1. Architecti est scientia pluribus disciplinis et variis eruditionibus ornata, quae ab ceteris artibus perficiuntur. Opera ea nascitur et fabrica et ratiocinatione. Fabrica est continuata ac trita usus meditatio, quae manibus perficitur e materia cuiuscumque generis opus est ad propositum deformationis. Ratiocinatio autem est, quae res fabricatas sollertiae ac rationis proportione demonstrare atque explicare potest.
1. The science of the architect depends upon many disciplines and various apprenticeships which are carried out in other arts. His personal service consists in crafsmanship and technology. Craftsmanship is continued and familiar practice, which is carried out by the hands in such material as is necessary for the purpose of a design. Technology sets forth and explains things wrought in accordance with technical skill and method.
2. Itaque architecti, qui sine litteris contenderant, ut manibus essent exercitati, non potuerunt efficere ut haberent pro laboribus auctoritatem; qui autem ratiocinationibus et litteris solis confisi fuerunt, umbram non rem persecuti videntur. At qui utrumque perdidicerunt, uti omnibus armis ornati citius cum auctoritate, quod fuit propositum, sunt adsecuti.
2. So architects who without culture aim at manual skill cannot gain a prestige corresponding to their labours, while those who trust to theory and literature obviously follow a shadow and not a reality. But those who have mastered both, like men equipped in full armour, soon acquire influence and attain their purpose.
3. Cum in omnibus enim rebus, tum maxime etiam in architectura haec duo insunt, quod significatur et quod significat. Significatur proposita res, de qua dicitur; hanc autem significat demonstratio rationibus doctrinam explicata. Quare videtur utraque parte exercitatus esse debere, qui se architectum profiteatur. Itaque cum etiam ingeniosum oportet esse et ad disciplinam docilem. Neque enim ingenium sine disciplina aut disciplina sine ingenio perfectum artificem potest efficere. Et ut litteratus sit, peritus graphidos, eruditus geometria, historias complures noverit, philosophos diligenter audierit, musicam scierit, medicinae non sit ignarus, responsa iurisconsultorum noverit, astrologiam caelique rationes cognitas habeat.
3. Both in general and especially in architecture are these two things found; that which signifies and that which is signified. That which is signified is the thing proposed about which we speak; that which signifies is the demonstration unfolded in systems and precepts. Wherefore a man who is to follow the architectural profession manifestly needs to have experience of both kinds. He must have both a natural gift and also readiness to learn. (For neither talent without instruction nor instruction without talent can produce the perfect crafsman.) He should be a man of letters, a skilful draughtsman, a mathematiciam, familiar with historical studies, a diligent student of philosophy, acquainted with music; not ignorant of medicine, learned in the responses of jurisconsults, familiar with astronomy and astronomical calculations.
4. Quae cur ita sint, haec sunt causae. Litteras architectum scire oportet, uti commentariis memoriam firmiorem efficere possit. Deinde graphidis scientiam habere, quo facilius exemplaribus pictis quam velit operis speciem deformare valeat. Geometria autem plura praesidia praestat archtecturae; et primum ex euthygrammis circini tradit usum, e quo maxime facilius aedificiorum in arcis expediuntur descriptiones normarumque et librationum et linearum directiones. Item per opticen in aeficiis ab certis regionibus caeli lumina recte ducuntur. Per arithmeticen vero sumptus aedificiorum consummantur, mensurarum rationes explicantur, difficilesque symmetriam quaestiones geometricis rationibus et methodis inveniuntur.
4. The reasons why this should be so are these. An architect must be a man of letters that he may keep a record of useful precedents. By his skill in draughtsmanship he will find it easy by coloured drawings to represent the effect desired. Mathematics again furnishes many resources to architecture. It teaches the use of rule and compass and thus facilitates the laying out of buildings on their sites by the use of set-squares, levels and alignments. By optics, in buildings, lighting is duly drawn from certain aspects of the sky. By arithmetic, the cost of building is summed up; the methods of mensuration are indicated; while the difficult problems of symmetry are solved by geometrical rules and methods.
