Echinus in the Classical Greek Orders

Latin: ‘bowl’.

The prominent rounded moulding below the abacus of a Greek Doric or Tuscan capital. The echinus is one of grooves of the the ‘necking’, which is the upper continuation of the shaft of the column; as such the echinus lies atop the necking and usually has a shape similar to a flat pillow or a circular block that bulges outwards towards the top to support the abacus.

“The echinus appears flat and splayed in early examples, deeper and with greater curve in later, more refined examples, and smaller and straight-sided in Hellenistc examples” (“Ancient Greek architecture” 2021). In the Doric order, the echinus is convex or a circular cushion-like stone. It features an ovolo moulding (a quarter-round convex), having an outline with several radii, whereas in the Ionic order, echinus is called cymatium; it has a a shape of circular moulding, decorated with an egg-and-dart motif, forming part of an capital between the volutes and under the balteus.

The term is also used to refer to the lower part of the head in Ionic order. More loosely, the echinus is any moulding of this type.

Featured image: Close-up on a capital of the Erechteum on the Acropolis of Athens, Greece. Corner Ionic capital with a diagonal volute or spirals, similar to those of the nautilus shell or ram’s horn, also showing details of the curved echinus, decorated with a stylized egg-and-dart ornament. Photo by © Guillaume Piolle (2008). CC BY-SA 3.0. Photo and caption source: “Ancient Greek architecture” (2021). In: Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia.


“Ancient Greek architecture” (2021). In: Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Available at <>. [Accessed 4th September, 2021].

“Classical order” (2021). In: Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Available at <>. [Accessed 4th September, 2021].

“Echinus” (2021). In: Wikipedia. Wolna Encyklopedia. Available at <>. [Accessed 4th September, 2021].

“Echinus. Definition&Meaning” (2021). In: Available at <>. [Accessed 4th September, 2021].

Lucie-Smith, E. (2003) The Thames & Hudson Dictionary of Art Terms. London: Thames & Hudson World of Art, pp. 79, 159.

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