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Labeled image of the Doric order entablature Doric-order-labeled.jpg
Labeled image of the Doric order entablature

Geison (Ancient Greek : γεῖσον – often interchangeable with somewhat broader term cornice) is an architectural term of relevance particularly to ancient Greek and Roman buildings, as well as archaeological publications of the same. The geison is the part of the entablature that projects outward from the top of the frieze in the Doric order and from the top of the frieze course (or sometimes architrave) of the Ionic and Corinthian orders; it forms the outer edge of the roof on the sides of a structure with a sloped roof. The upper edge of the exterior often had a drip edge formed as a hawksbeak molding to shed water; there were also typically elaborate moldings or other decorative elements, sometimes painted. Above the geison ran the sima. The underside of the geison may be referred to as a soffit. The form of a geison (particularly the Hawksbeak molding of the outer edge) is often used as one element of the argument for the chronology of its building. [1]

Cornice horizontal decorative molding that crowns a building or furniture

A cornice is generally any horizontal decorative molding that crowns a building or furniture element – the cornice over a door or window, for instance, or the cornice around the top edge of a pedestal or along the top of an interior wall. A simple cornice may be formed just with a crown.

Entablature architectural element

An entablature is the superstructure of moldings and bands which lies horizontally above columns, resting on their capitals. Entablatures are major elements of classical architecture, and are commonly divided into the architrave, the frieze, and the cornice. The Greek and Roman temples are believed to be based on wooden structures, the design transition from wooden to stone structures being called petrification.

Doric order Order of ancient Greek and Roman architecture, with no base to the column, simple capital, and triglyphs on the frieze

The Doric order was one of the three orders of ancient Greek and later Roman architecture; the other two canonical orders were the Ionic and the Corinthian. The Doric is most easily recognized by the simple circular capitals at the top of columns. Originating in the western Dorian region of Greece, it is the earliest and in its essence the simplest of the orders, though still with complex details in the entablature above.


Horizontal geison

The entablature of the Hephaisteion (temple of Hephaistos) in Athens, showing geisa. Hephaisteion detail in 2007.jpg
The entablature of the Hephaisteion (temple of Hephaistos) in Athens, showing geisa.

The horizontal geison runs around the full perimeter of a Greek temple, projecting from the top of the entablature to protect it from the elements and as a decorative feature. [2] Horizontal geisa may be found in other ancient structures that are built according to one of the architectural orders. The horizontal sima (with its antefixes and water-spouts) ran above the horizontal geison along the sides of a building, acting as a rain gutter and final decoration.

Sima (architecture) architectural structure

In classical architecture, a sima is the upturned edge of a roof which acts as a gutter. Sima comes from the Greek simos, meaning bent upwards.

Antefix A terminal block for the covering tiles of a roof

An antefix is a vertical block which terminates the covering tiles of a tiled roof. In grand buildings the face of each stone ante-fix was richly carved, often with the anthemion ornament. In less grand buildings moulded ceramic ante-fixes, usually terracotta, might be decorated with figures or other ornament, especially in the Roman period. By this time they were found on many large buildings, including private houses.

Doric order

The underside of a corner horizontal geison block from Lycosura showing mutules with guttae Lycosoura-3.jpg
The underside of a corner horizontal geison block from Lycosura showing mutules with guttae

In the Doric order, the sloped underside of the horizontal geison is decorated with a series of protruding, rectangular mutules aligned with the triglyphs and metopes of the Doric frieze below. Each mutule typically had three rows of six guttae (decorative conical projections) protruding from its underside. The gaps between the mutules are termed viae (roads). The effect of this decoration was to thematically link the entire Doric entablature (architrave, frieze, and geisa) with a repeating pattern of vertically and horizontally aligned architectural elements. Use of the hawksbill molding at the top of the projecting segment is common, as is the undercutting of the lower edge to aid in dispersing rainwater. In order to separate the geison from the frieze visually, there is typically a bed molding aligned with the face of the triglyphs.

