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Architectural orders in ancient Rome

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Pantheon in Rome
Colosseum | Author: Konrad Załęski

The Romans took over from the Greeks all three architectural orders, i.e. Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. However, over time, the inhabitants of Rome managed to create two of their own: the Tuscan and composite order.

During the empire, the so-called stacked order, that is, the stacking of architectural orders. It consisted in introducing orders representing the Doric, Ionian and Corinthian orders in one building, on several storeys. An example of such a pile-up is the Colosseum which has the Tuscan order instead of the Doric order.

Architectural cleanups

Tuscan order

Tuscan order

Adopted from the Etruscans, it developed from the Doric order. The height of the columns is up to 14 modules, which is an order slimmer than the first proportions of the most massive Greek order. The shaft usually has a smooth surface without channelling.

The buildings built in the Tuscan style looked squatter than the Greek ones. This was mainly due to the quality of the materials available. Buildings (mainly temples) were erected on a rectangular plan, on a platform, to which led stairs located on the shorter side. The building was
surrounded by a colonnade on three sides. A gable roof with eaves formed a portico on three sides of the building. The columns were ended with heads composed of echinus and abacus.


  • the columns had smooth stems (in Doric order they were grooved)
  • bases were introduced under the columns (in Doric order, the columns stood directly on the stylobate)

Composite order

Composite order

The shaft rests on the base. It is smooth or fluted, with the fluting often covering only 2/3 of the height of the shaft. The head is highly decorative. It consists of elements found in the capitals of the Ionian and Corinthian orders. The upper part of the head is made of diagonally arranged volutes, while the lower part has clearly contoured acanthus leaves.

The most decorative order, as a rule, receives a base under the columns, called a pedestal or pedestal.


  • placing the column on a pedestal
  • the shape of the head: its upper part is made of volutes taken from the Ionian order diagonally, below a basket of acanthus leaves

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