Greek architecture inspired the Romans to create an architectural style
heavily influenced by classic Greek elements, but unique in its own
right. Although Roman architects applied columns evolved from Greek
architecture to their temples and buildings, they were often able to use
the columns in new ways due to advancements in building technologies.
The columns of ancient Greece and Rome are known as "orders". Greek
architects developed the Doric, Ionic and Corinthian orders to carry the
massive weight of stone temple and building roofs. The design and
artistry of the Greek column becomes increasingly decorative as it
progresses through the three respective orders. The Romans, in turn,
took aesthetic appeal to new heights.
After campaigns throughout Greece, the Romans began to adopt the Greek
architectural style, and developed the Tuscan and Composite orders. The
Tuscan column is a simplified version of the Doric. The Tuscan column
features a round shaft (of increased stockiness when compared to the
Doric column), as well as a simple base, capitol and entablature. The
Tuscan order was often used in industrial and military buildings.
Perhaps the most elaborate of the Roman columns is the Composite, which
is a combination of the Greek Ionic and Corinthian columns. The Ionic
and Corinthian columns both feature fluted shafts, but their distinctly
different capitols set them apart, and were used to achieve different
aesthetic goals. The Ionic capitol, which features a flat scroll with
two curled volutes, has a cleaner, more sober appearance than the
Corinthian column, which features an upside-down bell shape, decorated
by free flowing acanthus leaves. The Corinthian order was the most
festively designed, and yet the most rarely used of the three Greek
The Composite order is overwhelmingly Corinthian in shape, with thin,
up-turned volutes emerging from the acanthus leaves. With some versions,
the volutes are almost lost among the foliage. The Romans also
incorporated figures and various types of foliage, such as olive and
laurel into the Compositeís capitol, and added elements like detailed
molding rings to column shafts.
The development of concrete had a huge impact on Roman architecture. It
replaced marble, and was often covered in elaborate tile work. The
strength of concrete allowed the Romans to break free of the restraints
of Greek architectural design, and into more flexible, and free-flowing
The Romans also developed the arch and dome, which was often supported
by columns, as opposed to the Greek columns, which were primarily
arranged in square and rectangles, and only supported flat architraves.