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Acanthus leaves on Corinthian columns. Source: Aslan / Adobe Stock.

Acanthus: Why Old Buildings Use the Same Leaf Design (Video)


The leaf design found on old buildings, especially Corinthian columns, holds a fascinating secret. These leaves, known as acanthus leaves, are woven into the architecture, symbolizing the endurance of classical ornamentation. A myth recounted by Roman writer Vitruvius traces their origin: a basket of a young girl's favorite items placed on an acanthus plant grew leaves that inspired the creation of the Corinthian column. The acanthus leaves, able to grow from root cuttings, became a symbol of strength. They adorned Greek and Roman columns, with stylization erasing species distinctions. Despite centuries of change, the design remained constant, reflecting the acanthus' resilience.

Today, acanthus leaves continue to be celebrated, particularly in Western architecture. While various cultures draw on ancient references for columns, the classical template consistently incorporates these leaves. They represent the enduring legacy of a culture's design. The United States Capitol's columns, adorned with ornate acanthus leaves, serve as a prime example. As columns are replaced, the fate of these leaves remains uncertain. Nevertheless, their presence in classical architecture symbolizes the lasting impact of ancient traditions and the power of design to transcend time.

Top image: Acanthus leaves on Corinthian columns. Source: Aslan / Adobe Stock.

By Robbie Mitchell

Robbie Mitchell's picture


I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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