect them from the weather. An acanthus plant had grown through the woven basket, mixing its spiny, deeply cut leaves with the weave of the basket.

The origin of the Corinthian Order, illustrated in Claude Perrault's Vitruvius, 1684
Claude Perrault incorporated a vignette epitomizing the Callimachus tale in his illustration of the Corinthian order for his translation of Vitruvius, published in Paris, 1684 (illustration, left). Perrault demonstrates in his engraving how the proportions of the carved capital could be adjusted according to demands of the design, without offending. The texture and outline of Perrault's leaves is dry and tight compared to their 19th-century naturalism at the U.S. Capitol (below, left). A Corinthian capital may be seen as an enriched development of the Ionic capital, though one may have to look closely at a Corinthian capital (illustration, right) to see the Ionic volutes ("helices"), at the corners, perhaps reduced in size and importance, scrolling out above the two ranks of stylized acanthus leaves and stalks ("cauliculi" or caulicoles), eight in all, and to notice that smaller volutes scroll inwards to meet each other on each side. The leaves may be quite stiff, schematic and dry, or they may be extravagantly drilled and undercut, naturalistic and spiky. In Late Antique and Byzantine practice, the leaves may be blown sideways, as if by the wind of Faith. Unlike the Doric and Ionic column capitals, a Corinthian capital has no neck beneath it, just a ring-like astragal molding or a banding that forms the base of the capital, recalling the base of the legendary basket.  
Maison Carrée, Nîmes, France, 14 BC
Most buildings (and most clients) are satisfied with just two orders. When orders are superposed one above another, as they are at the Flavian Amphitheater— the Colosseum— the natural progression is from sturdiest and plainest (Doric) at the bottom, to slenderest and richest (Corinthian) at the top. The Colosseum's topmost tier has an unusual order that came to be known as the Composite order during the 16th century. The mid-16th century Italians, especially Sebastiano Serlio and Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola, who established a canonic version of the orders, thought they detected a "Composite order", combining the volutes of the Ionic with the foliage of the Corinthian, but in Roman practice volutes were almost always present.

Simplified Corinthian capital at the Cistercian monastery at Sacramenia, province of Segovia, 12th-13th century
In Romanesque and Gothic architecture, where the Classical system had been replaced by a new esthetic composed of arched vaults springing from columns, the Corinthian capital was still retained. It might be severely plain, as in the typical Cistercian architecture (illustration left), which encouraged no distraction from liturgy and ascetic contemplation, or in other contexts it could be treated to numerous fanciful variations, even on the capitals of a series of columns or colonettes within the same system.
During the 16th century, a sequence of engravings of the orders in architectural treatises helped standardize their details within rigid limits. Sebastiano Serlio; the Regola delli cinque ordini of Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola (1507–1573); the Quattro libri di Architettura of Andrea Palladio, and Vincenzo Scamozzi's Idea della Architettura Universale, were followed in the 17th century by French treatises with further refined engraved models, such as Perrault's.

Notable examples

The Corinthian capital in Beit-Shean, Israel

Festive Corinthian capitals on the richly-appointed General Post Office, New York (McKim, Mead, and White, 1913)

Temple of Olympian Zeus (Athens)

    The Jerash Temple of Artemis is a roman temple in Jerash, Jordan. Ruins of the temple are still one of the most remarkable monuments left of the ancient city of Gerasa.
    Artemis was the patron goddess of the city and was highly esteemed by the Hellenistic population of Gerasa, while Semitic part of the population preferred Zeus. Construction of the temple was finished in CE 150, during the reign of roman emperor Antoninus Pius. The temple was built on one of the highest points and dominated the whole city. The building had a hexastyle portico with 12 columns of which 11 are still standing. Corinthian capitals decorating the columns are very well preserved. The temple walls had three entrances decorated with three Corinthian pilasters.
    The Temple of Artemis supposedly was the most beautiful and important temple of ancient Gerasa, containing fine marble paneling and a richly decorated cult statue within the cella.
    In early 12th century the temple was converted into a fortress by a garrison stationed in the area by the atabey of Damascus. Baldwin II, King of Jerusalem, captured and burned the fortress in CE 1121-1122. The inner faces of the temple walls still clearly show the effect of the great fire.
    The temple, along with other ruins in the area of Gerasa, was excavated by C.S. Fisher and his expedition in 1930s.
    The Forum Cardo
    Pantheon, Rome (illustration)
    United States Capitol (illustration)
    Great Lavra Belltower (fourth tier - 8 columns)