5. Historias autem plures novisse oportet, quod multa ornamenta saepe in operibus architecti designant, de quibus argumentis rationem, cur fecerint, quaerentibus reddere debent. Quemadmodum si quis statuas marmoreas muliebres stolatas, quae cariatidis dicuntur, pro columnis in opere statuerit et insuper mutulos et coronas conlocaverit, percontantibus ita reddet rationem. Caria, civitas Peloponnensis, cum Persis hostibus contra Graeciam consensit. Postea Graeci per victoriam gloriose bello liberati communi consilio Caratibus bellum indixerunt. Itaque oppido capto, viris interfectis, civitate declarata matrones eorum in servitutem abduxerunt, nec sunt passi stolas neque ornatus matronales deponere, uti non una triumpho ducerentur, sed aeterno, servitutis exemplo gravi contumelia pressae poenas pendere viderentur pro civitate. Ideo qui tunc architecti fuerunt aedificiis publicis designaverunt earum imagines oneri ferundo conlocatas, ut etiam posteris nota poena peccati Cariatium memoriae traderetur.
5. Architects ought to be famliar with history because in their works often they design many ornaments about which they ought to render an account to inquirers. For example, if anyone in his work sets up, instead of colums, marble statues of long-robed women which are called caryatids, and places mutules and cornices above them, he will thus render an account to inquirers. Caria, a Peloponesian state, conspired with the Persian enemy against Greece. Afterwards the Greeks, gloriously freed from war by their victory, with common purpose went on to declare war on the inhabitants of Caria. The town was captured; the men were killed; the state was humiliated. Their matrons were led away into slavery and were not allowed to lay aside their draperies and ornaments. In this way, and not at one time alone, were they led in triumph. Their slavery was an eternal warning. Insult crushed them. They seemed to pay a penalty for their fellow-citizens. And so the architects of that time designed for public buildings figures of matrons placed to carry burdens; in order that the punishment of the sin of the Cariatid women might be known to posterity and historically recorded.
6. Non minus Lacones, Pausania Agesilae filio duce, Plataeeo proelio pauca manu infinitum numerum exercitus Persarum cum superavissent, acto cum gloria triumpho spoliorum et praedae, porticum Percisam ex manubiis, laudis et virtutis civium indicem, victoriae posteris pro tropaeo constituerunt. Ibique captivorum simulacra barbarico vestis ornatu, superbia meritis contumeliis punita, sustinentia tectum conlocaverunt, ut et hostes horrescerent timore eorum fortitudinis effectus, et cives id exemplum virtutis aspicientes gloria erecti ad defendendam libertatem essent parati. Itaque ex eo multi statuas Persicas sustinentes epistylia et ornamenta eorum conlocaverunt, et ita ex eo argumento varietates egregias auxerunt operibus. Item sunt aliae eiusdem generis historiae, quarum notitiam architectos tenere oporteat.
6. Not less the Spartans under the command of Pausanias, son of Agesilas, having conquered with a small force an infinitely large army of Persians, gloriously celebrated a triumph with spoils and plunder, and, from the booty, built the Persian Colonnade to signify the merit and courage of the citizens and to be a trophy of victory to their descendants. There they placed statues of their captives in barbaric dress - punishing their pride with deserved insults - to support the roof, that their enemies might quake, fearing the workings of such bravery, and their fellow-citizens looking upon a pattern of manhood might by such glory be roused and prepared for the defence of freedom. Therefrom many have set up Persian statues to support architraves and their ornament. This motive has supplied for their works some striking variations. There are also other narratives of the same kind with which architect should possess acquaintance.
