Inter-regional Doric Influences and Developments in the Late Classical and Hellenistic Eras in Greece and Asia Minor

Lena Lambrinou

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My research at DAI/CHS concerns the investigation of architectural influences and morphological developments of the Doric order during the late Classical and Hellenistic periods (400-150 BC) in the major and developing centers of the Greek world. In particular, my research has focused on the evolution of the Doric capital and triglyphs in Western Asia Minor during the Hekatomnid period (375-275 BC), the development of the Pergamenes’ distinct Doric style and their influence on contemporary Macedonian, as well as Athenian, architecture.

The late Classical and Hellenistic eras were marked by the formation of new political forces and the development of major Hellenistic centers mainly in Western Asia Minor. This rapid development resulted in the diffusion of the Doric architectural tradition from the archetypal ”style centers” of mainland Greece, and the creation of local morphological variations. In the newly developing political and religious centers, new combinations of existing architectural styles appear for the first time. These architectural fusions likely reflected specific local political messages, concerning inter-regional cultural identity and tradition, and demonstrated a sense of national unity, as well as a spirit of self-direction and independence. In their new approach to the stylistic details of the Doric order’s architectural morphology, Western Anatolian designers were inspired by accessible Archaic-era buildings of particular local importance and well-known Classical archetypes from abroad.


An important stylistic development in the ancient Greek Doric order has become clearer during my research at DAI/CHS, which appears to have significant ramifications for understanding inter-regional architectural and larger socio-political influences. The basic principles of Doric design embraced by the late Classical and Hellenistic designers of Western Asia Minor were derived from traditional production centers, such as Attica or the Peloponnese. From these principles a new, distinct Anatolian Doric idiom emerged, which subsequently returned to mainland Greece and had a drastic impact on the architectural physiognomy of Macedonian and Attic constructions. This new Doric “dialect” did not become popular in more traditionally-minded Peloponnese architecture, however, which had long remained immovable in its archetypal Doric simplicity. Today, through examination of the architectural evolution of the Doric style, we can detect the flow of influence back and forth between the traditional cultural centers of mainland Greek and Western Anatolian regions. It is likely to the strength of this political-cultural flow that we may attribute the stylistic evolution of the Doric order through the Hellenistic period.

In the Archaic and Classical eras, the evolution of the Doric order occurred both chronologically and spatially – with specific regard to the emergence of local workshops and the appearance of distinctive treatments of particular morphological Doric elements. In these early times, local tradition was the most powerful influence governing the final product of an architectural project. As we move forward to the 4th c. BC, however, it appears that larger regional or Pan-Hellenic currents came to exert the greatest impact over architectural expression. In the specific case of temples, the general evolutionary tendencies of the pre-Hellenistic Doric style focused on the plan, the elevation and the proportional relations of the buildings’ constituent parts. Ever since Archaic times, temples had exhibited continuous proportional changes, with their forms becoming gradually more attenuated. Present-day scholars attribute this lengthy proportional development to the ongoing influence of the Ionic style.

The morphology of particular decorative elements in Archaic/Classical Doric temples also became a subject of modification, with new motifs and forms being introduced. The emergence and increase of fresh combinations in sculptural adornment are similarly attributed to the strong influence of the Ionic order, particularly that of the Cyclades.[1] From the beginning of the 5th c. BC, the Doric style of Attica took on a new eclecticism, as evidenced by the pre-Persian buildings of the Athenian Acropolis. In Pericles’ mid-century building program, and in the various temples of the contemporary “Architect of the Theseion,” there appears a pioneering mix of stylistic rhythms that resulted in a unique architectural precedent. The “Ionicisms” of Attic Doric buildings during this period are usually interpreted as reflecting a conscious attempt to create a meaningful architectural expression of the Athenians’ dual identity, as both mainland and Ionian Greeks.

In Late Classical and Hellenistic times, a renewed interest in Doric architecture within the previously Ionic-dominated centers of Western Asia Minor drove this originally mainland style to become the region’s foremost architectural order. Intriguingly, the Anatolians’ interest, a phenomenon of the Hekatomnid period (375-275 BC), was paralleled somewhat by the ascendancy of the Macedonians. Together, the Hekatomnids and the Macedonians – each in their own way – sparked the significant resurgence in Doric expression during the second half of the 4th c. BC. This movement led to the rise of a new Doric style in Western Asia Minor that represents a distinct trend in Anatolian and in Doric architecture.