    The Reichstag, Berlin

    Corinthian Order

    The Greeks invented, besides those already mentioned, another Order-the Corinthian. In the early examples of this Order which remain, we see evidences of the same processes of experimentation as tended to the development of the Doric Order, although it remained for the later Romans to give this type its most definite character. These Orders may be considered as successive steps in enriching and refining the effect of the column and entablature, along with their accompanying mouldings.
    The Corinthian Order is distinguished from the other Orders by its principal characteristic, the capital, which is formed of two rows of acanthus leaves placed against a round vase or bracket, and which, with the abacus supported on the angles by volutes, is radically different from anything we have before seen.
    Origin of the Corinthian Order. As the importation from other countries of the ideas on which the two first Greek Orders, especially the Doric, were founded, has been fairly proved, it seems less unreasonable to believe that the idea of the Corinthian capital was also taken from Egypt, although the Greeks attribute its invention to an artist of their own country, Callimachus, an architect, painter, and sculptor, who exercised his art about the year 437 B. C.
    Vitruvius tells a legend or story of the invention of the Corinthian capital. A young girl of Corinth having died, her nurse placed in the tomb a bracket on which were set objects most dear to her mistress, and for protection from the rain she also placed a large tile over the bracket. A wild acanthus, whose roots were underneath the offering, spread its leaves around the outline until the tile curved their tops over and outward. Callimachus, finding the forms produced by this happening most decorative, applied them to his creation of a new Order of architecture.
    This capital was more probably developed from the lotus bell-shaped Egyptian form, the principal difference between the two being in their height and proportions. In both we have a simple bell-shaped form ornamented by local varieties of leafage, the one taken from the lotus plant, and the other from the more spiny acanthus.
    In the Temple of the Winds, the capital shows a combination of what is known as the "water leaf" with Greek acanthus leaves covering the lower portion of the capital and superposed upon their face. This water leaf suggests to a considerable extent the form of lotus used by the Egyptians in the capitals of some of their columns. The derivation of the spinals or volutes, used as they are on the angles of this capital, is not SO obvious.
    It has also been suggested that this form of capital came from the custom of ornamenting, on gala occasions, the capitals of the Ionic column with flowers and foliage, which we know were often festooned and draped between and around these columns. It is more probable, however, that this capital may have been suggested by the decorated Greek Ionic form; the decoration with leafage of the bell-shaped portion being merely an exaggeration of the decorated necking employed in some examples of the use of the Ionic Order. The leaves in the capital are frequently drawn in the conventional outline manner shown in Plate XLVII, merely for ease in rendering; but they should actually be treated after the spiny fashion of the acanthus leaf, shown in Fig. 69.
    Fig. 69.
    Fundamental Rule to be Observed in Making the Corinthian Capital. It is most important, in order to obtain the best effect with the Corinthian capital, that the leafage and growth of the leaves, and the form of the bell, should follow sharply and continue the outline of the column shaft up to the point where they are allowed to curve off under the volutes and abacus of the capital. This curve in itself should be carefully arranged so that its outline will suggest the firm support that is essential in order to obtain the best effect. If the leaves project beyond the line of the shaft at the bottom of the capital, the outline is bulging, unnatural, and most unpleasant to the eye.
    Corinthian Order 080081Examples of Corinthian Capitals. The Corinthian order offers in Greece but a very small number of different types. We find that Ictinus used this order in the Temple of Apollo at Bassae or Phigalia about 431 B. C, for one isolated column placed between two shafts of the Ionic order; and therefore this instance, except for the interest given by the details of the capital, is of little value. The abacus of this capital, with its wide, plain face ornamented with a geometrical design picked out in color, is very crude in treatment; and the fluting ends at the neck-as will be seen by referring to Fig. 70-in a manner similar to that on the column of the Monument of Lysicrates. The capital from the Temple of Apollo Didymaeus at Miletus, an Ionic temple, is shown in Fig. 71, and is a much more refined example of a very similar Corinthian treatment, but showing that a more definite form is here assumed. In this example, the rather peculiar treatment of the abacus on the four corner angles should be noted. We also find that the Corinthian Order was employed upon the half-columns attached to the interior wall of the Phil-ippeion at Olympia, of the date of 338 B. C.
    Fig. 70. Capital from Temple of Apollo at Phigalia.Fig. 70. Capital from Temple of Apollo at Phigalia.
    Besides these Greek uses of the Corinthian capital, two of which are shown in both plan and elevation in Figs. 70 and 71, there are but three others, and these all well known and more perfect, if widely different, examples-the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates at Athens, B. C. 335; the column from the porch of the Tower of the Winds, B.C. 100-35; and, the most perfect of all, that of the Tholos at Epidauros, belonging to the 4th century B. C, and attributed to Polycleitus the younger. This capital, while the most perfect, is also the earliest known example of the Corinthian column employed under an entablature. The Order used in the magnificent Temple of Zeus at Athens, while Greek in design, was finished under the influence of the Roman occupancy of Greece, being completed by Hadrian in 117 A. D., and is in many ways more closely allied with the later form of the Corinthian capital as developed by the Romans than it is with any of the pure Greek examples, with the possible exception of the one at Epidauros. The Corinthian Order was left in a very undeveloped state by the Greeks, and the three instances just named are the only ones that may be considered as presenting it in anywhere near a complete and definite form. The columns of these three examples are shown at their full height in Plate XLVIII, where they are arranged so as to be easily compared for the differences in the proportions of the shafts and their entasis, as well as for the purpose of contrasting the different Greek types of the capital itself. In all three, the shaft of the column is fluted; and in only one-that of the Temple of the Winds-is it left without a base, the other two showing a variation of the "Attic" base. These Orders must be separately described, inasmuch as there are certain peculiarities in each that may be attributed in part to the individual requirements of the separate problems involved.

