[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
mail:
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Clicca hic ad Latinam paginam legendam.]
Latine

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]
Italiano

[Link to a series of help pages]
Help
[Link to the next level up]
Up
[Link to my homepage]
Home

[image ALT: link to previous section]
Book V
[image ALT: a blank space]
This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though, let me know!
Drawings and other material remain to be added.

[image ALT: link to next section]
Book VII

Marcus Vitruvius Pollio:
de Architectura, Book VI

Introduction

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 1. Aristippus, the Socratic philosopher, shipwrecked on the coast of Rhodes, perceiving some diagrams thereon, is reported to have exclaimed to his companions, "Be of good courage, I see marks of civilization": and straightaway making for the city of Rhodes, he arrived at the Gymnasium; where, disputing on philosophical subjects, he obtained such honours, that he not only provided for himself, but furnished clothing and food to his companions. When his companions had completed their arrangements for returning home, and asked what message he wished to send to his friends, he desired them to say: that the possessions and provision to be made for children should be those which can be preserved in case of shipwreck;

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 2. inasmuch as those things are the real supports of life which the chances of fortune, the changes of public affairs, and the devastation of war, cannot injure. Thus, also, Theophrastus, following up the sentiment that the learned ought to be more honoured than the rich, says, "that the learned man is the only person who is not a stranger in foreign countries, nor friendless when he has lost his relations; but that in every state he is a citizen, and that he can look upon a change of fortune without fear. But he who thinks himself secured by the aid of wealth, and not of learning, treads on slippery ground, and leads and unstable and insecure life."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 3. Epicurus also says, that fortune is of little assistance to the wise, since all that is of consequence or necessary may be obtained by the exercise of the mind and understanding. The poets, not less than the philosophers, have argued in this way; and those who formerly wrote the Greek comedies delivered the same sentiments in verse; as Euchrates, Chionides, Aristophanes, and above all, Alexis, who said, that the Athenians deserved particular commendation, since, inasmuch as the laws of all the Greeks make it imperative on children to support their parents, those of the Athenians are only obligatory on those children who have been instructed, by the care of their parents, in some art. Such as possess the gifts of fortune are easily deprived of them: but when learning is once fixed in the mind, no age removes it, nor is its stability affected during the whole course of life. a

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 4. I therefore feel myself under infinite obligations, and am grateful to my parents, who, adopting the practice of the Athenians, took care that I should be taught an art, and one of such a nature that it cannot be practised without learning and a general knowledge of the sciences. Since, then, by my parents' care, and by the instruction of masters, I had the means afforded me of acquiring knowledge, and was naturally delighted with literary and philosophical subjects, I laid up those stores in my mind, from the use of which I enjoy the advantage of wanting no more, and the value of riches consists in having nothing to wish for. But some thinking, perhaps, lightly of these things, suppose those only are wise who have plenty of money. Hence, may, aiming at that end alone, have, by the aid of their assurance, acquired notoriety from their riches.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 5. But I, Cæsar, have not sought to amass wealth by the practice of my art, having been rather contented with a small fortune and reputation, than desirous of abundance accompanied by a want of reputation. It is true that I have acquired but little; yet I still hope, by this publication, to become known to posterity. Neither is it wonderful that I am known but to a few. Other architects canvass, and go about soliciting employment, but my preceptors instilled into me a sense of the propriety of being requested, and not of requesting, to be entrusted, inasmuch as the ingenuous man will blush and feel shame in asking a favour; for the givers of a favour and not the receivers, are courted. What must be suspect who is solicited by another to be entrusted with the expenditure of his money, but that it is done for the sake of gain and emolument.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 6. Hence the antientsº entrusted their works to those architects only who were of good family and well brought up; thinking it better to trust the modest, than the bold and arrogant, man. These artists only instructed their own children or relations, having regard to their integrity, so that property might be safely committed to their charge. When, therefore, I see this noble science in the hands of the unlearned and unskilful, of men not only ignorant of architecture, but of every thing relative to buildings, I cannot blame proprietors, who, relying on their own intelligence, are their own architects; since, if the business is to be conducted by the unskilful, there is at least more satisfaction in laying out money at one's own pleasure, rather than at that of another person.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 7. No one thinks of practising at home any art (as that of a shoemaker or fuller, for instance, or others yet easier) except that of an architect; and that because many who profess the art are not really skilled in it, but are falsely called architects. These things have induced me to compose a treatise on architecture and its principles, under an idea that it would be acceptable to all persons. As in the fifth book I treated on the construction of public works, I shall in this explain the arrangement and symmetry of private buildings.

