The Ionic Order

Ionic is the second of the Three Classic Order. It absorbs and resumes the oriental motifs, it enriches the decorations. It adorns the architectural structure and it does not weigh it down.



The Ionic Order originated in Ionia, a coastal region of central Anatolia in the early 6th century B.C. where a number of ancient Greek settlements were located. It is primarily identified by its capital, with its rolled-up cushion-like form on either side creating the distinctive volutes. Vitruvius describes it as the combination of the severity of the Doric and the delicacy of the Corinthian.

Ionic order columns on the Western and Southern Life Insurance building, Cincinnati, Ohio.

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Depending on the location and the time of the year, we can find different forms of the Ionic order. The so-called “attic base” is the best known and most common one. It derived from the place it was used for the first time (Toro, Trochilo, Toro).

  • The shaft of the column is therefore based on the base and has grooves in the rounded edge.
  • The capital is constituted by two volutes in a spiral shape, in which ovules and arrows alternate :
  • The abacus above the capital is very flattened and the echinus is small.

Above the capital, there is the entablature. It is composed by a tripartite architrave, made up of three overlapping plates. Each higher and more prominent than the one below.

The frieze rests on it, with painted representations, developed along the entire perimeter of the temple, so as to allow a long narration without interruptions.


Ionic style: Column and entablature

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Renaissance architectural theorists took Vitruvius hints, to interpret the Ionic order as matronly in comparison to the Doric order, though not as wholly feminine as the Corinthian order. The Ionic is a natural order for post-Renaissance libraries and courts of justice, learned and civilized.



  • The Temple of Hera on Samos was the first of the greatest Iconic temples. It was built by the architect Rhoikos between 570 and 560 BC, but it stood for only a decade because of an earthquake.
  • The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was a 6th-century Iconic temple and it was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Parthenon, although it conforms mainly to the Doric order, also has some Ionic elements.
  • The Erechtheum and the Temple of Athena are also examples of the pure Iconic mode. They are both on the Athens Acropolis.

A more purely Ionic mode to be seen on the Athenian Acropolis is exemplified in the Erechtheum and the Temple of Athena Nike, both on the Acropolis of Athens.

Eretteo, temple of Goddess Athena Polias, V sec BC (421 BC– 406 BC); Atene, Greece.

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Temple of Athena Nike, V secolo BC (425 BC); Atene, Greece.

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the Ionic Style today

There are many buildings that embed the Ionic style today: the Cathedral of Treviso and the Crystal Palace in Madrid, for example.

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