All major Iron Age civilizations of the Near East and Mediterranean made some use of columns. In Ancient Egyptian architecture (as early as 2600 BC) the architect Imhotep made use of stone columns. The surface was carved to reflect the organic form of bundled reeds; in later Egyptian architecture faceted cylinders were also common.
Some of the most elaborate columns in the ancient world were those of the Persians, especially the massive stone columns erected in Persepolis. They included double-bull structures in their capitals. The Hall of Hundred Columns at Persepolis, measuring 230 x 230 feet, was built by the Achaemenid king Darius I (524–486 BC). Many of the ancient Persian columns are still standing, some are more than 98 feet tall
The Egyptians, Persians and other civilizations mostly used columns for the practical purpose of holding up the roof inside a building, preferring outside walls to be decorated with reliefs or painting, but the Ancient Greeks, followed by the Romans, loved to use them on the outside as well, and the extensive use of columns on the interior and exterior of buildings is one of the most characteristic features of classical architecture, in buildings like the Parthenon. The Greeks developed the classical orders of architecture, which are most easily distinguished by the form of the column and its various elements. Their Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders were expanded by the Romans to include the Tuscan and Composite orders.
Columns, or at least large structural exterior ones, became much less significant in the architecture of the Middle Ages, and the classical forms were abandoned in both Byzantine architecture and the Romanesque and Gothic architecture or Europe in favor of more flexible forms, with capitals often using various types of foliage decoration, and in the West scenes with figures carved in relief. Renaissance architecture was keen to revive the classical vocabulary and styles, and the informed use and variation of the classical orders remained fundamental to the training of architects throughout Baroque, Rococo and Neo-classical architecture.
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