This thesis studies the use of polygonal columns in Greek architecture from the Geometric to the Hellenistic period. The main purpose of the research is to study the development, distribution, design, function and use of polygonal columns in order to create a new understanding on how they fit in the development of Greek architecture. The study is based mainly on measurements documented during archeological fieldwork or from excavation reports, and it addresses a critical gap in our current knowledge of Greek architecture since no comparative study focusing on this type of column has previously been conducted.

Polygonal or faceted columns have multi-sided shafts with flat sides of equal width. Many polygonal columns were used as status symbols, and so were placed in important monumental buildings. They were also used in combination with fluted columns and could be manufactured from expensive materials such as marble. Polygonal columns were probably cheaper to produce than their fluted counterparts, but expensive compared with the production of functional pillars and supports. The decision to use polygonal rather than round or fluted columns was probably an intentional choice. Furthermore, the development of the polygonal column does not follow the same trajectory of design as that of shafts and capitals on round or fluted columns, and so this design should therefore be studied in its own right.

Polygonal columns were used throughout the ancient Greek world. Six groups can be identified on the basis of their shape and design, their functions, geography and chronology. Each group had its own local development in terms of style and use. First, octagonal columns with Doric octagonal capitals from the Peloponnese, the coastal islands and the southern Greek mainland in use from the Geometric to Classical period. Second, octagonal columns with Doric octagonal capitals from Hellenistic Epirus and southern Illyria. Third, Hellenistic octagonal columns with Doric octagonal capitals from other regions. Fourth, eight-sided faceted columns from Greece, Anatolia and the Tauric peninsula during the Archaic to the Hellenistic period. Fifth, Hellenistic 20- and 24-sided polygonal columns with Doric capitals in the Aegean islands and Anatolia. Sixth, polygonal columns with local capitals in Archaic Cyprus. In addition, there is evidence of the use of polygonal columns scattered around towns in the Mediterranean region. In most cases, their design and shape can be connected to one of the main regions mentioned above.

Polygonal columns follow the general development of manufacturing techniques in Greek architecture and were used in the same manner as fluted Doric columns. Polygonal shafts were used with Doric capitals in Doric buildings from the Archaic period, but they were never used with other polygonal architectural members. They were, however, sometimes used in combination with capitals from other architectural styles, but since Doric capitals were aesthetically easier to adapt to a polygonal shape, they were usually the preferred choice. Historically, it has been suggested that polygonal columns were a simple precursor to later more complex designs and/or a more economical alternative to fluted columns; these hypotheses are contradicted by the evidence presented in this study. Polygonal columns, with their aesthetically distinctive design, seem instead to be one of the many local variations that were used in Greek architecture.