The Composite Order is considered to be wholly a Roman Order.  Although the order emerged during the Empire age, it wasn’t until the early Renaissance period that it became a separate – the fifth – Classical Order of Architecture.  Some of the first examples of the Composite use was seen on the Arch of Titus (AD 82) in the Forum in Rome and later on the Arch of Septimus Severus (c. AD 204).  The Composite Order was another favorite by the Romans – and as so – Composite columns are regularly seen on triumphal arches.

The order, itself, is incredibly similar to the Corinthian Order, but the ultimate distinguishing factor of the Composite Order is the capital section of the column, which is deemed to be a fusion of the Ionic and Corinthian capitals.  However, there had been debate among classical architects such as Serlio, Vignola, Palladio & Scamozzi in regards to the best name for this order.  It has been identified as the “Italian Order,” the “Roman Order,” the “Latin Order,” and – of course – the “Composite Order.”  Due to Palladio’s urging of the name, “Composite” (Italian: Composito) – this is the term that has become the customary title for the order as a whole – as it logically makes sense that this order is a composition of the Ionic and the Corinthian Orders.

The significance of the Composite Order is connected to the notion held by the Romans of “conquering glory,” simply because many triumphal arches showcased Composite Columns; and it is known that the combination of Roman victory and subjugator’s annihilation was an extremely formalized event (as seen in the construction of large triumphal arches).  There is a valid link between the use of a new classical order to denote an independent order that did not precisely copy the architectural styles of conquered nations.  The Composite Order, therefore, can be directly correlated to both Roman victory and humiliation of the defeated, and many Renaissance authors have associated this order with the female goddess, Victoria – a winged figure holding a victor’s wreath for crowning the emperor.

The Composite Order is classified by slender proportions and has a column height of 10 diameters.  The column shaft can either be plain or fluted.  Fluted shafts consist of (24) flutes around the column and fillets in between them, with the flutes being rounded off before meeting both the capital and the base.  The column shaft terminates downward to an Ionic (or Attic) base that consists of two convex tori (an upper and lower ring) that are divided by a concave section called a scotia.  The Composite capital, although similar in certain aspects, is what distinguishes the order from the Corinthian Order, specifically.  It has the standard inverted bell-shape platform that is separated from the column’s shaft by an astragal molding.  The bell-shape platform is divided into three rows – the bottom two with identical acanthus leaves surrounding the capital.   Two small flower accents ascend from the upper row of acanthus leaves on each face of the capital that rest below what is, essentially, an Ionic capital.  The third, and uppermost, row of the capital is made up of eight volutes (as characterized by the Ionic Order) that are diagonally positioned to support the abacus at each adjoining angle.  The square abacus has (4) concave sides that curve outwardly to a point.  Egg-and-dart molding that is typical in an Ionic capital sits directly underneath the abacus and is part of the upper row of the capital.  Each face of the abacus is adorned with a centrally-placed fleuron ornament.

The Corinthian & Composite entablatures are the tallest of all the orders at a height of 2 diameters, and the latter follows the same details that are seen in the Corinthian entablature.  It consists of 3 main parts (bottom to top):  the architrave, the frieze, and the cornice.  The architrave, in regards to detail, ranged in design – from generally plain designs to extravagant ornamentations.  The frieze typically featured a continuous panel of sculpted ornamentation.  The uppermost part of the entablature, the cornice, was the most distinct section due to its increased embellishments.  It maintained the use of dentils but also incorporated the use of bracket-like decorations that were situated under the corona and evenly spaced along the spans of the entablature.  The cornice showcased a vast repertoire of circular ornamentations, or modillions, that were highly enriched with acanthus designs.  The cymatium was the top level of the entablature, and it extended past the frieze.

Overall, the Composite Order displays sumptuous decoration that reflects a sense of triumph and grandeur.  Historically, Composite columns were utilized to represent Victory, and they seemingly represent the blending of Wisdom with Beauty.  As so, Composite columns are best utilized for projects that call for supreme opulence, prestige, and success.


(click on the plates to review the .pdf)

The Composite Order - Plate The Composite Entablature - Plate The Composite Capital Layout - Plate The Composite Capital - Plate The Composite Base - Plate

Courtesy of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art | Renderings by: M. Gunnison Collins


•  Triumphal Arch of Septimius Severus (Roman)
•  Thermae of Diocletian (Roman)
•  Arch of Titus (Roman)
•  The Mausoleum of Santa Costanza (Roman)
•  Loggia del Capitaniato (Roman)

Lescot Wing, the Louvre | Paris, France

Lescot Wing, the Louvre | Paris, France











Somerset House | London, England

Somerset House | London, England











Altarpiece capitals, St. James' Church | Goose Creek, South Carolina

Altarpiece capitals, St. James’ Church | Goose Creek, SC






The application of Post & Beam as a structural entity was collectively practiced by many early civilizations – such as the Cretan and the Minoan – that predate the wave of classical Grecian architecture.   Architectural intricacies of what is now considered as the Doric Order appeared in Egyptian work, like the colonnade from the funerary temple of Queen Hatshepsut (1480 B.C.).

Although elements of the Doric Order observed in the most primitive applications of architecture existed before the canonization of the 5 Classical Orders of Architecture, the Greeks are widely recognized for compiling the strands of architectural thought to form a precedence that could be classified and defined in all its elements.  Most notably, the Parthenon in Athens – since the mid 18th century – has been considered as the model of proportions and antiquity.