Triglyph Vertically channeled tablets of the Doric frieze in classical architecture

Triglyph is an architectural term for the vertically channeled tablets of the Doric frieze in classical architecture, so called because of the angular channels in them. The rectangular recessed spaces between the triglyphs on a Doric frieze are called metopes. The raised spaces between the channels themselves are called femur in Latin or meros in Greek. In the strict tradition of classical architecture, a set of guttae, the six triangular "pegs" below, always go with a triglyph above, and the pair of features are only found in entablatures of buildings using the Doric order. The absence of the pair effectively converts a building from being in the Doric order to being in the Tuscan order.

Gutta A small cone-shaped projection used in the architrave of the Doric order

A gutta is a small water-repelling, cone-shaped projection used in the architrave of the Doric order in classical architecture. At the top of the architrave blocks, a row of six guttae below the narrow projection of the taenia (fillet) and cymatium formed an element called a regula. A regula was aligned under each triglyph of the Doric frieze. In addition, the underside of the projecting geison above the frieze had rectangular protrusions termed mutules that each had three rows of six guttae. These mutules were aligned above each triglyph and each metope.

Ionic and Corinthian orders

Horizontal geisa of these orders relied on moldings rather than the mutules of the Doric order for their decoration.

Raking geison

Horizontal and raking geisa of the Ionic/Corinthian order on the Arch of Hadrian. Arch-of-Hadrian-3.jpg
Horizontal and raking geisa of the Ionic/Corinthian order on the Arch of Hadrian.

A raking geison ran along the top edge of a pediment, on a temple or other structure such as the aedicula of a scaenae frons (theater stage building). This element was typically less decorative than the horizontal geison, and often of a differing profile from the horizontal geison of the same structure. The difference is particularly marked in the Doric order, where the raking geison lacks the distinctive mutules. The raking sima ran over the raking geison as a decorative finish and, essentially, a rain gutter.

Aedicula small shrine in ancient Roman religion

In ancient Roman religion, an aedicula is a small shrine. The word aedicula is the diminutive of the Latin aedes, a temple building.


  1. The geisa of the Doric porch of Philo at Eleusis are labeled as γεῖσα Δωρικά (horizontal geisa with mutules) and γεῖσα Ἰωνικά (vertical geisa without mutules) - Robertson 382.
  2. It may be compared to the eaves of modern structures.

Related Research Articles

Classical order Styles of classical architecture, most readily recognizable by the type of column employed

An order in architecture is a certain assemblage of parts subject to uniform established proportions, regulated by the office that each part has to perform. Coming down to the present from Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman civilization, the architectural orders are the styles of classical architecture, each distinguished by its proportions and characteristic profiles and details, and most readily recognizable by the type of column employed. The three orders of architecture—the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian—originated in Greece. To these the Romans added, in practice if not in name, the Tuscan, which they made simpler than Doric, and the Composite, which was more ornamental than the Corinthian. The architectural order of a classical building is akin to the mode or key of classical music; the grammar or rhetoric of a written composition. It is established by certain modules like the intervals of music, and it raises certain expectations in an audience attuned to its language.

Ancient Greek architecture

The architecture of ancient Greece is the architecture produced by the Greek-speaking people whose culture flourished on the Greek mainland, the Peloponnese, the Aegean Islands, and in colonies in Anatolia and Italy for a period from about 900 BC until the 1st century AD, with the earliest remaining architectural works dating from around 600 BC.

Ionic order Order of classical architecture characterized by the use of volutes in the capital and a base moulding on the columns

The Ionic order forms one of the three classical orders of classical architecture, the other two canonic orders being the Doric and the Corinthian. There are two lesser orders: the Tuscan, and the rich variant of Corinthian called the composite order, both added by 16th-century Italian architectural writers, based on Roman practice. Of the three canonic orders, the Ionic order has the narrowest columns.

Frieze wide central section part of an entablature

In architecture the frieze is the wide central section part of an entablature and may be plain in the Ionic or Doric order, or decorated with bas-reliefs. Even when neither columns nor pilasters are expressed, on an astylar wall it lies upon the architrave and is capped by the moldings of the cornice. A frieze can be found on many Greek and Roman buildings, the Parthenon Frieze being the most famous, and perhaps the most elaborate. This style is typical for the Persians.