Chapter 1

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 1. These are properly designed, when due regard is had to the country and climate in which they are erected. For the method of building which is suited to Egypt would be very improper in Spain, and that in use in Pontus would be absurd at Rome: so in other parts of the world a style suitable to one climate, would be very unsuitable to another: for one part of the world is under the sun's course, another is distant from it, and another, between the two, is temperate. Since, therefore, from the position of the heaven in respect of the earth, from the inclination of the zodiac and from the sun's course, the earth varies in temperature in different parts, so the form of buildings must be varied according to the temperature of the place, and the various aspects of the heavens.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 2. In the north, buildings should be arched, enclosed as much as possible, and not exposed, and it seems proper that they should face the warmer aspects. Those under the sun's course in southern countries where the heat is oppressive, should be exposed and turned towards the north and east. Thus the injury which nature would effect, is evaded by means of art. So, in other parts, due allowance is to be made, having regard to their position, in respect of the heavens.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 3. This, however, is determined by consideration of the nature of the place and observations made on the limbs and bodies of the inhabitants. For where the sun acts with moderate heat, it keeps the body at a temperate warmth, where it is hot from the proximity of the sun, all moisture is dried up: lastly, in cold countries which are distant from the south, the moisture is not drawn out by the heat, but the dewy air, insinuating its dampness into the system, increases the size of the body, and makes the voice more grave. This is the reason why the people of the north are so large in stature, so light in complexion, and have straight red hair, blue eyes, and are full of blood, for they are thus formed by the abundance of the moisture, and the coldness of their country.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 4. Those who live near the equator, and are exactly under the sun's course, are, owing to its power, low in stature, of dark complexion, with curling hair, black eyes, weak legs, deficient in quantity of blood. And this deficiency of blood makes them timid when opposed in battle, but they bear excessive heat and fevers without fear, because their limbs are nourished by heat. Those, however, born in northern countries are timid and weak when attacked by fever, but from their sanguineous habit of body more courageous in battle.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 5. The pitch of the voice is various, and of different qualities in different nations. For the eastern and western boundaries round the level of the earth, where the upper is divided from the under part of the world, and the earth appears to be balanced by nature, are designated by a circle which mathematicians call the horizon; keeping this circumstance in mind, from the edge on the northern extremity, let a line be drawn to that above the southern axis, and therefrom another in an oblique direction up to the pole near the northern stars, and we shall immediately perceive the principle of the triangular instrument called by the Greeks σαμβύκη.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 6. Thus the people who live in the region near the lower point, that is in the southern part towards the equator, from the small elevation of the pole have shrill and high toned voices similar to those on the instrument near the angle; next come those whose tone of voice is of lower pitch, such as the people in the central parts of Greece. Thus, proceeding by degrees from the middle to the northern extremity, the voice of the inhabitants gradually becomes of lower pitch. Herein we may perceive how the system of the world is harmonically arranged, by the obliquity of the zodiac from the appropriate temperature of the sun.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 7. Hence those who are in the middle, between the equator and the pole, are gifted with a middle pitch of voice, similar to the tones in the central part of the musical diagram. Advancing to the northern nations, where the pole is more elevated, the people, from an increased quantity of moisture, naturally possess lower toned voices, similar to the hypatè and the proslambanomenos. And finally, those nations extending from the middle regions to the south have shrill and acute voices similar to the tones of paranetè and netè.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 8. That the tone of the voice is rendered deeper by the damp nature of a place, and higher by its being of a hot nature, may be proved by the following experiment. Let two vases be selected, both equally baked in a furnace, of equal weight, and yielding the same tone, and one of them be immersed in water and then taken out: let both of them be then struck, and a great difference will be perceived in the tones they yield, as well as an inequality in their weight. Thus it is with the human body; for although all men are born of the same form, and under the same heaven, yet some from the warmth of the climate are shrill in voice, and others from a superabundance of moisture have a low tone of voice.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 9. So moreover, from the clearness of the atmosphere, aided also by the intense heat, the southern nations are more ready and quick in expedients: but the northern nations, oppressed by a gross atmosphere, and cooled by the moisture of the air, are of duller intellect. That this is so, may be proved from the nature of serpents, which in the hot season, when the cold is dispelled by the heat, move with great activity, but in the rainy and winter seasons, from the coldness of the air, they become torpid. Hence it is not surprising that man's intellect should be sharpened by heat and blunted by a cold atmosphere.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 10. Though, however, the southern nations are quick in understanding, and sagacious in council, yet in point of valour they are inferior, for the sun absorbs their animal spirits. Those, on the contrary, who are natives of cold climates are more courageous in war, and fearlessly attack their enemies, though, rushing on without consideration or judgment, their attacks are repulsed and their designs frustrated. Since, then, nature herself has provided throughout the world, that all nations should differ according to the variation of the climate, she has also been pleased that in the middle of the earth, and of all nations, the Roman people should be seated;

