Architecture in the Greek world during the Hellenistic period developed theatrical tendencies, as had Hellenistic sculpture. The conquests of Alexander the Great had caused power to shift from the city-states of Greece to the ruling family dynasties; dynastic families patronized large complexes and dramatic urban plans within their cities. These urban plans often focused on the natural setting, and were intended to enhance views and create dramatic civic, judicial, and market spaces that differed from the orthogonal plans of the houses that surrounded them.
A stoa, or a covered walkway or portico, was used to bound agoras and other public spaces. Highlighting the edge of open areas with such decorative architecture created a theatrical effect for the public space and also provided citizens with a basic daily form of protection from the elements. Both the stoa and the agora would have been used by merchants, artists, religious festivals, judicial courts, and civic administration.
The Stoa of Attalos (Figure 1) in Athens was built the Agora, under the patronage of King Attalos II of Pergamon. This portico, built around 150 BCE, consists of a double colonnadel it was two stories tall, and had a row of rooms on the ground floor. The exterior colonnade on the ground floor level was of the Doric order; the interior columns were Ionic; while on the second level Ionic columns lined the exterior and columns with a simple, stylized capital lined the interior.
Temple of Apollo at Didyma
Other examples of grand and monumental architecture can be found in Ionia, modern day Turkey in Pergamon and Didyma. The Temple of Apollo at Didyma was both a temple and an oracle site for the god Apollo. (Figure 4)
The temple was designed by the architects Paionios of Ephesus and Daphnis of Miletus and was begun in 313 BCE and was never completed, although work continued until the second century CE. This temple’s site is vast. (Figure 3) The interior court was 71 feet wide by 175 feet long and contained a small shrine. The court was also dipteral in form, edged with a double row of 108 columns 65 feet tall which surrounded the temple. The structure creates a series of imposing spaces from the exterior colonnade to the oracle rooms and the interior courtyard inside of which the shrine to Apollo stood. The building plan also played with theatricality and drama, forcing its visitors through a dark interior and then opening up into a bright and open courtyard that did not have a roof. The building is dramatically different from the perfected Classical plan of temples. Instead of focusing on symmetry and harmony, the building focuses on the experience of the viewer.
The Corinthian order is considered the third order of Classical architecture. The order’s columns are similar to Ionic columns; the columns are slender and fluted and sit atop a base. The capital of the column differs and is substantially vegetal. The capital consists of a double layer of acanthus leaves and a stylized plant stem that curls up towards the abacus in the shape of a scroll or volute. (Figure 2) The decorative Corinthian order was not widely adopted in Greece, although it was popular in tholos shrines; it was, however, used substantially throughout the Roman period.