7. Philosophia vero perficit architectum animo magno et uti non sit adrogans, sed potius facilis, aequus et fidelis, sine avaritia, quod est maximum; nullum enim opus vere sine fide et castitate fieri potest; ne sit cupidus neque in muneribus accipiendis habeat animum occupatum, sed cum gravitate suam tueatur dignitatem bonam famam habendo; et haec enim philosophia praescribit. Praeterea de rerum natura, quae graece physiologia dicitur, philosophia explicat. Quam necesse est studiosius novisse, quod habet multas et varias naturales quaestiones. Ut etiam in aquarum ductionibus. Incursibus enim et circuitionibus et librata planitie expressionibus spiritus naturales aliter atque aliter fiunt, quorum offensionibus mederi nemo poterit, nisi qui ex philosophia principia rerum naturae noverit. Item qui Ctesibii aut Archimedis et ceterorum, qui eiusdem generis praecepta conscripserunt, leget, sentire non poterit, nisi his rebus a philosophis erit institutus.
7. Philosophy, however, makes the architect high-minded, so that he should not be arrogant but rather urbane, fair-minded, loyal, and what is the most important, without avarice; for no work can be truly done without good faith and clear hands. Let him not be greedy nor have his mind busied with acquiring gifts; but let him with seriousness guard his dignity by keeping good name. And such are the injunctions of philosophy. Philosophy, moreover, explains the 'nature of things' (and this in Greek is physiologia), a subject which it is necessary to have studied carefully because it presents many different problems, as, for example, in the case of water-supply. For in the case of watercourses, where there are channels or bends or where water is forced along on a levelled plane, natural air-pockets are produced in different ways, and the difficulties which they cause cannot be remedied by anyone unless he has learnt from philosopy the principles of the nature. So also the man who read the works of Ctesibius or Archimedes and of others who have written manuals of the same kind will not be able to perceive their meaning, unless he has been instructed herein by philosophers.
8. Musicen autem sciat oportet, uti canonicam rationem et mathematicam notam habeat, praeterea balistarum, catapultarum, scorpionum temperaturas possit recte facere. In capitulis enim dextra ac sinistra sunt foramina hemitoniorum, per quae tenduntur suculis et vectibus e nervo torti funes, qui non praecluduntur nec praeligantur, nisi sonitus ad artificis aures certos et aequales fecerunt. Bracchia enim, quae in eas tentiones includuntur, cum extenduntur, aequaliter et pariter utraque plagam mittere debent; quodsi non homotona fuerint, inpendient directam telorum missionem.
8. A man must know music that he may have acquired the acoustic and mathematical relations and be able to carry out rightly the adjustments of balistae, catapultae and scorpiones. For in the crossbeams on right and left are holes of 'half-tones' through wich ropes twisted out of thongs are stretched by windlasses and levers. And these ropes are not shut off nor tied up, unless they make clear and equal sounds in the ear of the craftsman. For the arms which are shut up under those strains, when they are stretched out, ought to furnish an impetus evenly and alike on either side. But if they do not give an equal note, they will hinder the straight direction of the missiles.
9. Item theatris vasa aerea, quae in cellis sub gradibus mathematica ratione conlocantur quae Graeci echeia appellant; sonitum et discrimina ad symphonias musicas sive concentus componuntur divisa in circinatione diatessaron et diapente et disdiapason, uti vox scaenici sonitus conveniens in dispositionibus tactu cum offenderit, aucta cum incremento clarior et suavior ad spectarorem perveniat aures. Hydraulicas quoque machinas et cetera, quae sunt similia his organis, sine musicis rationibus efficere nemo poterit.
9. In theatres, also, are copper vessels and these are placed in chambres under the rows of seats in accordance with mathematical reckoning. The Greeks call them echeia. The differences of the sounds which arise are combined into musical symphonies or concords: the circle of seats being divided into fourths and fifths and the octave. Hence, if the delivery of the actor from the stage is adapted to these contrivances, when it reaches them, it becomes fuller, and reaches the audience with a richer and sweeter note. Or again, no one who lacks knowledge of music can make water-engines or similar machines.
