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Ancient Architecture Essay

The ziggurats of Mesopotamia and the pyramids of Egypt are two of the best examples of ancient architecture. The Greeks also contributed to architecture with the Doric and Ionic, two of the orders of classical architecture. What are these structures, and how do they differ from one another?

The ziggurat originated from Mesopotamia, during the Sumerian civilization. These enormous architectural structures are commonly characterized by steps. They are mostly made from sun-dried mud or clay bricks, while its facade is furnished with niches and buttresses. Ziggurats generally consist of multiple layers; the smallest layer is on top, and the layers get wider as it reaches the base. These layers are then attached to each other by stairways.

The ziggurats are temple towers, and they are the foremost example of ancient religious architecture. Ziggurats are considered as altars or stairways to the gods, that is why they were created in such a grand scale. It is presumed that the higher the ziggurat is, the closer the people will be to the gods. This is why the shrine is located in its topmost layer. On the other hand, the bottom of the ziggurat served as an area for purposes other than religion. The base of the ziggurat was surrounded by shops for potters, metal workers and other artisans.

Pyramids, on the other hand, are funerary structures from the Egyptian civilization. Unlike ziggurats which are religious structures, pyramids serve as tombs for pharaohs. It is characterized by its triangular shape, and like the ziggurat, some pyramids also have steps. Instead of clay or mud bricks, pyramids are made of stone; its facade is actually made with limestone. Pyramids do not have layers, but they contain several chambers inside, which are connected by secret passages.

There are three orders of classical Greek architecture: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. Of these three, Doric and Ionic were the most common. These orders are best exemplified by the columns and beams of Greek architecture.

The Doric order is marked by simplicity. Its columns are very simple. Its capital, the structure’s crown, only consists of a square on top of a circle. The longest part of the column, the shaft, is 20-sided and very plain. The frieze, the part on top of the columns, is also very simple. It consists of triglyphs and metopes. However, the most distinct characteristic of the Doric order is the absence of a base. Doric columns have no base. The most prominent example of a structure in the Doric order is the Parthenon.

In contrast, the Ionic order has a base, and its base consists of several rings on top of each other. Unlike the Doric columns, the shafts have more length and are engraved with lines called flutes. Ionic shafts also differ from Doric ones because of entasis, a feature whichs make the former look straighter. The Ionic frieze is also different from the Doric frieze because of its simplicity, as it does not have triglyphs or metopes. Lastly, the most unique characteristic of the Ionic order is the spiral scroll that distinguishes its capital. An example of a Greek structure in the Ionic order is the Temple of Athena, which is located in Athens.

The ziggurat and the pyramid differ because of its origin, usage and physical composition. The former was created for a religious purpose; it is made from mud or clay bricks and it originated from Mesopotamia. The latter is a funerary structure; it consists of stone blocks and originated from Egypt. The structures are alike since both have large bases and smaller tops, but the pyramid is triangular while the ziggurat is more rectangular. Both structures also have steps. On the other hand, Doric and Ionic orders differ because the former is simpler while the latter is more elaborate. Regardless of their differences, it is the primary similarity that makes them stand out: all of these ancient structures contribute to the legacy of outstanding architecture.

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