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 11. on this account the people of Italy excel in both qualities, strength of body and vigour of mind. For as the planet Jupiter moves through a temperate region between the fiery Mars and icy Saturn, so Italy enjoys a temperate and unequalled climate between the north on one side, and the south on the other. Hence it is, that by stratagem she is enabled to repress the attacks of the barbarians, and by her strength to overcome the subtilty of southern nations. Divine providence has so ordered it that the metropolis of the Roman people is placed in an excellent and temperate climate, whereby they have become the masters of the world.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 12. Since, then, it is climate which causes the variety in different countries, and the dispositions of the inhabitants, their stature and qualities are naturally dissimilar, there can be no doubt that the arrangement of buildings should be suitable to the qualities of the nations and people, as nature herself wisely and clearly indicates. To the best of my power I have made general observations on the properties of places as dependent upon nature, and I have given explanations for adapting buildings to the wants of different nations according to the sun's course and the inclination of the pole. I shall now, therefore, briefly explain the symmetry, as well of the whole, as of the detail of private dwellings.

Chapter 2

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 1. Nothing requires the architect's care more than the due proportions of buildings. When the proportions are adjusted, and the dimensions found by calculation, then it is the part of a skilful man to consider the nature of the place, the purpose of the building, and the beauty of it; and either by diminutions or additions to find expedients, by means of which the appearance may not be injured by the additions to, or diminutions of, the established proportions that may be necessary.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 2. For an object under the eye will appear very different from the same object placed above it; in an inclosed space, very different from the same in an open space. In all these matters it requires great judgment to adopt the proper means, since the eye does not always form to itself the true image of an object, and the mind is often deceived by the false impression. Thus in painted scenery, though the surface is a perfect plane, the columns seem to advance forward, the projections of the mutuli are represented, and figures seem to stand out. The oars of ships, also, though the parts immersed in the water are really straight, have the appearance of being broken; those parts only appearing straight which are above the level of the water. This arises from the part immersed in the water reflecting its image in an undulating state up to the surface of the water, through a transparent medium, which, being there agitated, gives the oar a broken appearance.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 3. But whether the sight arises from the impression which images make on the eye, or by an effusion of visual rays from the eye, as naturalists contend, it is certain that, in some way or other, the eye is often deceived.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 4. Since, then, some images are falsely conveyed, and others appear different from what they really are, I think it beyond doubt, that, according to nature and the circumstances of the place, diminutions or additions should be made, so that no defect may be apparent. To do this, however, is the result of genius, not the result of learning.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 5. The proportion of the symmetries is, therefore, to be first settled, so that thereon the necessary changes may be made with certainty. Then the length and breadth of the plan of the work is to be set out, and the parts thereof; after which, the proportions are adjusted as propriety requires, so that the pleasing arrangement may not be disturbed. The method of effecting this I am now about to describe, and shall begin with the court (cavædium).