    Fig. 71. Capital from Temple of Apollo Didymaeus, Miletus.
    Fig. 71. Capital from Temple of Apollo Didymaeus, Miletus.
    Remains of Corinthian Temple of Zeus, Athens. With distant view of the Acropolis.
    Remains of Corinthian Temple of Zeus, Athens. With distant view of the Acropolis.
    Fig. 73. Tower of the Winds, Athens.
    Fig. 73. Tower of the Winds, Athens.
    Tower of the Winds. The curious specimen of the Corinthian Order offered by the variation used on the Tower of the Winds at Athens (Fig. 72), is well worthy of study. The column, while of the three examples just mentioned the latest in date, is still the crudest in form, the other two being much more refined and graceful in type. In entasis, and in treatment of shaft and base, it follows very closely the Greek Doric method, beginning to taper from the start, as is elsewhere more fully shown in describing the entasis of that Order, and with the flutes running directly down into the platform on which it is set; but the shaft is itself more slender, being eight and one-quarter diameters in height, including the capital. Besides the column shown in Plate XLVIII, a perspective of the capital is shown in Fig. 73, while the interesting acanthus leaf embellishing it is drawn out at a larger scale in Fig. 69. Fig. 74 displays the entire tower, along with the unusual porch usage of the columns, the first Classic instance of their employment after this modern fashion. Choragic Monument of Lysicrates. The details given in Plate XLIX are taken from the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates at Athens, an example of the purest Greek art, and the most interesting which we can find of a Corinthian order employed on an exterior.
    Fig. 73. Corinthian Capital from Tower of the Winds.
    Fig. 73. Corinthian Capital from Tower of the Winds.
    Burnham & Root, Architects; Chas. B. Atwood, Designer.
    W. Carbys Zimmerman, Architect, Chicago, 111. Built of Bedford Stone. Cost, $300,000. Classic, Influenced by Modern French School. To be Completed in Winter of 1907.
    Fig. 74. Restoration of Tower of the Winds, Athens.
    Fig. 74. Restoration of Tower of the "Winds, Athens.
    Fig.75. Choragic Monument of Lyslcrates, Athens, Restored,
    Fig.75. Choragic Monument of Lyslcrates, Athens, Restored,.
    The circular monument which we call the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates is better displayed in its entirety in Figs. 75 and 76. There are three steps, each of very slight projection, at the base of this monument, in addition to those shown. This may hardly be considered as a wholly satisfactory instance of the Greek use of the Corinthian Order, although it is the most perfect extant example. However, the columns-attached as they are to a blank wall, more after the fashion which the Romans afterward adopted in their Orders-the circular plan, and the small scale-the tower itself being only about seven feet in diameter-render it very imperfect for our purpose, considering it from any standpoint. The details of this monument are better shown in Plate XLIX, where the detail of the capital may be studied with more particularity. The entablature follows closely the type shown in Fig. 50, and includes a course of dentils, but lacks the crowning cymatium of the Order Plate, its place being taken by a course of acroteria, forming a "chencau" or cresting around the top of the crowning member. The three fascias or faces of the architrave, as shown on the corner, are treated in a rather suggestive and unusual fashion. The beautiful and richly foliated crowning ornament of the monument is shown on this plate at a larger size, while the graceful acanthus ornament flowing down the roof and leading up to this central feature is shown in direct elevation as well as in plan and section. The "running dog" or wave ornament placed on the roof above and inside of the course of acroteria, is also shown in detail.
    Fig. 76. Choragic Monument of Lysicrates.
    Fig. 76. Choragic Monument of Lysicrates.
    This monument was probably crowned with the emblematic tripod of the Choragus, executed in metal (the tripod is repeated in the wall frieze), and with one or two human figures, while the entablature frieze was ornamented in the fashion shown in the restoration (Fig. 77). The column in the Monument of Lysicrates has twenty-four flutes; its height is about eleven and one-half feet, and it is a little more than ten times its diameter, the capital being one and two-tenths diameters in height. The entablature is a little less than one-fifth the total height of this Order, while the base in this particular example is evidently so much influenced by its connection with the blank wall behind, that it can hardly be considered as typical, although it varies but little from that shown in the Corinthian Order Plate. The column is set upon a continuous base or step with a moulded, retreating face which is evidently intended to offset the projection of the belt course beneath. The shaft of this column is tapered more nearly after the Roman fashion, inasmuch as, before the entasis begins, it is straight for some distance above the base moulding.

