Ionic order

Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

Classical Order of architecture, the second Greek and the third Roman. It is primarily identified by its capital, with its rolled-up cushion-like form on either side creating the distinctive volutes. The Ionic Order has a base of the Asiatic or Attic type (the latter being favoured by the Romans), and the shaft is more slender in proportion than in the Doric Order: Greek shafts are almost invariably fluted with fillets separating the flutes (although Hellenistic columns often have the lower part of the shaft faceted or plain, as in the stoa, Priene (c. 158–156 bc), but Roman shafts are often wholly unfluted. The astragal, echinus, and fillet occur in both Greek and Roman capitals, the echinus is enriched with egg-and-dart, and sometimes (e.g. Erechtheion, Athens) the astragal is embellished with bead-and-reel. The particularly elegant and beautiful capitals of the Erechtheion (c. 421–407 bc) also have a hypotrachelion enriched with a continuous frieze of anthemion motifs, while the astragal below has bead-and-reel and the moulded abacus is ornamented with egg-and-dart. Indeed, abaci are always moulded, much smaller than Doric abaci, and usually plain, but sometimes enriched. Entablatures consist of architrave (usually divided into fasciae), frieze (sometimes omitted, particularly in Hellenistic buildings), and cornice. The frieze has no metopes or triglyphs, so the inter-columniation discipline inherent in Doric does not exist, and spacing can be wider. Furthermore, the Ionic frieze may be a plain band, can be richly ornamented with continuous sculpture either in relief (as with Roman work), or as applied in different coloured stone (e.g. Erechtheion), and may also be pulvinated (as in the thermae of Diocletian, Rome). Cornice-mouldings can be very rich, with bed-mouldings including dentil-courses, egg-and-dart, or other ornament, as in the temple of Fortuna Virilis, Rome (c.40 bc). Additional mouldings of bead-and-reel occur between the architrave fasciae in richer versions of the Order. One of the main problems when using the Ionic Order is the capital, with its two distinct elevations—one with the two volutes (desirable on a front), and the ‘side’ with the baluster side or pulvinus (not desirable on a façade). In Greek temples, therefore, a ‘special’ had to be designed so that two adjacent volutes would appear on two faces at the external angle of a portico by pulling the corner volutes out with concave curved faces at 45° (135° to each façade). This angle-capital also had two adjacent partial volutes at the inner angle within the portico. This some-what clumsy arrangement was superseded by the Romans, who invented a capital with four identical faces, the eight volutes projecting under the four corners of the abacus thus doing away with the need for a ‘special’ as all the capitals were the same on all four sides. This angular capital (also known as the Scamozzi Order) was used at the temple of Saturn, Rome (c.42 bc, rebuilt c.ad 320), and was the basis for the upper part of the Composite capital. See also Ammonite.

J. Curl (2001);Dinsmoor (1950);C. Normand (1852)

Greek Ionic Order from Eleusis (after Normand).


Subjects: Architecture.

Reference entries

See all related reference entries in Oxford Index »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.