Western architecture traces its descent from the major public buildings in ancient Greece. Some earlier structures were built with an eye for proportion and striking decoration, but they had little influence on the evolution of building design. The Greek and Roman buildings bear some striking similarities as well as differences. From 750 to 30 B. C. E. , the Greeks created impressive temples, stoas (covered colonnades), theaters, and amphitheaters. The temples, built in marble and limestone, retained the post-and-lintel construction of the wooden originals.
The temples had painted decorations and low-pitched wooden roofs. Columns had ornamental capitals—the top of the column—in one of three designs. The simplest, Doric, consisted of columns with plain molded capitals and no base. Ionic capitals were decorated with a pair of scrolls, known as volutes. Corinthian capitals, the most ornate, were decorated with an inverted bell-shaped arrangement of leaves. Prime examples include the Parthenon and Erectheum, in Athens.
From 100 B. C. to A. D. 65, the Romans, like the Greeks, built many magnificent buildings, including temples, baths, basilicas, theaters, amphitheaters, bridges, aqueducts, and triumphal arches. The materials, however, differed. The Romans used brick, stone, and concrete. Further, the Romans developed the arch and devised two other classical styles for columns, adding to the three used in ancient Greece. The Roman contribution included the Tuscan order, a plain column derived from the Greek Doric column; and the Composite, which combined Ionic scrolls with Corinthian leaves.
Examples of Roman architecture include the Coliseum in Rome and the Pont du Gard in Nimes, France. Although both the Greeks and Romans erected magnificent buildings, the Greeks used marble and limestone; the Romans, more homely materials. The Greeks created three columns; the Romans added two more. These beginnings paved the way for the development of many other styles of architecture, including the Byzantine (a combination of Roman and Eastern influence) and the Romanesque.