Anta capital

Left image: Characteristic shape of the Doric anta capital.
Right image: Doric anta capital at the Athenian Treasury (circa 500 BCE).

An Anta capital is the crowning portion of an anta, the front edge of a supporting wall in Greek temple architecture. The anta is generally crowned by a stone block designed to spread the load from superstructure (entablature) it supports, called an "anta capitals" when it is structural, or sometimes "pilaster capital" if it is only decorative as often during the Roman period.

In order not to protude unduly from the wall, these anta capitals usually display a rather flat surface, so that the capital has more or less a brick-shaped structure overall. The anta capital can be more or less decorated depending on the artistic order it belongs to, with designs, at least in Greek architecture, often quite different from the design of the column capitals it stands next to. This difference disappeared with Roman times, when anta or pilaster capitals have design very similar to those of the column capitals.[1][2]

Doric anta capital

The Doric capital was designed in the continuity of the wall cornice. It is characterized by a broad neck, a beak molding and an abacus. Decoration is usually very sparse, except for the capitals displaying a transition with the Ionic order.[3]

Ionic anta capital

Left image: Characteristic design of the Ionic anta capital (essentially flat with straight horizontal moldings).
Right image: A characteristically rectangular Ionic anta capital, with extensive bands of floral patterns in prolongation of adjoining friezes at the Erechtheion (circa 410 BCE).
The Pataliputra capital with central flame palmette, a Hellenistic anta capital from India (3rd century BCE).

The Ionic anta capital is very different in that it is very rich in moldings. It remains however essentially brick-shaped. The Ionic anta capitals of the Erechtheion take the shape of very decorated brick-shaped capitals, with designs essentially in the continuity of wall cornices, with some additional horizontal moldings.

Some temples in Ionia tend to have a very different design of anta capital, flat at the fronts but with volutes on the side, giving them the shape of sofas, hence the name they sometimes take of "sofa capitals".[4] In this case the sides of the capital broaden upward, in a shape reminiscent of a couch or sofa.[5] These capital can also be described as pilaster capitals, which, strictly speaking, are normally decorative rather than structural components.[6]

In India, an anta capital of a quasi-Ionic type was discovered, and dated to the 3rd century BCE. It has a central flame palmette motif framed by Ionic volutes and placed between horizontal rows of decorative motifs. It is thought that its creation was due to the influence of the neighboring Seleucid Empire, or a nearby Hellenistic city such as Ai-Khanoum.[7]

Corinthian anta capital

Left image: Greek Corinthian anta capital.
Right image: Corinthian anta capital at the Niha Bekaa Roman Temple, 1st century AD.

Corinthian anta capital tend to be much closer to the designs of the columns, although often with a flattened composition: during the Greek period, Acanthus leaves are crowned by a central motif, such as a palmette, itself bracketed by volutes. This design was widely adopted in India for Indo-Corinthian capitals.

During the Greek period, anta capitals had designs different from those of column capital, but during Roman and later times this difference disappeared and both column and anta capitals has the same types of designs.[1][2] At the same time, decorative pilaster designs multiplied during Roman times, so that many of the Corinthian anta capital designs are actually purely decorative pilaster designs.


  1. 1 2 Meyer, F.S. A handbook of ornament. p. 214. ISBN 9781171715481. Retrieved 2016-11-16.
  2. 1 2 The Classical Language of Architecture by John Summerson, p.47 "Anta" entry
  3. Greek Architecture, Marquand, 1909 p.74
  4. Greek Architecture, Marquand, 1909 p.74-76
  5. "Architectural Elements, Emory University". Retrieved 2016-11-16.
  6. "The New and Improved Practical Builder: Masonery, bricklaying, plastering" Peter Nicholson, Thomas Kelly, 1837, p.68
  7. "These flat, splaying members with cavetto sides, have a long history in Greek architecture as anta capitals, and the rolls at upper and lower sides are also seen" John Boardman, "The Origins of Indian Stone Architecture", p.19 : "An interesting flat capital which, though differing from the classic forms, bears a distinct resemblance to the capitals of the pilasters of the Temple of Apollo Didymaeos at Miletos"



 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Antae". Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 88. 

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