10. Disciplinam medicinae novisse oportet propter inclinationem caeli, quae Graeci climata dicunt, et aeris et locorum, qui sunt salubres aut pestilentes, aquarumque usus; sine his enim rationibus nulla salubris habitatio fieri potest. Iura quoque nota habeat oportet, ea quae necessaria sunt aedificiis communibus parietum ad ambitum stillicidiorum et cloacarum, luminum. Item, aquarum ductiones et cetera, quae eiusmod sunt, nota oportet sint architectis, uti ante caveant quam instituant aedificia, ne controversiae factis operibus patribus familiarum relinquantur, et ut legibus scribendis prudentia cavere possit et locatori et conductori; namque si lex perite fuit scripta, erit ut sine captione uterque ab utroque liberetur. Ex astrologia autem cognoscitur oriens, occidens, meridies, septentrio, etiam caeli ratio, aequinoctium, solstitium, astrorum cursus; quorum notitiam si quis non habuerit, horologiorum rationem omnino scire non poterit.
10. Again, he must know the art of medicine in its relation to the regions of the earth (which the Greeks call climata); and to the characters of the atmosphere, of localities (wholesome or pestilential), of water-supply. For apart from these considerations, no dwelling can be regarded as healthy. He must be familiar with the rights or easements which necessarily belong to buildings with party walls, as regards the range of eaves-droppings, drains and lighting. The water-supply, also, and other related matters, ought to be familiar to architects; so that, before building is begun, precautions may be taken, lest on completion of the works the proprietors should be involved in disputes. Again, in writing the specifications, careful regard is to be paid both to the employer and to the contractor. For if the specification is carefully written, either party may be released from his obligations to the other, without raising of captious objections. By astronomy we learn the east, the west, the south and the north; also the order of the heavens, the equinox, the solstice, the course of the planets. For if anyone is unfamiliar with these, he will fail to understand the construction of clocks.
11. Cum ergo tanta haec disciplina sit, condecorata et abundans eruditionibus variis ac pluribus, non puto posse iuste repente profiteri architectos, nisi qui ab aetate puerili his gradibus disciplinarum scandendo scientia plerarumque litterarum et artium nutriti pervenerint ad summum templum architecturae.
11. Since, therefore, so great a profession as this is adorned by and abounds in, varied and numerous accomplishments, I think that only these persons can forthwith justly claim to be architects who from boyhood have mounted by the steps of these studies and, being trained generally in the knowledge of arts and the sciences, have reaches the temple of architecture at the top.
12. Ac fortasse mirum videbitur inperitis hominibus posse naturam tantum numerum doctrinarum perdiscere et memoria continere. Cum autem animadverterint omnes disciplinas inter se coniunctionem rerum et communicationem habere, fieri posse faciliter credent; encyclios enim disciplina uti corpus unum ex his membris est composita. Itaque qui a teneris aetatibus eruditionibus variis instruuntur, omnibus litteris agnoscunt easdem notas communicationemque omnium disciplinarum, et ea re facilius omnia cognoscunt. Ideoque de veteribus architectis Pythius, qui Prieni aedem Minervae nobiliter est architectatus, ait in suis commentariis architectum omnibus artibus et doctrinis plus oportere posse facere, quam qui singulas res suis industriis et exercitationibus ad summam claritatem perduxerunt.
12. But perhaps it will seem wonderful to inexperienced persons that human nature can master and hold in recollection so large a number of subjects. When, however, it is perceived that all studies are related to one another and have points of contact, they will easily believe it can happen. For a general education is put together like one body from its members. So those who from tender years are trained in various studies recognise the same characters in all the arts and see the intercommunication of all disciplines, and by that circumstance more easily acquire general information. And, therefore, one of the old architect Pythius, who was the designer of the noble temple of Minerva at Priene, says in his Commentaries that an architect ought to be able to do more in all arts and sciences than those who, by their industry and experience, have advanced individual arts to the highest renown.
