With the end of the Bronze Age in site, we are approaching one of the greatest turning-points in architectural history. In about 1100 B.C., Mycenaean civilization came to an abrupt end and for the moment there was nothing to replace it.
It is towards the end of the eighth century B.C. that the first symptoms are to be seen of a new and distinctive civilization materializing from the period of gestation.
When the earliest Greek temples appeared in the seventh century B.C., the structural practices of the Bronze Age had not yet been discarded. One innovation which gave a new stimulus to design was the use of dressed stone to replace the brick-and-timber construction of earlier times.
In the plan of a temple the next important feature was the arrangement of columns to form the porticoes and the colonnade or peristyle surrounding the whole building. This, in conjunction with components of the design, gave rise to a whole vocabulary of Graceisms, which need tabulating if they are to be understood or remembered. The plan of the Parthenon for instance is ultimately derived from that of a normal megaron with two columns in antis, at either end. This number has been increased to four. Next the wing wall have been truncated, leaving the porch-ends supported by rows of six free-standing columns: and finally the whole arrangement has been enclosed in a single peristyle with eight columns at each end.
Usually a temple stood in a temenos or sacred enclosure, often on top of a high rock or acropolis. As at Athens. Other buildings were as a rule disposed in a studied relationship to it. The position for instance of the propylaion, through which the temenos was entered, assured a diagonal approach to it, which was considered the ideal viewpoint. That of subsidiary temples might be dictated by less practical considerations. The classical Doric practices was to build upon a solid stone platform, of which the upper four courses appeared above ground and were set back to form steps all around the building. Smaller steps interposed between them, or even a flat ramp, facilitated the approach to the eastern porch. The floor of the cella was also raised a little above that of the peristyle, directly upon which the columns rested without intervening bases. Inside the colonnade, the stone walls of the cella started at pavement level with all upright slabs, recalling the orthostats of earlier times. It ended in a sculptured frieze, and above this stone cross-beams supported coffered ceiling-slabs. The masonry between the capitals and the verge of the tiled roof, corresponding in a timber building to the lintel-beams, joist-end and eaves, formed a pattern exactly prescribed by the canon of Doric design and proportion. Its construction in stone can be far more easily understood from a perspective reconstruction than from a verbal description. The same, however, does not apply to the interior of the cella; for considerably less is known about it and conflicting theories offer a variety of possible restorations.