Chapter 3

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 1. There are five species of courts; which receive their names from their forms. The Tuscan, Corinthian, the Tetrastylôn (with four columns), the Displuviatum (open at top), and the Testudinatum (roofed). The Tuscan cavædia are those in which the beams across the breadth of the court have trimmers (interpensivæ) to them, and valleys (colliquiæ) from the internal angles of the wall to the angles formed by the junctions of the beams and trimmers. Thus the rain falls into the middle of the court from the eaves of the rafters. In the Corinthian cavædium, the beams and uncovered middle of the court (compluvium) are as in the foregoing; but the beams around are detached from the walls, and rest on columns. The tetrastyle are those from wherein columns are placed under the beams at the angles, which give strength and support to the beams; for thus they are not so liable to sag with their own weight, nor are they loaded by the trimmers.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 2. The displuviatum is that in which the water is carried off above the gutter plates (deliquiæ), which support the body of the roof. These are useful for winter apartments, because the compluvium being upright, the light of the triclinia is not obstructed. But they are constantly in want of repair; for the pipes which receive the water from the eaves being against the wall, and not capable of taking, at once, the water which should be carried off, it overflows from the check it meets, and injures the wood-work and wall in this sort of buildings. The roofed court is used when the span is not great, and large dwelling-rooms are made in the floor over it.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 3. The length and breadth of courts (atria) are regulated in three ways. The first is, when the length is divided into five parts, and three of them are given to the width. The second, when it is divided into three parts, and two are given to the width. The third is, when a square being described whose side is equal to the width, a diagonal line is drawn therein, the length of which is to be equal to the length of the atrium.b

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 4. Their height, to the underside of the beams, is to be one-fourth less than the length; the remaining fourth is assigned for the proportion of the lacunaria and roof above the beams. The width of the alæ, on the right and left, when the atrium is from thirty to forty feet long, is to be one third part thereof. From forty to fifty feet, the length must be divided into three parts and a half; of these, one is given to the alæ: but when the length is from fifty to sixty feet, a fourth part thereof is given to the alæ. From sixty to eighty feet, the length is divided into four parts and a half, of which one part is the width of the alæ. From eighty feet to one hundred, the length is divided into five parts, and one of them is the true width of the alæ. The lintel beams (trabes liminares) are placed at a height which will make the breadths and heights equal.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 5. The muniment-room (tablinum), if the width of the atrium be twenty feet, is to be two thirds thereof. If from thirty to forty feet wide, one half is assigned to the tablinum. From forty to sixty feet, the width is divided into five parts, and two given to the tablinum. The proportions of small atria cannot be the same as those of large ones; for if the proportions of the smaller be used in the greater, the tablinum, as well as the alæ, would be inconvenient: and if those of the larger be used in the smaller, their parts would be large and clumsy. I therefore thought it right to describe, with precision, their respective proportions, so that they might be both commodious and beautiful.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 6. The height of the tablinum to the beam is one eighth part more than the breadth. The lacunaria are carried up one-third of the width higher. The passages (fauces) towards courts which are on a smaller scale, are to be one-third less than the width of the tablinum; but if larger, they are to be one half. The statues, with their ornaments, are to be placed at a height equal to the width of the alæ. The proportions of the height and width of the doors, if Doric, are to be formed in that method: if Ionic, according to the Ionic mode, agreeably to the rules given for doors in the fourth book. The width of the uncovered part of the atrium (impluvii lumen) is not to be less than a fourth nor more than one-third of the width of the same; its length will be in proportion to that of the atrium.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 7. The cloister (peristylium) is transversely one third part longer than across. The columns are to be as high as the width of the portico; and the intercolumniations of the peristylia are not to be less than three nor more than four diameters of the columns. But if the columns of a peristylium are of the Doric order, modules are taken, and the triglyphs arranged thereby, as described in the fourth book.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 8. The length of a triclinium is to be double its breadth. The height of all oblong rooms is thus regulated: add their length and breadth together, of which take one half, and it will give the dimension of the height. If, however, exedræ or oeci are square, their height is equal to once and a half their width. Pinacothecæ (picture rooms), as well as exedræ, should be of large dimensions. The Corinthian tetrastyle and Egyptian oeci (halls) are to be proportioned similarly to the triclinia, as above described; but inasmuch as columns are used in them, they are built of larger dimensions.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 9. There is this difference between the Corinthian and Egyptian oecus. The former has a single order of columns, and over it architraves and cornices, either of wood or plaster, and a semicircular ceiling above the cornice. In the Egyptian oecus, over the lower columns is an architrave, from which to the surrounding wall is a boarded and paved floor, so as to form a passage round it in the open air. Then perpendicularly over the architrave of the lower columns, columns one fourth smaller are placed. Above their architraves and cornices they are decorated with ceilings, and windows are placed between the upper columns. Thus they have the appearance of basilicæ, rather than of Corinthian triclinia.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 10. Oeci are sometimes constructed differently from those of Italy; the Greeks call them κυζίκηνοι. º They face the north, with a prospect towards the gardens, and have doors in the middle. They are of such length and breadth that two tables (triclinia) with their accessories may stand on them opposite to each other. The windows, as well on the right as on the left, are to open like doors, so that the verdure may be seen through them whilst the guests recline on the couches. The height of them is equal to once and a half the width.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 11. In these apartments, convenience must regulate the proportions. If the windows are not obscured by high walls adjoining, they may be easily contrived. But if any impediment occur, either through nearness of adjoining buildings or other obstruction, some ingenuity and skill will be requisite to diminish or increase their established proportions, so as to produce a pleasing effect not apparently different therefrom.