13. Non enim debet nec potest esse architectus grammaticus, uti fuerit Aristarchus, sed non agrammatus,nec musicus ut Aristoxenus, sed non amusos, nec pictor ut Apelles, sed graphidos non inperitus, nec plastes quemadmodum Myron seu Polyclitus, sed rationis plasticae non ignarus, sed denuo medicus ut Hippocrates, sed non aniatrologicus, nec in ceteris doctrinis singulariter excellens, sed in is non inperitus. Non enim in tantis rerum varietatibus elegantias singulares quisquam consequi potest, quod earum ratiocinationes cognoscere et percipere vix cadit in potestatem.
13. For an architect ought to be and can be no critic like Aristarchus, yet not without culture; no musician like Aristoxenus, yet not without knowledge of music; no painter like Apelles, yet not unskilled with his pencil; no sculptor like Myron or Polyclitus, yet not ignorant of the plastic art; nor in fine a physician like hippocrates, yet not unskilled in medicine; nor in other sciences excelling in a singular manner, yet in these not unskilled. For in so great a variety of things no one can in every case attain minute perfection, because it scarcely falls into his power to acquire and understand their methods.
14. Nec tamen non tantum architecti non possunt in omnibus rebus habere summum effectum, sed etiam ipsi qui privatim proprietates tenent artium, non efficiunt, ut habeant omnes summum laudis principatum. Ergo si in singulis doctrinis singuli artifices neque omnes sed pauci aevo perpetuo nobilitatem vix sunt consecuti, quemadmodum potest architectus, qui pluribus artibus debet esse peritus, non id ipsum mirum et magnum facere, ne quid ex his indigeat, sed etiam ut omnes artifices artifices qui singulis doctrinis adsiduitatem cum industria summa praestiterunt?
14. Yet while architects are thus not able in every art to achieve the highest perfection, even those who severally possess the qualities of the craftsman do not all succeed in reaching supreme mastery. Therefore, since in each art, single craftsmen, not all, but few throughout the ages have scarcely attained renown, why should not an architect, who has to be skilled in several arts, count it a fine achievement if he is not deficient in anything belonging to them? How can he hope for so great and remarkable a thing as to surpass craftsmen who have assidiously and with the greatest industry applied themselves to single employment?
15. Igitur in hac re Pythius errasse videtur, quod non animadvertit ex duabus rebus singulas artes esse compositas, ex opere et eius ratiocinatione, ex his autem unum proprium esse eorum qui singulis rebus sunt exercitati, id est operis effectus, alterum commune cum omnibus doctis, id est rationem, uti medicis et musicis et de venarum rythmo ad pedem motus, ut si vulnus mederi aut aegrum eripere de periculo oportuerit, non accedet musicus, sed id ipsos proprium erit medici; item in organo non medicus sed musicus modulabitur, ut aures suae cantionibus recipiant iucunditatem.
15. Therefore in this matter Pythius seems to have erred because he failed to perceive that the several arts are composed of two things - craftsmanship and the theory of it. Of these the one, craftsmanship, is proper to those who are trained in the several arts, namely, the execution of the work; the other, namely theory, is shared with educated persons. Physician and musician alike deal with the rythm of the pulse and the movement of the feet. For example, if a man has to heal a wound or to rescue a sick man out of danger, it is not the musician who will come, but it will be the special work of a physician. So also in the case of a musical instrument, a musician and not a physician will be in control so that one's ears may receive the sweetness of a song.
16. Similiter cum astrologis et musicis est disputatio communis de sympathia stellarum et symphoniarum in quadratis et trigonis diatessaron et diapente, a geometris de visu qui graece logos opticos appellatur; ceterisque omnibus doctrinis multae res vel omnes communes sunt dumtaxat ad disputandum. Operum vero ingressus qui manu aut tractationibus ad elegantiam perducuntur, ipsorum sunt, qui proprie una arte ad faciendum sunt instituti. Ergo satis abunde videtur fecisse qui ex singulis doctrinis partes et rationes earum mediocriter habet notas, eas quae necessariae sunt ad architecturam, uti, si quid de his rebus et artibus iudicare et probare opus fuerit, ne deficiatur.
