Built In Art magazine


acanthus in antique rome

The acanthus is one of the most common plant of Mediterranean and a form for foliage ornament and decoration in classical architecture.


Plant of the genus Acanthus, native to tropical and warm temperate regions and having pinnately lobed basal leaves with spiny margins and showy spikes of white or purplish flowers.


Foliage has commonly been used as ornament by classical architecture. Stylized acanthus leaves is one of the most commun motif that appeared in Greek , Roman and neo-classical architecture. One of the best exemple is the capital of the Corinthian column (See Temple of Zeus in Athens.) Acanthus folliage motif was often mixed with palmette mofif. (See anthemion.)

Acanthus leaves were used by the Greeks in funerary architecture from the 5th century B.C. The thorny form of the leaves were a symbol of the pricly journey from life to death.


Acantha was a nymph loved by Apollo who turned her into an acanthus plant when she refused to be his lover.

acanthus motif
acanthus greek capital athens
Temple of Zeus, Athens
acanthus ornament capital tarente
Sphinx capital with acanthus motif, Metropolitan Museum of Art
acanthus corinthian capital
Corinthians order capital with an acanthus foliage motif, Rome circa 25 BC
acanthus frieze with egg and dart
Roman acanthus frieze with egg and dart, Rome 1st c. BC
acanthus frieze
Pergamon museum, Berlin
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