The Tuscan Order, or what may be considered a simplified version of the Doric Order, originates in the temples built by the Etruscans, native Italic people whose civilization predates the foundation of Rome and at its height encompassed the areas around Rome known as Latium and Campania. The Etruscans were known to the Greeks and featured prominently in the early history of Rome before they were fully assimilated into the Roman Republic. The Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, which was on the Capitoline Hill in Rome, is among the best known Tuscan style temples.
             First described by Vitruvius, but not codified until the Renaissance, the Tuscan Order has a column height of seven diameters, widely spaced columns possible due to its having a wood architrave, and simple, bold molding profiles.  Etruscan temples had a stone base, but the upper levels were largely made of wood, mud, and terracotta, hence archeological evidence is scant.  To protect these vulnerable upper walls, the Etruscan temple incorporated a roof with a deeply projecting eave to shed water away from temple.
             Generally, the Tuscan Order is characterized by squat proportions and its simple base and capital. Its capital is composed of a square abacus, which is sometimes finished with a fillet, a round echinus, and a fillet prior to the neck of the column.  The neck is separated from the column shaft by a round astragal and fillet before the hypophyge curves down to the column shaft, which is smooth, without flutes.  A Tuscan base, from the Renaissance onwards, is composed of a square plinth and a round torus topped by a fillet before the apophyge curves up into the shaft of the column.  Both archeological evidence and Vitruvius, however, describe the plinth as round. Either plinth would be correct today.
              The Tuscan entablature was simply a wood architrave supporting the deeply overhanging roof, but Renaissance authors show the entablature with its typical three parts of architrave, frieze and cornice.  In some treatises the architrave is shown split into two fasciae, and in others, only one.  Some authors also show an ovolo instead of a cyma recta for the cymatium of the cornice.All in all, ornamentation is minimal, lines are plain, and proportions bold; all contributing to the simple strength conveyed by the Tuscan Order.  With this in mind, the Tuscan Order is suitable to more plain buildings or where an essence of firmness and robustness is desired.


Text by:  Christine G. H. Franck | Designer, Author, Educator


(click on the plates to review the .pdf)

The Tuscan Order - Plate The Tuscan Order Layout - Plate The Tuscan Order - Entasis The Tuscan Order Pediment - Plate The Tuscan Order In Design - Plate

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


•  The Temple of Piety
•  The Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus
•  Lower Order of the Amphitheater Arles Temple near the Church of S. Nicola in Carcere in Rome
•  Lower Order of the Colosseum

Tuscan Column by Chadsworth Columns









Exterior Tuscan Wood Columns by Chadsworth Columns








Architectural Etymology: by Calder Loth


Classical Comments:  Architectural Etymology

Courtesy of the Classicist Blog:

by Calder Loth
Senior Architectural Historian for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and a member of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art’s Advisory Council.


The study of classical architecture introduces us to a multitude of terms for the various parts of the orders. For many it is a completely new vocabulary, one often difficult to learn. An investigation of the etymology of the words can be helpful for remembering many of the terms and understanding their rationale. As with so much specialized terminology, numerous objects received their names because they reminded people of familiar, similar-looking things. We see this happening in scores of different categories. For instance, we call the control device on an instrument panel a button. The glass vacuum vessel encasing an incandescent electric light is a bulb. The name given to the symbol for a program on a computer screen is an icon. (And don’t forget the mouse.) This naming phenomenon is particularly prevalent in classical architecture. For this month’s essay, I have taken terms for elements of the entablature and capital of the Tuscan order and explored why they are called what are and where their names came from. I hope this simple exposition will serve to foster a more informed appreciation of the classical language of architecture. I hope also to explore the etymology of additional classical features and details in future Classical Comments essays.

The image I have used for this investigation is a detail of the Tuscan order illustrated in Abraham Swan’s The British Architect (1758), which offers some of the most precise and beautiful depictions of the classical orders.

*  Denotes that the word is a term defined in the list.