Chapter 4

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 1. I shall now describe how the different sorts of buildings are placed as regards their aspects. Winter triclinia and baths are to face the winter west,ºbecause the afternoon light is wanted in them; and not less so because the setting sun casts its rays upon them, and but its heat warms the aspect towards the evening hours. Bed chambers and libraries should be towards the east, for their purposes require the morning light: in libraries the books are in this aspect preserved from decay; those that are towards the south and west are injured by the worm and by the damp, which the moist winds generate and nourish, and spreading the damp, make the books mouldy.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 2. Spring and autumn triclinia should be towards the east, for then, if the windows be closed till the sun has passed the meridian, they are cool at the time they are wanted for use. Summer triclinia should be towards the north, because that aspect, unlike others, is not heated during the summer solstice, but, on account of being turned away from the course of the sun, is always cool, and affords health and refreshment. Pinacothecæ should have the same aspect, as well as rooms for embroidering and painting, that the colours used therein, by the equability of the light, may preserve their brilliancy.

Chapter 5

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 1. The aspects proper for each part being appropriated, we must determine the situation of the private rooms for the master of the house, and those which are for general use, and for the guests. Into those which are private no one enters, except invited; such are bed chambers, triclinia, baths, and others of a similar nature. The common rooms, on the contrary, are those entered by any one, even unasked. Such are the vestibule, the cavædium, the peristylia, and those which are for similar uses. Hence, for a person of middling condition in life, magnificent vestibules are not necessary, nor tablina, nor atria, because persons of that description are those who seek favours which are granted by the higher ranks.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 2. Those, however, who have to lay up stores that are the produce of the country, should have stalls and shops in their vestibules: under their houses they should have vaults (cryptæ), granaries (horrea), store rooms (apothecæ), and other apartments, suited rather to preserve such produce, than to exhibit a magnificent appearance. The houses of bankers and receivers of the revenue may be more commodious and elegant, and well secured from the attacks of thieves. For advocates, and men of literature, houses ought to be still handsomer and more spacious, to allow the reception of persons on consultations. But for nobles, who in bearing honours, and discharging the duties of the magistracy, must have much intercourse with the citizens, princely vestibules must be provided, lofty atria, and spacious peristylia, groves, and extensive walks, finished in a magnificent style. In addition to these, libraries, pinacothecæ, and basilicæ, of similar form to those which are made for public use, are to be provided; for in the houses of the noble, the affairs of the public, and the decision and judgment of private causes are often determined.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 3. If, therefore, houses are erected, thus adapted to the different classes of society, as directed in the first book under the head of propriety, there will be nothing to reprehend, for they will be suitable to their destination. These rules are no less applicable to country than to town dwellings, except that in town the atria must be close to the gates, whereas, in the country villa, the peristylium is near the entrance, then the atrium, with paved porticos round it looking towards the palæstra and walk. I have thus briefly described the proportions of town residences as I promised. I shall now proceed to those of houses in the country, so that they may afford the requisite accommodation.