Ancient Greek temple structures built to house deity statues within Greek sanctuaries

Greek temples were structures built to house deity statues within Greek sanctuaries in ancient Greek religion. The temple interiors did not serve as meeting places, since the sacrifices and rituals dedicated to the respective deity took place outside them, within the wider precinct of the sanctuary, which might be large. Temples were frequently used to store votive offerings. They are the most important and most widespread building type in Greek architecture. In the Hellenistic kingdoms of Southwest Asia and of North Africa, buildings erected to fulfill the functions of a temple often continued to follow the local traditions. Even where a Greek influence is visible, such structures are not normally considered as Greek temples. This applies, for example, to the Graeco-Parthian and Bactrian temples, or to the Ptolemaic examples, which follow Egyptian tradition. Most Greek temples were oriented astronomically.

Molding (decorative) class of decorative elements in the ornamentation

Moulding, also known as coving(United Kingdom, Australia), is a strip of material with various profiles used to cover transitions between surfaces or for decoration. It is traditionally made from solid milled wood or plaster, but may be of plastic or reformed wood. In classical architecture and sculpture, the molding is often carved in marble or other stones.

Bucranium ornament

Bucranium was a form of carved decoration commonly used in Classical architecture. The name is generally considered to originate with the practice of displaying garlanded, sacrificial oxen, whose heads were displayed on the walls of temples, a practice dating back to the sophisticated Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük in eastern Anatolia, where cattle skulls were overlaid with white plaster. In ancient Rome, bucrania were frequently used as metopes between the triglyphs on the friezes of temples designed with the Doric order of architecture. They were also used in bas-relief or painted decor to adorn marble altars, often draped or decorated with garlands of fruit or flowers, many of which have survived.

Metope rectangular architectural element that fills the space between two triglyphs in a Doric frieze

In classical architecture, a metope (μετόπη) is a rectangular architectural element that fills the space between two triglyphs in a Doric frieze, which is a decorative band of alternating triglyphs and metopes above the architrave of a building of the Doric order. Metopes often had painted or sculptural decoration; the most famous example are the 92 metopes of the Parthenon marbles some of which depict the battle between the Centaurs and the Lapiths. The painting on most metopes has been lost, but sufficient traces remain to allow a close idea of their original appearance.

This page is a glossary of architecture.

Taenia (architecture)

A taenia is a small "fillet" molding near the top of the architrave in a Doric column.

Fascia (architecture)

Fascia is an architectural term for a vertical frieze or band under a roof edge, or which forms the outer surface of a cornice, visible to an observer.

Temple of Aphaea Ancient Greek temple

The Temple of Aphaia or Afea is located within a sanctuary complex dedicated to the goddess Aphaia on the Greek island of Aigina, which lies in the Saronic Gulf. Formerly known as the Temple of Jupiter Panhellenius, the great Doric temple is now recognized as dedicated to the mother-goddess Aphaia. It was a favorite of the neoclassical and romantic artists such as J. M. W. Turner. It stands on a c. 160 m peak on the eastern side of the island approximately 13 km east by road from the main port.

Valle dei Templi Archaeological site

The Valle dei Templi is an archaeological site in Agrigento, Sicily. It is one of the most outstanding examples of Greater Greece art and architecture, and is one of the main attractions of Sicily as well as a national monument of Italy. The area was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 1997. Much of the excavation and restoration of the temples was due to the efforts of archaeologist Domenico Antonio Lo Faso Pietrasanta (1783–1863), who was the Duke of Serradifalco from 1809 through 1812. The Archaeological and Landscape Park of the Valley of the Temples is the largest archaeological site in the world with 1,300 hectares.

Magnolia Grove (Greensboro, Alabama) Historic home in Greensboro, Alabama

Magnolia Grove is a historic Greek Revival mansion in Greensboro, Alabama. The house was named for the 15-acre (6.1 ha) grove of Southern magnolias in which it stands. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 11, 1973, due to its architectural and historical significance. It now serves as a historic house museum and is operated by the Alabama Historical Commission.

Roofline is used to describe the fascia, soffits, bargeboards, antefixes and cladding that forms the frontage immediately below the roof and the eaves of many homes and buildings. These are traditionally made from wood, but can be made of a variety of different materials, including plastic, such as polyvinyl chloride.