Chronologically the first of the three Classical orders * devised by the Greeks, it is the base column, the ‘masculine’ one that stands at ground level, initially straight from the pavement without a plinth beneath it. The heavy fluted column of twenty parallel grooves is topped by the simplest capital, an abacus. Later Roman Doric columns were often smooth and un-fluted.
The stone columns were copied from the original wooden temples, and every column bears a beam. Palladio, the great 17thC Classical architect, followed the column dimensions given by the Roman architect and writer Vitruvius, embodying the ancient and harmonious feel that is that hallmark of classical architecture.
“They measured a man’s foot, and finding its length the sixth part of his height, they gave the column a similar proportion, that is, they made its height, including the capital, six times the thickness of the shaft, measured at the base. Thus the Doric order obtained its proportion, its strength, and its beauty, from the human figure.” (Vitruvius, iv.6)
“The successors of these people, improving in taste, and preferring a more slender proportion, assigned seven diameters to the height of the Doric column.” (Vitruvius, iv.8)
* When the Romans added two more columns, the Doric became the second..