Chapter 6

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 1. First of all the salubrity of the situation must be examined, according to the rules given in the first book for the position of a city, and the site may be then determined. Their size should be dependent on the extent of the land attached to them, and its produce. The courts and their dimensions will be determined by the number of cattle, and the yokes of oxen employed. The kitchen is to be placed in the warmest part of the court; adjoining to this are placed the stalls for oxen, with the mangers at the same time towards the fire and towards the east, for oxen with their faces to the light and fire do not become rough-coated. Hence it is that husbandmen, who are altogether ignorant of the nature of aspects, think that oxen should look towards no other region than that of the east.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 2. The width of the stalls should not be less than ten feet, nor more than fifteen; lengthwise, each yoke is to be at least seven feet. The baths should be contiguous to the kitchen, for they will be then serviceable also for agricultural purposes. The press-room should also be near the kitchen, for the convenience of expressing the oil from the olive; and near that the cellar, lighted from the north, for if it have any opening through which the heat of the sun can penetrate, the wine affected by the heat becomes vapid.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 3. The oil room is to be lighted from the southern and warmer parts of the heaven, that the oil may not be congealed, but be preserved liquid by means of a gentle heat. Its size must be proportioned to the quantity of fruit yielded on the estate, and the number of vessels, which, if of twenty amphoræ (cullearia), are about four feet diameter. The press, if worked by levers instead of screws, should occupy an apartment not less than forty feet long, so as to allow room for the revolution of the levers. Its width must not be less than sixteen feet, which will give ample room to turn and expedite the work. If two presses are employed, the width must be twenty-four feet.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 4. The sheep and goat houses are to be constructed so that not less than ºan area of four feet and a half, nor more than six feet, be allotted to each animal. The granaries are raised, and must be towards the north or east, so that the grain may not heat, but be preserved by the coolness of the air; if towards other aspects, the weevil, and other insects injurious to corn,º will be generated. The stable, especially in the villa, should be in the warmest place, and not with an aspect towards the fire, for if horses are stalled near a fire, their coats soon become rough.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 5. Hence those stalls are excellent which are away from the kitchen in the open space towards the east; for when the weather is clear in the winter season, the cattle brought thither in the morning to feed, may be then rubbed down. The barn, hay-room, meal-room, and mill, may be without the boundaries of the villa, which will be thereby rendered more secure from fire. If villas are required to be erected of more magnificence than ordinary, they must be formed according to the proportions laid down for town houses above described, but with the precautions necessary to prevent the purposes of a country house being interfered with.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 6. Care should be taken that all buildings are well lighted: in those of the country this point is easily accomplished, because the wall of a neighbour is not likely to interfere with the light. But in the city the height of party walls, or the narrowness of the situation may obscure the light. In this case we should proceed as follows. In that direction from which the light is to be received, let a line be drawn from the top of the obstructing wall, to that part where the light is to be introduced, and if, looking upwards along that line, a large space of open sky be seen, the light may be obtained from that quarter without fear of obstruction thereof;

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 7. but if there be any impediment from beams, lintels, or floors, upper lights must be opened, and the light thus introduced. In short, it may be taken as a general rule, that where the sky is seen, in such part apertures are to be left for windows, so that the building may be light. Necessary as light may be in triclinia and other apartments, not less is it so in passages, ascents, and staircases, in which persons carrying loads frequently meet each other. I have explained to the best of my ability the arrangement used in our buildings, so that it may be clearly known by builders, and in order that the Greek arrangement may be also understood, I shall now briefly explain it.

Chapter 7

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 1. The Greeks using no atrium, and not building as we do, make a passage, of no great breadth, from the entrance gate, on one side whereof the stable is placed, and on the other the porter's rooms, which immediately adjoin the inner gates. The space between the two gates, is, by the Greeks, called θυρωρεῖον. From this you enter into the peristylium, which has a portico on three sides. On that side facing the south are two antæ, at a considerable distance apart, which carry beams, and the recess behind them is equal to one-third less than their distance from each other. This part is called προστὰς (prostas) by some, and by others παραστὰς (parastas).