The fresh Doric style that developed in the 4th and especially 3rd centuries BC exhibits key differences – discernable especially in the fine details of the order’s triglyphs and capitals – from that of the High Classical era epitomized by the Doric style of Attica. Western Asia Minor’s Hellenistic architects, especially in Pergamum, developed their own distinct Doric “dialect” as a new form of visual expression that went on to influence designers outside their region. In the Anatolian revival of the Doric style, Pergamum’s architects played a key role. The Pergamenes sought to craft their architecture to reflect their socio-political agenda, which espoused regional unification and an identification with Hellenic culture and styles. Thus they developed a variant “Pergamene Doric style,” inspired by Archaic East-Greek Doric prototypes.[2]  This new Pergamene Doric idiom showed unconventional choices in its use of morphological elements. It was based primarily on traditional mainland Greek models, but also displayed a spirit of independence, with the Pergamenes deriving its stylistic details from a famous building in Asia Minor – the Archaic-era temple of Athena Polias at Assos, the region’s only Doric-style temple[3] – as well as from the Carian tradition and the Ionian Renaissance.[4] The clear differences observable between traditional forms of Doric capitals and those of the Pergamenes’ new, provincial Doric style very likely point to a lack of local Anatolian knowledge concerning the Doric order’s Classical mainland conventions.

In the second half of the 4th c. BC, the Doric order had also become the preferred style of the Argead Macedonians, who brought the Doric style to their Aigai and Pella palaces and to their main sanctuary in Samothrace as a trademark of their dynasty’s Argive, Herculean origins.[5] In general, Macedonian Doric architecture seems to fall into two periods – one corresponding to the latter part of the Argead dynasty (ca. 350-306 BC); and a second spanning the Antigonid dynasty (306-168 BC). These two general periods are distinguished according to the particular origin of dominant influence (whether intentional or fortuitous) evident during each period.

In the Argead period, architectural influences clearly came from Peloponnesian and Athenian centers. A different architectural influence appeared during the Antigonid period, however, and prevailed throughout the 3rd c. BC. The predominant source of Doric architectural inspiration now appears to have been the distinctive regional style of Western Asia Minor. The influence of Hellenistic Pergamene architects came to be widely felt in Macedonia, as well in Athens itself; the Pergamenes filled a gap in architectural production left by the mainland Greek centers then experiencing a great architectural decline.

The Pergamene Doric “dialect” and its innovations includes:

1) Attenuated, unfluted columns– slenderer even than those of the Temple of Zeus at Nemea – probably influenced by Archaic Aegean architecture. Another innovative design element was later introduced (ca. 250-200 BC): the polygonal  form of the columns’ lower section. This innovation perhaps first appeared on Delos in the South Stoa (270-230 BC), likely completed by Attalos I.[6] Subsequently, it also appeared in the Stoa of Attalos I at Delphi.[7]

2) Column capitals exhibiting a more curved than straight profile, with lunettes on the neck at the ends of the flutes. This last feature was highly original, apparently inspired by the Archaic Athena temple at Assos, which went on to become a trademark of the Pergamene Doric style.

3) The widening of intercolumniations and the use of three metopes per intercolumniation, an element drawn from Mnesicles’ Propylaea and Athenian stoas of the 5th c. BC.

4) Another archaizing Doric element, seen in the frieze of Pergamum’s Athena temple, wherein the upper ends of triglyph grooves are semi-circular – a direct reference to Archaic prototypes.

5) Lastly, triglyphs of Pergamene Doric style, also seen in Pergamum’s Athena temple, possess distinctive lateral projections or “ears,” a characteristic of the Carian Doric tradition of the Hekatomnid period.

