What Does Capital Mean in Ancient Greece?

Capital is a term that refers to the top of a column or pillar in ancient Greek architecture. The word capital comes from the Latin word “caput,” which means “head.” Capitals were used to support the weight of the roof and were also used as decoration.

There are three types of capitals in ancient Greek architecture: Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. Each type has its own unique design and style.

Doric Capital:
The Doric capital is the simplest of all three types. It is characterized by its plain, flat design with no ornamentation. The top of the column is square, and there are typically four shallow grooves or channels (called flutes) running vertically down each side.

Ionic Capital:
The Ionic capital is more ornate than the Doric capital. It has two scrolls (called volutes) on either side of the top, which resemble ram’s horns. The column itself is usually thinner and taller than a Doric column.

Corinthian Capital:
The Corinthian capital is the most elaborate of all three types. It features acanthus leaves surrounding the top, with four scrolls (volutes) on each side that resemble curled leaves. This style was popularized during the Hellenistic period in Greece.

The Importance of Capitals in Ancient Greek Architecture

Capitals played an important role in ancient Greek architecture because they provided structural support for columns and also added aesthetic value to buildings. Each type of capital was used for different purposes.

The Doric order was typically used for temples and other public buildings because it conveyed strength and stability. The Ionic order was used for smaller structures such as monuments or private buildings because it had a more delicate appearance.

The Corinthian order was favored by wealthy patrons who wanted to display their wealth through extravagant architectural designs. It was often used for decorative elements such as columns or pilasters.


In conclusion, capitals played a significant role in ancient Greek architecture. They provided structural support for columns and also added aesthetic value to buildings.

The three types of capitals, Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian, each had their own unique design and style. Understanding the importance of capitals is crucial for anyone studying or appreciating ancient Greek architecture.