Highly distinguished as the earliest and the simplest of the classical orders, Greek Doric columns have a height (including the capital) between 4 and 6-1/2 times their diameter and consist of a capital and column shaft with no molded base.  Instead, Greek Doric columns sat directly on a stylobate, or a tiered step-structure.  The column shaft has a convex profile (or entasis) and typically consists of 20 shallow, concave vertical flutes; occasionally, the Greek Doric shafts were left unfluted to give them a more archaic and sturdy look.  On fluted columns, the shaft ends when the flutes meet a band of 3 horizontal grooves, or hypotrachelion, at which point the flutes continue upward onto the columns’ neck.  The top of the necking consists of horizontal rings called annulets, which signify the end of the column shaft and the beginning of the Greek Doric capital.  Above the annulets, the column transitions upward to the capital portion which is first introduced to a convex, cushion-like component called the echinus that supports a plain, square abacus – thus ending the column section of the Greek Doric Order and leading into the Greek Doric entablature.

Vitruvius sets the prototype for the Greek Doric entablature, which consists of 3 main parts (bottom to top):  the architrave, the frieze, and the cornice.  The architrave consists of two bands – the lower band consisting of a flat face and the upper band consisting of flat molding (or taenia) that contains, underneath, guttae – or drops that resemble a cone like shape.  There are generally 18 total guttae, broken up into three rows of 6 that lie underneath the mutules.  The frieze is most noticeable for its triglyphs that are positioned directly over the column’s center-line as well as directly over the center-line within the spacing of each column.  The uppermost portion of the entablature, the cornice, is broken up in two portions – the cymatium and the corona – both of which project over the frieze.

Overall, the Doric Order commonly displays minimal decoration, and according to Vitruvius – Doric columns were traditionally representative in form to the stature of a man’s body because of their broad proportions and utilitarian, structural purposes.  As so, Greek Doric columns are best utilized for projects that require a sense of stability and refinement.


Even before the Roman conquest of Greek colonies in southern Italy, Roman architecture’s assimilation of the Grecian architectural form was already in motion.  Although Roman architects implemented the Greek’s use of the Doric Order, they gradually made significant modifications to many components of the Doric Order.  The Theatre of Marcellus in Rome is an early, prime example of an application that blends both Greek traditional standards and Roman architectural advancements of the Doric Order as a whole.  In this paradigm, the columns mimic the Greek Doric style by excluding the base portion of the column and simply resting the shaft on an elevated surface; whereas, Roman influence includes a plain column shaft that is more slender (7.65 diameters high) leading up to a simplified ring, or astragal, that signified the end of the column shaft and beginning of the neck leading up to a Tuscan-like capital.

As the Roman Doric Order continued to evolve (throughout 400 centuries), additional modules appeared within the order that are more representative of what is currently acknowledged as the Roman Doric Order, and due in large part to the advancement of printing, we are able to reflect on different versions of the orders from a variety of Renaissance authors and architects.  Agreeably, the column is 8 diameters high with a fluted shaft.  Also, a base molding and a plinth was added to the bottom of the column shaft to show the termination of the column itself.  The two styles of base moldings introduced were the Roman Doric style and the Ionic [Attic] style – both which sat atop a flat, square plinth.  The necking of the column, above the astragal, often was adorned with 4 or 8 decorative rosettes or paterae. (See our Renaissance Doric capital).  The astragal may be ornamented with a bead-and-reel molding, while the echinus may display a decorative egg-and-dart pattern around the molding.

The Roman Doric entablature also experienced modifications as the architrave was occasionally divided into two fasciae that were sometimes plain and sometimes decorated.  The frieze maintained triglyphs positioned at the column’s center (and not touching at the frieze’s angles), but the frieze’s metopes were often garnished with rosettes, paterae, or bucrania.  The cornice was also more elaborate as it showcased dentils on the bed-moldings, and its soffit was richly decorated with guttae and geometrical moldings spaced between the mutules.

Although modified, the Roman Doric Order was still associated with sturdiness and masculinity, and according to Serlio, Roman Doric columns were suitable for the application in churches dedicated to specific male Saints who may have participated in military action.  Overall, the Roman Doric Order is observed as simplistic with slight ornamentation, having broad proportions and practical when a project’s objective is to appear firm and stout.


(click on the plates to review the .pdf)

The Doric Order - Plate The Doric Layout - Plate Denticulated Doric - Plate Mutulary Doric - Plate Mutulary Doric Pediment - Plate Doric Order Spacing - Plate Doric Order In Design - Plate

Courtesy of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art  |  Renderings by:  M. Gunnison Collins


•  The Parthenon (Greek)
•  The Lion Tomb at Cnidos (Greek)
•  The Temple of Hephaestus (Greek)
•  The Roman Doric temple at Cori (Roman)
•  The Theatre of Marcellus (Roman)

Mahogany Wood Greek Doric Fluted Column by Chadsworth Columns










Exterior Fluted Fiberglass Greek Doric Columns by Chadsworth Columns








Interior Wood Fluted Roman Doric Columns with Attic Bases by Chadsworth Columns








Exterior Plain Roman Doric Columns with Roman Doric Bases by Chadsworth Columns