A particular focus of my DAI/CHS research was the resemblance and potential connection between these lateral triglyph “ears” from Pergamum and other slightly different triglyph projections with a hook-like or “bird’s-beak” shape from the late Archaic[8] and Classical Acropolis of Athens.[9] Examples of the earlier projections are found on the triglyphs of the Parthenon and especially the Propylaea, as well as the temples of the so-called “Theseion Architect.” Further examples of hook-like projections are evident in the Doric temple of Athena at Syracuse (480 BC) and possibly in the temple of Aphaia on Aegina (470 BC). All in all, the hook-like projection appears to begin as a local design feature of Athenian Doric triglyphs in late 6th c. BC, before spreading to Sicily and other areas closer to Athens in the 5th c. BC.

The triglyph “ears” of Western Asia Minor, representing a distinctly new type of lateral triglyph projection, first appeared at Labraunda of Caria, in the Sanctuary of Zeus,[10] and went on to become a characteristic feature of Doric triglyphs throughout the Hellenistic world – sometimes with slight changes in its rendering, but always highly emphasized and attached to the triglyph body. It seems that Anatolian architects, in the second quarter of the 4th c. BC, adopted the earlier hook-like projections of Athenian Doric triglyphs and redesigned them as “ears.”

The newly-forming Doric style of Western Anatolia in the 4th c. BC proved to have a dynamic impact on the architecture of the region’s new overlords – the Macedonians – beginning with the Doric buildings (including the central Hieron) of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods in Samothrace. Similar influence can be seen in Lysimachus’ mausoleum at Belevi, as well as in at least two examples of Macedonian constructions outside of Western Asia Minor.

First, a recently discovered Macedonian tomb at Spilia of Eordea, in northwestern Greece, features a Doric façade with four half-columns and an Anatolian-style entablature – crowned, however, with an Ionic cornice. The half-columns exhibit a polygonal lower section rendered in plaster– an element that places the second phase of the tomb after ca. 250 BC and the original construction date somewhat earlier.[11]

Second, the Doric stoa of Philip V in Delos (225-200 BC) exhibits all the characteristics of the Pergamenes’ distinctive Doric variant. The columns are semi-fluted and the intercolumniations bridged by three triglyphs. The capitals have a particularly low echinus (with a straight profile) that transitions into the abacus.  Furthermore, the flutes culminate on the capitals in typical Pergamene lunettes.[12] Similar capitals are found on Samothrace in Philip V’s columnar dedication[13] and in the Hieron.[14]

In Athens, only one building in the 3rd c. BC seems to exhibit the new Pergamene Doric style: a large, stoa-adorned building, which was later dismantled and its material reused in the Parthenon during the 4th c. AD Roman repair of the fire-damaged interior colonnade.[15] The identity of this Hellenistic building and of its sponsor or architect is currently unknown.

The Doric frieze of this Athenian stoic building displays triglyphs with semi-circular groove-ends and lateral “ears” attached to the triglyph body. Lunettes on the neck of some capitals are reminiscent of those at Pergamum. The columns, almost 5 m tall, have a polygonal lower section. This height and the columns’ lower diameter are almost identical to those of the South Stoa in Delos, while other proportional relationships follow those of the Amphiareion stoa and correlate with Vitruvian proportions for stoas (De Architectura 4.3.6).

In the 2nd century BC, Pergamene architecture in Athens is prominently represented in the two well-known stoas of the royal siblings Eumenus II and Attalus II. These stoic Pergamene buildings were thus used to transmit the Doric “dialect” of Western Asia Minor into the very heart of the Greek world.

In conclusion, my research conducted in 2017-18 under DAI/CHS auspices has greatly augmented my initial doctoral study (2015), although it has also revealed that much additional work remains before the overall study can be considered complete and sent to press. The historical framework of late Classical and Hellenistic Greece is often employed as a guide for understanding architectural trends of the time, but historical and archaeological evidence often proves insufficient to determine specific influences on architecture and explain the designers’ morphological or stylistic choices. My research involves a somewhat opposite approach by looking at historical questions from an architectural perspective and exploring the origins of these architectural trends through comparative architectural evidence viewed against the historical framework. Much can be learned from studying the minute morphological elements composing architectural styles, as they almost always reflect the political aspirations and/or a certain ideology (indicated through design choices) of the architectural designers and their sponsors. Equally illuminating can be the tracking of distinctive architectural variants and regional “dialects” as they gain their own autonomous course and become popular inter-regional trends. Something as tiny as “ears” on a triglyph can be the trademark of specific architects or local building groups and, as my research attempts to show, may be useful indicators of their movements through the Aegean and Mediterranean world, while also aiding us to unravel the network of collaborations and interconnections among ancient Greek and neighboring societies of Western Asia Minor on both a technical and socio-political level.