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 2. Interior to this the great oecus is placed, in which the mistress of the family sits with the spinsters. On the right and left of the prostas are the bed-chambers, of which one is called the thalamus, the other the antithalamus. Round the porticos are the triclinia for common use, the bed chambers, and other apartments for the family. This part of the building receives the name of Gynæconitis.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 3. Adjoining this is a larger house, with a more spacious peristylium, in which there are four porticos equal in height, though that towards the south may have higher columns. If a peristylium have one portico higher than the rest, it is called a Rhodian portico. These houses have magnificent vestibules, elegant gates, and the porticos of the peristylia are decorated with stucco and plastering, and with inlaid ceilings. In the porticos to the north the cyziceni, triclinia, and pinacothecæ, are situated. The libraries are on the east side, the exedræ on the west, and to the south are the square oeci, of such ample dimensions that there is room therein for four triclinia and the attendants on them, as well as for the games.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 4. These oeci are used only for entertainments given to men; for it is not the practice with women to recline on a couch at dinner. The peristylium, and this part of the house, is called Andronitis, because the men employ themselves therein without interruption from the women. On the right and left, moreover, are small sets of apartments, each having its own door, triclinium, and bed-chamber, so that on the arrival of guests they need not enter the peristylium, but are received in rooms (hospitalia) appropriated to their occupation. For when the Greeks were more refined, and possessed greater wealth, they provided a separate table with triclinia and bed-chambers for their guests. On the day of their arrival they were invited to dinner, and were afterwards supplied with poultry, eggs, herbs, fruits, and other produce of the country. Hence the painters gave the name of Xenia to those pictures which represent the presents made to guests. Masters of families therefore, living in these apartments, were quite, as it were, at home, being at liberty to do as they pleased therein.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 5. Between the peristylium and the lodging rooms are passages, which are called Mesaulæ, from their situation between two aulæ (halls). By us these are called Andrones. But it is remarkable that this appellation seems to suit neither the Greek nor the Latin terms. For the Greeks call the oeci, in which male guests are entertained, ἀνδρῶνες, because the women do not enter them. There are other discrepancies similar to this, as the xystus, prothyrum, telamones, and others of that sort: ξυστὸς, in Greek means a portico of large dimensions, in which athletæ exercise in the winter season: we, on the contrary, call by the name of xysti those open walks which the Greeks call περιδρόμιδες. The vestibule in front of a house, by the gates, is called prothyrum to that which the Greeks call διάθυρον (diathyrum).

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 6. We call telamones those figures placed for the support of mutuli or cornices, but on what account is not found in history. The Greeks, however, call them ἄτλαντες (atlantes). Atlas, according to history, is represented in the act of sustaining the universe, because he is said to have been the first person who explained to mankind the sun's course, that of the moon, the rising and setting of the stars, and the celestial motions, by the power of his mind and the acuteness of his understanding. Hence it is, that, by painters and sculptors, he is, for his exertions, represented as bearing the world: and his daughters, the Atlantides, whom we call Vergiliæ, and the Greeks, Πλειάδες, were honoured by being placed among the constellations.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 7. I mention these things, not to induce persons to change the names at this period, but that they may be known to philologists. I explained the different arrangement of buildings after the practice of the Italians, as well as that of the Greeks, by giving the proportions and division of each; and, as we have already laid down the principles of beauty and propriety, we shall now consider the subject of strength, by which a building may be without defects, and durable.

Chapter 8

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 1. In those buildings which are raised from the level of the ground, if the foundations are laid according to the rules given in the preceding books for the construction of wall and theatres, they will be very durable; but if under-ground apartments (hypogea) and vaults are to be built, their foundations must be thicker than the wall of the upper part of the edifice, which, as well as the pilasters and columns, must stand vertically over the middle of the foundations below, so that they may be on the solid part. For if the weight of the wall or columns have a false bearing, they cannot last long.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 2. It is, moreover, a good practice to place posts under the lintels, between the piers and pilasters; for when lintels and beams are loaded, they sag in the middle, and cause fractures in the work above: but when posts are introduced and wedged up under them, the beams are prevented from sagging and being injured.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 3. Care also should be taken to discharge the weight of the wall by arches consisting of wedges concentrically arranged; for if these are turned over beams or lintels, the beam, being relieved from the weight, will not sag; and when afterwards it is decayed through age, it may be easily replaced, without the necessity of shores.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 4. So in buildings, which are constructed on piers and arches, consisting of wedges whose joints are concentric, the outer piers should be wider than the others, that they may have more power to resist the action of the wedges, which, loaded with the weight of the superincumbent wall, press towards the centre, and have a tendency to thrust out the abutments. But if the outer piers be of large dimensions, by restraining the power of the wedges they will give stability to the work.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 5. Having paid due attention to these points, care must next be taken, and particularly is it to be observed, that the work be carried up perpendicularly and without inclination in any part. The greatest attention must be bestowed on the lower parts of the wall, which are often damaged by the earth lying against them. This is not always of the same weight as in summer; for in the winter season, imbibing a great quantity of water from the rain, it increases in weight and bulk, and breaks and extrudes the wall.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 6. To remedy this evil, the thickness of the wall must be proportioned to the weight of earth against it, and, in front, counterforts (anterides) or buttresses (erismæ) are carried up with the wall, at a distance from each other equal to the height of the foundations, and of the same width as the foundations. Their projection at bottom is equal in thickness to the wall, and diminishing as they rise, their projection at top is equal to the thickness of the work:

