Socrates and Passive Solar in Greece

Socrates, the Greek father of philosophy known for his dialectical method of questioning, was also an astute observer of the sun’s movements.


Socrates, Courtesy of Wikipedia, Credit Eric Gaba

Over 2,300 years ago, Socrates pontificated:

“Now in houses with a south aspect, the sun’s rays penetrate into the porticos in winter, but in the summer the path of the sun is right over our heads and above the roof, so that there is shade. If, then, this is the best arrangement, we should build the south side loftier to get the winter sun and the north side lower to keep out the winter winds.”

Socrates was referring to the use of the overhang to block the summer sun from entering the building.


Aeschylus, Courtesy of Wikipedia

The ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus, who preceded Socrates by a hundred years, was even more blunt:

“Only primitives & barbarians lack knowledge of houses turned to face the Winter sun.”


What are they referring to?  Take a look at how the difference between the winter and summer sun.  The summer sun rotates high in the sky, while the winter sun travels a lower arc.



The Parthenon, Courtesy of Wikipedia, Taken from the South by Thermos

The massive ancient buildings of Greece have both thermal mass as well as southern facing orientations. They were not the only ancients who used the sun’s seasonal orientation to build.

The Anasazi also built passive solar homes and building complexes in Mesa Verde, Grand Gulch and Chaco Canyon.







Keya Lea

Keya Lea likes to spend time outside, enjoying the sun.

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1 Response

  1. jakko says:

    There is no such thing as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in a passive solar home. Even here in cloudy old Portland (the one on the left) you can get 60% of your winter heat from the sun, turn out the lights during the day, and live in sunshine whenever there is any. All y0ou need to make it lovely is a view.

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