Selected Bibliography

Coulton, J.J. 1968. “The Stoa at the Amphiareion, Oropos.” The Annual of the British School at Athens, vol. 63, 147-183.

Gruben, Gottfried. 2001. Griechische Tempel und Heiligtümer. Hirmer, München Hirmer, München.

Hellström, Pontus. 2011. “Feasting at Labraunda and the chronology of the Andrones.” In Labraunda and Karia, ed. L. Karlsson, and S. Carlsson, 149-157. Uppsala.

Hoepfner, Wolfram. 1997. “The Architecture of Pergamon.” In Pergamon, The Telephos Frieze from the Great Altar, ed. Renée Dreyfus, and Ellen Schraudolph, 22-57.

Lambrinou, Lena. 2015. The Late Roman Repair of the Parthenon and Its Evidence for Hellenistic Stoic Buildings in Athens. Unpublished PhD diss, University of Athens.

Lehmann, Karl. 1969. The Hieron, Samothrace 3, Princeton.

Miller, Stella, G. 1972. “Hellenistic Macedonian Architecture: its Style and Painted Ornamentation.” PhD Diss, Bryn Mawr.

Pedersen, Poul. 2003. “Reflections on the Ionian Renaissance in Greek Architecture and its Historical Background.” In Hephaistos, New Approaches in Classical Archaeology and Related Fields, 97-130.

Pedersen, Poul. 2004. “Pergamon and the Ionian Renaissance.” In Istanbuler Mitteilungen, Band 54:409-434.

Wescoat, Bonna, D. 2003. “Athens and the Macedonian royalty on Samothrace: the Pentelic Connection.” In The Macedonians in Athens, 322-229 B.C.: Proceedings of an International Conference held at the University of Athens, May 24-26, 2001, ed. Olga Palagia, Stephen V. Tracy, 102-116. Oxbow Books, Oxford.

Wiegand, Theodor. 1904. Die archaische Poros-Architektur der Akropolis zu Athen. German Academy of Sciences in Berlin.

Vallois, René. 1923. Exploration archéologique de Délos VII1, Le Portique de Philippe V, Paris.

Καραμήτρου-Μεντεσίδη Γεωργία, Χατζηδάκης Νίκος 2016. «Ο μακεδονικός Τάφος Σπηλιάς Εορδαίας, Νέα Στοιχεία», στο Μιμίκα Γιαννοπούλου, Χρυσάνθη Καλλίνη (επιμ.) Ηχάδιν Ι, τιμητικός τόμος για τη Στέλλα Δρούγου, ΤΑΠΑ, Αθήνα. 516-546.

[1] Gruben 2001.

[2] Cf. Pedersen (2003, 112), who refers to the Hekatomnid Ionic Renaissance as “the revival of the archaic East-Greek architecture.”

[3] Pedersen 2004, 421.

[4] Pedersen 2003, 121; 2004, 409.

[5] Wescoat 2003, 105.

[6] Coulton 1976, 112.

[7] Smooth-surfaced columns are recorded in the famous Harbour Stoa at Miletos of the last quarter of the 4th c. BC (Pedersen 2004, 424), but in this case the columns remained uncompleted and thus unintentionally unfluted.

[8] Buildings B, C: Wiegand 1904, 153-166; Lehmann, Spittle 1964, 82; Coulton 1968, 173.

[9] Coulton 1968, 173.

[10] See Labraunda’s Doric Andron B of the 370’s BC (Hellström 2011; 377-353 BC) and the later Andron A (351-344 BC).

[11] Καραμήτρου-Μεντεσίδη, Χατζηδάκης 2016, 544-546.

[12] Vallois 1923, 35.

[13] Miller 1972, 209; Wescoat 2010, 9.

[14] Lehmann 1969.

[15] Lambrinou 2015.

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