    The Tholos at Epidauros. In Plate L both the exterior and interior treatment of the Tholos at Fpidauros are shown in detail. We again find that this instance of the use of the Corinthian Orders must be taken as a most beautiful and individual example. The treatment of the entire entablature is evidently strongly influenced by its location on the interior of the building. While the architrave has not been varied much from the usual type, the frieze is shown as a delicate ogee moulding, and the crowning member or cornice partakes more of the nature of the dado or pedestal cap which we afterwards find used by the Romans, than the usual entablature-cornice. This column, as well as that of Lysicrates, has twenty-four flutes separated from each other by the now customary fillet, and is eight and one-half diameters in height; the capital being exactly one diameter high, above the top of the astragal moulding.
    Fig. 77. Cnoragic Monument of Lysicrates, Athens, Upper Part Restored. Fig. 77. Cnoragic Monument of Lysicrates, Athens, Upper Part Restored.
    Not the least interesting part of this building is the form of the Greek Doric Order which we find here used. Belonging to this late period, it may perhaps be considered as a refinement upon this Order, even as used in the Parthenon. It is certainly quite as refined an instance, while the ornamented and less severe character which it is here given is commendable, considering the use of the columns on a building of circular plan (Fig. 78). The crowning cheneau (Plate L), with the lion's head for the waterspout, is unusually beautiful; while the Greek fret, used both here and on the interior entablature of the building, is the form to which the Greeks themselves are most partial and which they evidently considered as the most interesting development of this purely geometrical ornament to which they had attained. The carving of the separate members, from the interior entablature, shown in detail on this same plate, is exceptionally beautiful and pure in its type; while the running dog, taken from the panel in the soffit of the ambulatory between the Corinthian columns and the wall of the building, is especially interesting in its sectional treatment.
    Fig. 78. Plan of the Tholos at Epidauros. Fig. 78. Plan of the Tholos at Epidauros.
    The column here employed is higher than in the earlier examples, being ten diameters in height; but it will be observed that most of this additional height is taken up by the capital itself, while the height of the shaft remains practically the same.
    Greek Corinthian Capital. From the Tholos, Epidauros GREEK ORINHIAN ORDER Greek Corinthian Capital. From the Tholos, Epidauros GREEK-ORINHIAN-ORDER.
    Corinthian Order Part 3 080095 Fig. 79. PLATE XLVII.
    (A reproduction at small size of Portfolio Plate XLVII).
    General Type of Corinthian Order. The shaft of the Corinthian column is grooved with twenty-four channels, the same in number and in shape as those which ornament the Ionic column. The base is also the same; and it is the elevation of the capital, with its drawn-out narrow form, that adds apparent height to the shaft and makes the Corinthian column appear more elegant.
    The height of the Corinthian entablature is two diameters and one-half, the diameter being, as always, taken at the bottom of the shaft. These proportions, although generally admitted, are not invariable; but they may be considered as a mean, founded on the examples of which we know, although they are admittedly very few in number.
    The entablature differs but slightly from the one we have already seen on the Ionic Order in the Temple of Minerva Polias at Priene, shown in Plate XLVI; and a comparison of this example with Plate XLVII will show what slight change has been made from this cornice in its general proportions.
    The architrave is divided into three bands or fascias, and the frieze is plain, or is ornamented with detached figures sculptured after a naturalistic fashion.
    The proportions of the cornice to the entire entablature are somewhat changed from the typical Ionic form, as it is heavier and more in the relation to the whole that it afterwards bore in Roman work. The dentil, which first appeared in the Ionic cornice, has by now attained a more definite denticular expression, and we find this member used in the Corinthian cornice on both the Temple of the Winds and the Monument of Lysicrates. The Greeks evidently first used the regular Ionic entablature with this new capital; but the necessity for a heavier and more elaborate cornice to go with it was at once generally apparent, so the denticular cornice, which had been tried a few times with the regular Ionic column, was evidently adopted as more appropriate for use with this richer Order. And hereafter we find that the denticular cornice is rarely used with the Greek Ionic order within Greece itself.
