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Mathematics in Ancient Greek Architecture Research Paper

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Updated: Jun 1st, 2021

Ancient Greek architecture remains an illustration of ancient Greeks’ beliefs concerning chaos and cosmos and their desire to achieve the highest degree of perfection. Ancient Greeks tried to ensure the reign of harmony in all areas of human existence. The Parthenon, as well as many other temples, are still regarded as a marvel created by human civilization. One of the pillars of the art of architecture has been mathematics, and the development of this science in Ancient Greece enabled Ancient Greek architects to create beautiful buildings (Wilson, 2015).

Geometry provided architects with the tools necessary for proper design and construction (Leonardis, 2016). Such concepts as the golden ratio, proportion, and grid, as well as the ability to generalize, were instrumental in the development of Ancient Greek architecture. This paper unveils some of the central mathematical concepts that led to the evolvement of architecture in ancient Greece.

Ancient Greeks placed considerable value on order and harmony in many aspects of their life. Pythagoras, influenced by Persian and Egyptian mathematical advances, developed the concept of proportion that was employed in Ancient Greek architecture. Symmetry was one of the architects of the significant principles followed, which enabled Ancient Greeks to create numerous outstanding buildings. It is essential to add that numerical symbolism, which was created within the field of mathematics, contributed significantly to the development of Ancient Greek architecture.

Pythagoras played a significant role in the development of concepts that were later used in various spheres. For example, the Parthenon is a conspicuous example of the way symmetry was utilized in architecture (Leonardis, 2016). The temple construction was based on the use of such ratios as 2:3 and 4:9. Moving from more minor parts to more significant amounts was the fundamental strategy based on the essence of symmetry. This design led to the construction of buildings characterized by such concepts as symmetry and harmony.

The concept of symmetry and proportion was further refined, which led to the development of a mathematical proportion widely employed in architecture. The use of the golden ratio became a manifestation of Ancient Greeks’ focus on harmony. The golden ratio is credited to Pythagoras, but it is believed that the Ancient Greek mathematician developed his theorem based on the knowledge he gained in the Near East (Leonardis, 2016). Ancient Greeks adopted many rules and concepts, but they were specifically interested in proportions and ratios due to their search for harmony.

The Parthenon is one of the most famous temples that can be regarded as an illustration of the benefits of mathematical symbolism for architecture development. This is the temple where the use of the golden ratio is exemplary (“Optical refinements at the Parthenon,” 2018). The value of this ratio is approximately 1.618, and it is calculated as follows: (√5+1)/2 (“Optical refinements at the Parthenon,” 2018).

The façade of the Parthenon is characterized by the use of the golden ratio, which makes the temple seem perfectly symmetrical. The golden ratio was used for the construction of columns that were especially common in the Doric period (Leonardis, 2016). Ancient Greeks divided the top surface of a column drum by radius, which can be seen in Parthenon. The floor plan of this grand building also has several examples of the way this mathematical concept was incorporated into the design and construction process.

In addition, Ancient Greek architecture benefited from the use of the grid. Euclid, a renowned Greek mathematician, and his followers developed the concept that helped them to create an abstract representation of space (Leonardis, 2016). It is noteworthy that Ancient Greek mathematicians contributed considerably to the development of abstractions and generalizations from particular to the whole (Gamwell, 2015).

This ability was instrumental in creating magnificent buildings, as architects were able to develop specific plans and collaborate with other stakeholders during the construction process. Thousands of temples, including the Parthenon, were designed using this grid that contributed to the creation of a sense of harmony (Leonardis, 2016). Rectangular rooms in temples and other buildings were standard and helped Ancient Greek architects to create the effect of the order. Moreover, the streets of Ancient Greek cities were also characterized by the utilization of the grid as the roads were at right angles to one another. The town of Olynthus is one of the brightest illustrations of the use of the grid in city design. The grid made it possible to make the city layout neat and easy to navigate.

In conclusion, it is necessary to note that Ancient Greek architects managed to achieve high mastery of mathematical concepts and principles, which resulted in the development of architecture. Pythagoras and other mathematicians refined or further developed the ideas of numerical symbolism, the golden ratio, symmetry, proportion, and grid. Significantly, the knowledge these philosophers used was accumulated throughout the centuries.

These concepts were adopted by architects who designed buildings that could astound people, which was specifically crucial for the ruling elite. Therefore, such grand architectural artworks as the Parthenon, as well as many other temples, theatres, and buildings, were created in strict adherence to the rules and conventions.

References

Gamwell, L. (2015). Mathematics: Geometries of beauty. Nature, 528, 476-477.

Leonardis, R. (2016). The use of geometry by Ancient Greek architects. In M. M. Miles (Ed.), A companion to Greek architecture (pp. 92-104). Malden, MA: Springer.

. (2018). Web.

Wilson, J. M. (2015). Ancient architecture and mathematics: Methodology and the Doric temple. In K. Williams & M. Ostwald (Eds.), Architecture and Mathematics from Antiquity to the future (pp. 31-58). New York, NY: Birkhäuser.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Mathematics in Ancient Greek Architecture'. 1 June.

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