Supposedly invented by Callimachus, the capital is essentially a bell-like core (campana) from which the acanthus-leaves, caules, helices, etc., sprout, reflecting its origin as vegetation growing from a basket capped with a slab. Among the earliest examples of the Greek Corinthian Order were the three (or possibly only one) at the end of the naos of the temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae (c.429–c.400 BC), but the beautiful capitals of the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates, Athens (334 BC), were among the most elegant ever designed (and probably the first to be used externally): they were much admired and copied after being recorded by Stuart and Revett in The Antiquities of Athens from 1762. The Lysicrates capital is taller than most other examples of the Order, with the shaft fillets terminating in leaf- or tongue-like forms over which is a recessed band (probably once filled with a metal collar), then a row of tongue-like leaves above which is a row of acanthus-leaves between each pair of which is a flower, and finally the exquisite volutes with an anthemion in the centre of each concave face of the moulded abacus. A simpler type of capital, often found in C18 work in Britain, was that of the Tower of the Winds (or Horologium of Andronicus Cyrrhus) in Athens (c.50BC), consisting of a row of acanthus-leaves then a row of palm-leaves, and finally a square abacus, with no volutes (see capital illustration (h)).
Greek column-shafts of this Order were invariably fluted. Not surprisingly, the Order has always been associated with Beauty. Taken as a whole, it was developed by the Romans into an expression of the grandest architectural show.
C. Normand (1852)
Corinthian order, most ornate of the classic orders of architecture. It was also the latest, not arriving at full development until the middle of the 4th cent. BC The oldest known example, however, is found in the temple of Apollo at Bassae (c.420 BC). The Greeks made little use of the order; the chief example is the circular structure at Athens known as the choragic monument of Lysicrates (335 BC). The temple of Zeus at Athens (started in the 2d cent. BC and completed by Emperor Hadrian in the 2d cent. AD) was perhaps the most notable of the Corinthian temples. The Greek Corinthian, aside from its distinctive capital, is similar to the Ionic, but the column is somewhat more slender. The capital, which may have been especially devised for circular structures, is of uncertain origin. Callimachus is the legendary originator of the design. The delicate foliated details make plausible an original in metalwork. The Romans used the Corinthian order in numerous monumental works of imperial architecture. They gave it a special base, made carved additions to the cornice, and created numerous capital variations, utilizing florid leafage and sometimes human and animal figures. The prevailing form of Roman Corinthian is seen in the Pantheon and the Maison Carrée, and it was embodied in the order as later systematized by the Italian writers of the Renaissance (e.g., Vignola). The capital joined acanthus leaves and volutes, scroll-shaped forms, in an intricate combination, and Renaissance sculptors and metalworkers, especially in Italy, France, and Spain, found in its complexity a medium for their full virtuosity. The volutes either became mere light scrolls or were replaced by birds, rams' heads, or grotesque figures. The composite order, so named by the 16th-century codifiers, is actually only a variation of the Corinthian, devised by the Romans as early as the 1st cent. AD by forming a capital in which were combined both Corinthian foliage and the volutes and echinus, or rounded molding, of the four-cornered type of Ionic. For the other Greek orders see Doric order and Ionic order.