16. Likewise there is a question common to astronomers and musicians about the sympathy of the stars and of the concords, fourths and fifths, in quadrants and triangles; and geometers treat about vision, which in Greek is called logos opticos; thus throughout all the sciences many things, or indeed all, are in common so far as theory is concerned. But the taking up of work which is finely executed by hand, or technical methods, belongs to those who have been specially trained to work in a single trade. Therefore, he seems to have done quite enough who in the several arts is moderately familiar with the branches and methods which are necessary to architecture, so that he is not at a loss when it is necessary to judge and test any work done in these other departments and trades.
17. Quibus vere natura tantum tribuit sollertiae, acuminis, memoriae, ut possint geometriam, astrologiam, musicen ceterasque disciplinas penitus habere notas, praetereunt officia architectorum et efficiuntur mathematici. Itaque faciliter contra eas disciplinas disputare possunt, quod pluribus telis disciplinarum sunt armati. Hi autem inveniuntur raro, ut aliquando fuerunt Aristarchus Samius, Philolaus et Archytas Tarentini, Apollonius Pergaeus, Eratostenes Cyrenaeus, Archimedes et Scopinas ab Syracusis, qui multas res organicas, gnomonicas numero naturalibusque rationibus inventas atque explicatas posteris reliquerunt.
17. But those individuals on whom nature has bestowed so much skill, acumen, retentiveness that they can be thoroughly familiar with geometry, astronomy, music and other studies, go beyond the duties of an architect and are to be regarded as mathematicians. And thus they can easily dispute about those subjects because they are armed with the weapons provided by their studies. Such men, however, are rarely met. We can point to Aristarchus of Samos; Philolaus and Archytas of Tarentum; Apollonius of Perga; Eratosthenes of Cyrene; Archimedes and Scopinas from Syracuse. They have left to after times many treatise on machinery and clocks, in which mathematics and natural laws are used to discover and explain.
18. Cum ergo talia ingenia ab naturali sollertia non passim cunctis gentibus sed paucis viris habere concedatur, officium vero architecti omnibus eruditionibus debeat esse exercitatum, et ratio propter amplitudinem rei permittat non iuxta necessitatem summas sed etiam mediocris scientias habere disciplinarum, peto, Caesar, et a te et ab is, qui ea volumina sunt lecturi, ut, si quid parum ad regulam artis grammaticae fuerit explicatum, ignoscatur. Namque non uti summus philosophus nec rhetor disertus nec grammaticus summis rationibus artis exercitatus, sed ut architectus his litteris inbutus haec nisus sum scribere. De artis vero potestate quaeque insunt in ea rationcinationes polliceor, uti spero, his voluminibus non modo aedificantibus sed etiam omnibus sapientibus cum maxima auctoritate me sine dubio praestaturum.
18. Yet it is not granted to nations as a whole, but only to few individuals, to have such genius owing to their natural endowment. At the same time te architect in his work ought to be practised in all accomplishments. Yet reason, in view of the scope of the matter, does not permit us, as need demands, to have a complete, but only a moderate, knowledge of the various subjects involved. Hence I beg your Highness and the other readers of these volumes to pardon any explanation that too little agrees with the rules of the literary art. For it is not as a lofty thinker, nor as an eloquent speaker, nor as a scholar practised in the best methods of literary criticism, but as an architect who has a mere tinge of these things, that I have striven to write the present treatise. But in respect to the meaning of my craft and the principles which it involves, I hope and undertake to expound them with assured authority, not only to persons engaged in building but also to the learned world.