    In the Order (Fig. 79) from Asher Benjamin, is a detail of the Corinthian capital with the principal dimensions for the different parts of the Order of which it composes a part. To epitomize the study of this Order, Plate XLVIII shows in a sort of parallel the assembled three most curious types of Corinthian capitals of which we know. These are from the Monument of Lysicrates, the Porch from the Tower of the Winds, and the Capital of the Tholos at Epidauros.
    It is in the Ionian villages of Asia Minor that the Order was most used for the decoration of the porticos and cellas of temples; and the capital from the Temple of Zeus at Athens is the type most frequently used in Asia Minor and in Italy. After the Roman conquest it was frequently employed; and, transplanted to Rome, the version of the Corinthian Order there developed met with the greatest favor.
    Caryatids. The Greeks, in place of columns, occasionally used the figures denominated caryatids for the support of their entablatures, the most famous example of which is the porch of the Triple Temple of the Erechtheum at Athens. It is possible that the use of human figures for this purpose may have been suggested by some of the earlier Egyptian piers or columns carved with the figures of kings and gods.
    The use of a human figure in the place of a column to support an entablature, may be considered as possibly a. fourth Greek "Order." There are two varieties of this Order, the Persic and the Caryatid.
    The Persic corresponds to the Doric column, the statue of a man taking the place of the shaft, and the entablature here still partakes of the Doric character; while in the Caryatid Order the column is replaced by a woman, and the entablature partakes more of an Ionic-character.
    The Persic Order was employed in the cella of the gigantic Temple of Zeus at Agrigentum; and it seems to have been often used as the second Order which we find placed over the column in the center aisle of many Greek temples to support the entablature, on which in turn rested the covering of the naos or nave.
    We find on the Acropolis at Athens, on the face of the Erechtheum towards the Parthenon, a superb example of the Caryatid order Fig. 80). This is the only instance of the use of figures to replace columns in this position, where they take the place of a principal Order and are actually placed in direct comparison, by their close juxtaposition, to large Ionic shafts. The caryatids are kept in scale with the building and surroundings, and still attain the requisite height by the simple expedient of placing them upon a short section of wall, or pedestal, treated with an ornate Ionic antae cap and base-mould (Fig. 81). This is practically the first instance of the stylobate being given such a distinctive and different treatment; and. it was not till almost 100 years later that the columns of the Monument of Lysicrates were placed on their raised basement or pedestal, a custom which the Romans later adopted in many of their buildings.
    Corinthian Order Part 3 080096 Corinthian Order Part 3 080097 Corinthian Order Part 3 080098 PLATE XLVIII. (A reproduction at small size of Portfolio Plate XLVIII).
    Fig. 80. Porch of the Caryatides, the Erechtheum. Athens. Fig. 80. Porch of the Caryatides, the Erechtheum. Athens.
    In place of capitals, these statues carry on their heads a sort of cushion of round mouldings (Fig. 82), which in turn carries the entablature. But though the entablature approaches that of the Ionic Order in the richness and elegance of its decoration, and presents a most beautiful similarity to the Ionic, we notice that the frieze of the entablature is completely suppressed. In effect the cornice rests directly on the mouldings crowning the architrave.
    Corinthian Order Part 3 0800100 OPERA HOUSE, PARIS, FRANCE OPERA HOUSE, PARIS, FRANCE.
    Jean Louis Charles Gamier, Architect, Built in 1863-1875.
    Louvet, Deglane & Thomas, Architects. Built in 1900. This Monumental Building Serves for Big Expositions of All Kinds.
    The caryatid sometimes supported a complete Ionic or Corinthian capital upon its head, in the place of the mouldings found on the caryatid in the Erechthenm tribune, though there is no extant example belonging to a good epoch, of such treatment.