Classical architecture is a term used to refer to buildings from the classical period of European history, spanning the rise of Greece into a major cultural power and ending with the collapse of the Roman empire. Many architects are influenced by the styles and themes this style of architecture, and they revived these themes in the architectural style known as neoclassical architecture. Many public buildings and important institutions use neoclassical architecture in their designs to allude to the greatness of the classical era.
Historians tend to divide classical architecture into three periods, with a great deal of overlap between these periods. The first is Greek architecture, spanning the period from around 700BCE to 400CE. Following this period came Hellenistic architecture, architecture characteristic of the Hellenistic period which lasted from the time of the death of Alexander the Great to the collapse of the Roman empire. Finally, Roman architecture from around the same time period drew heavily upon the styles of these two eras, but innovations were introduced, making the architecture uniquely Roman.
Some well known examples of classical architecture include the Parthenon in Athens and the Coliseum in Rome. One of its more distinctive themes is the simple, yet beautiful style with clean lines and subtle accents in the form of metal decorations or carvings. It was also often built on a grand scale, with imposing columns and large arches to demonstrate the skills of the builders.
Archaeological digs often uncover examples of classical architecture which are painstakingly preserved for future generations to enjoy. In some cases, architecture has been well preserved enough for people to see mosaics, wall paintings, and other decorative features, making the citizens of the classical age seem more accessible and human. These finds also provide important clues to the daily lives of the people who used these buildings, from formal temples to outdoor theaters.
Because classical architecture is often formal and imposing, many public buildings have adopted it to add to their general air of officiousness. Neoclassical design influences can also be seen in large country homes, colonnaded walkways at universities, and in other structures of a grand scale. Some very excellent examples of classical architecture can be seen in situ in many parts of the Mediterranean and in parts of Europe which were colonized by the Romans, such as Britain. Many people enjoy visiting these architectural sites because classical science, arts, literature, philosophy, and culture has had a huge influence on the Western world.