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 7. adjoining the inside of the wall, towards the mass of ground, teeth similar to those of a saw are constructed, each of which projects from the wall a distance equal to the height of the foundations, and their thickness is to be equal to that of the foundation wall. An extent equal to the height of the foundations is taken at the outer angles, and marked by points on each side; and through these a diagonal is drawn, on which a wall is carried up, and from the middle of this another is attached to the angle of the wall. The teeth and diagonal wall being thus constructed, will discharge the weight of earth from the wall, by distributing its pressure over a large surface.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 8. Thus I have described the precautions to be taken at the beginning of a building, to prevent defects. The same importance does not attach to the roof, with its beams and rafters, because if these at any time are found defective, they may be easily changed. I have also explained how those parts which are not built solid are to be strengthened.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 9. The quality of the materials it is not in the power of the architect to control: for the same species of materials are not found in every place; and it depends on the employer whether the building shall be of brick, of rough stone, or of squared stone. The merit of every work is considered under three heads; the excellence of the workmanship, and the magnificence and design thereof. When a work is conducted as magnificently as possible, its cost is admired; when well built, the skill of the workman is praised; when beautifully, the merit belongs to the architect, on account of the proportion and symmetry which enter into the design.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 10. These will ever be apparent when he submits to listen to the opinions even of workmen, and ignorant persons. For other men, as well as architects, can distinguish the good from the bad; but between the ignorant man and the architect there is this difference, that the first can form no judgment till he sees the thing itself; whereas the architect, having a perfect idea in his mind, can perceive the beauty, convenience, and propriety of his design, before it is begun. I have laid down as clearly as I could the rules necessary for the construction of private buildings: in the following book I shall treat of the method of finishing them, so that they may be elegant and durable.


Thayer's Notes:

a Leaving aside the questions of whether one's knowledge is (a) real, (b) of any use; the ancients realized of course that the diseases of old age — Alzheimer's and others — could totally undo one's store of it, with a very sad result. A great teacher of grammar, L. Orbilius Pupilius, is reported by Suetonius (Grammarians, 9) to have lived to nearly a hundred but having by that time long lost his memory:

Orbilius then, where is he now, that black hole of literature?

b The length and breadth of courts are regulated in three ways: ⅗, ⅔, and 1/1.414… These proportions fall in a narrow range (from 0.6 to roughly 0.7), and are all in fact approximations to the golden section φ = 0.618… Under the third construction one senses a sort of forced fascination with Pythagorean mathematics again: although it yields the poorest aesthetics of the three, the opportunity to embody in architecture the almost magical square root of 2 seems to have been too much for Vitruvius to resist. (Indeed, he will come back to this in the Introduction to Book 9.)

The honor of having one's name attached to the golden section is not Pythagoras', however, but Leonardo da Pisa's. While φ can now be found very easily by solving the quadratic equation x2 +x -1 = 0, one of the most attractive solutions is the limit of the ratios of two successive terms in the Fibonacci series 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21. . . and it will be noticed that the other two constructions given by Vitruvius are based on the third and fourth approximations from that series.

Yet, as I point out elsewhere, there is a deep organic kinship between the Fibonacci series and the Pythagorean triangular numbers, so that Pythagoras is essentially vindicated after all. Vitruvius once again proves himself no theorist: he has the right bull by the wrong horn.


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 5 Jul 08