). The capital of a column, which,
in the infancy of building as an art, was nothing more than a simple abacus, or square tablet
of wood, placed on the top of a wooden trunk, the original column, to form a broad bed for the
architrave to rest upon. From this simple beginning, it became eventually the principal
ornament of a column, and a prominent feature by which the different architectural orders are
distinguished; being, like them, and strictly speaking, divided into three kinds, the Doric,
Ionic, and Corinthian capitals, which, with the Roman alterations, make five varieties in use
among the ancients; for the Tuscan is only a species of Doric; and the Composite is formed by
a union of the Ionic and Corinthian, having the foliage of the latter surmounted by the
volutes of the former — a bastard capital introduced in the Imperial Age, when the
genius for invention was succeeded by
Doric Order. (Phigalea: Manch, pl. 11.)
a love for novelty and splendour, and first employed in the triumphal arches at
Rome, where a specimen is still to be seen on the Arch of Titus. (See Columna
Capitulum Dorĭcum. (a) Greek.
Doric capital, which is the simplest of all, being divided into no more than three principal
parts: the large square abacus at the top, retaining in this order its primitive character to
the last; the echinus, or quarter round, immediately below it; and the anuli, or
anulets, just above the neck of the shaft.
The Doric of the Romans is more
Doric Order. (Albano: Manch, pl. 19.)
complicated and varied in its parts. Instead of the simple abacus, they substituted
a moulded cymatium and fillet; in place of the echinus, anovolo, often broken by carving, as
in the example; instead of the anulets, either an astragal (astragalus
or a bead and fillet. The example is from a Roman temple near Albano.
Capitulum Ionĭcum. (a) Greek.
Ionic capital consists of two leading features: the abacus, which is smaller and lower than
in the Doric, but still square in its plan, though moulded on the exterior faces; and the
), or spiral mouldings on each side of the front, which
Greek Ionic Capital. (Erechtheum, Athens: Fergusson.)
frequently connected by a pendent hem or fold, as in the example, and hang down
much lower than the sculptural echinus between them.
The Roman Ionic does not differ very materially, nor in its
essential parts, from the Greek specimens, excepting that it is often elaborately covered
with carving; the volutes are
Roman Composite. (Arch of Titus.)
in general smaller, and the tasteful hem which hangs down between them in the
preceding engraving is never introduced; but that is not to be considered as a uniform
characteristic of the Greek order; it does not occur in any existing edifices.
The annexed specimen of the Roman Composite is taken from the Arch of Titus.
Capitulum Corinthium. The Corinthian capital is the richest of
all the pure orders, and the specimens now remaining of it in Greece and Italy do not
materially differ in any characteristic point. It consists of an abacus, not square, like
that of the Doric and Ionic capitals, but hollowed on the sides, and having the angles cut
off, and a rosette (flos
) or other similar ornament in the middle.
Under the abacus are small volutes (helices
iv. 1, 12), bending downwards like stalks, two of which meet
Corinthian Capital. (From the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli.)
under each angle of the abacus, and two in the centre of each face of the capital,
where they sometimes touch, and sometimes are interwoven with each other. The whole is
surrounded by two circular rows of leaves (folia
), each leaf of the
upper row growing between and behind those of the lower one, in such a manner that a leaf of
the upper row falls in the centre of each of the four faces of the capital. In the best
examples these leaves are carved to imitate the acanthus or the olive-tree. See Architectura