Bilingual Ionic Column Capitals: Perceptions of the Past in Greek Architecture, 6th–3rd Century BCE

Samuel Holzman, University of Pennsylvania


Eight Ionic temples and votive monuments in Greece, Italy, and Turkey exhibit a striking feature: Ionic column capitals that, on one side, recreate the convex style of the early temples of Ionia (6th century BCE) and, on the other side, evince the contemporary concave style of the period (late 6th–3rd century BCE) and place where the columns were made. Like the painters of bilingual Attic vases, the carvers of these architectural elements created a striking effect by switching techniques to produce visual inversions on opposite sides. Previously discussed piecemeal as transitional or unfinished architectural members, bilingual Ionic capitals are examined in this study within their architectural and historical contexts to identify overarching connections. Carving techniques, polychromy, chiaroscuro shading under different lighting conditions, and human viewpoints affected the perception of these structures. The archaistic element of bilingual Ionic buildings was not meant to fool the viewer, but instead drew a direct comparison between contemporary building and an aggrandized past of early Ionian temples. By shaping the built landscapes of cities and sanctuaries to include visions of the past, patrons and architects highlighted aspects of civic, ethnic, and religious identities in relationship to legendary ancestors. Understanding the extent of retrospective design in the Ionic order offers a new perspective on archaism and the representation of the past in Greek art as well as the long-lived history of copying, appropriating, and mixing Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian columns.

Subject Area

Classical Studies|Archaeology|Art history|Architecture

Recommended Citation

Holzman, Samuel, "Bilingual Ionic Column Capitals: Perceptions of the Past in Greek Architecture, 6th–3rd Century BCE" (2019). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI13878437.