In my opinion this is a very important chapter, because it gives an insight in things ancient architects should know. Throughout the text Vitruvius gives an impressive enumeration of the fields of knowledge which an architect should master. See sentence 3: 'He should be a man of letters, a skilful draughtsman, a mathematician, familiar with historical studies, a diligent student of philosophy, acquainted with music; not ignorant of medicine, learned in the responses of jurisconsults, familiar with astronomy and astronomical calculations.
In the following sentences (4 - 10) the benefits of these knowledges for an architect are further elaborated:
Man of letters (sentence 4): The architect must read what has been written before him and he must be able to keep records of his own work. Therefore he must have in mind the most important literature about architecture.
Skilful draughtsman (sentence 4): The architect must be able to make the necessary designs to complete the work.
Mathematician (sentence 4): here mathematics are seen from different points of view: The plans must be drawn in correct proportions and in the same time the architect must be a land surveyor. In the second place the architect must reckon the prize of a building. In the third place the architect must fix the different proportions of a building starting from, as we shall see later, a fixed modulus from which all the measures of the different parts can be deduced.
Familiar with historical studies (sentences 5-6): to illustrate this Vitruvius gives immediatly an elaborate digression about the origin of the caryatids (see below). I think that his reference to history is also a consequence of the final aim of the De Architectura: to give a compendium of the current architectural practice with his roots in the past and avoiding any innovation.
Diligent student of philosophy (sentence 7): here philosophy is understood in two totally different ways. In the first Vitruvius refers to a way of living based on the Stoic principles, in the second he refers to the ancient physiology, clolesy linked to Stoicism, as described by Philo of Alexandria, Ctesibius, Archimedes and many others who were in the first place physicians and not philosophers.
Acquainted with music (sentence 8-9): Here his career as war engineer comes to the foreground: the efficiency of balistae, catapultae and scorpiones is tested by the sound produced by the thigthened ropes. Further knowledge of music helps in defining the acoustics in theatres and is necessary for the construction of water organs (see book X).
Not ignorant of medicine (sentence 10): This helps in fixing the location and orientation of a building.
Learned in the responses of jurisconsults (sentence 10): The architect must know all about the legal prescriptions about building practice to defend his client against all possible objections from neighbours or possible creditors.
Familiar with astronomy and astronomical calculation (sentence 10): this is a reference to book IX which is about clocks and dials.
Reading this fragment I was thinking Vitruvius was telling us in the same time how he became an architect. Indeed; we find references to the period he was supervisor of the aquaducts in sentence 7, where he describes the profit of 'Physilogia' in the construction of aquaducts; to the time he was war engineer under Julius Caesar in sentence 8 where he describes the utility of music in architecture, especially in the construction of artillery, Meanwhile he already gives a lot of references to topics that he will elaborate during the Ten Books. For the different sciences an architect must know he gives examples which will be later worked out. So can we read in sentence 9 a rather puzzling, and strongly abbreviated description of acoustics in theatres. We will find a full description of this problem in book V.
Vitruvius in history
The work of Vitrivius is the only complete handbook about architecture that was written in antiquity. Before him there were a lot of monographies concerning one building or a specifical technique. In this chapter we can find already a reference to this series of publications in sentence 12 where he refers to the temple of Minerva (Athena) at Priene built by Pythius who subsequently wrote a monography on this building. Unfortunately this text is lost. Only Vitruvius mentions it and so does also Pliny who gives a puzzling description of this temple. A full enumeration of the sources Vitruvius used in this work is given in the preface of book VII. There we can see how Vitruvius was a man of study and that he was able to obtain the literature produced before him.
Although he knew what was written before and he himself was a practising architect, the work he wrote had not the intention to introduce novelties in this field. It was restricted to a description of architectural practises and techniques in his days without trying to innovate.
The Ten Books of Vitruvius remained the standard until 1486 when Leon Battista Alberti wrote his 'De re aedicificatoria libri decem' which on his turn was the base for a lot of later theoretical works about architecture.
The planning process in ancient architecture
Through this whole chapter we can find out the way architects were working. Let's try to put these fragments together and understand them:
Sentence 4: 'An architect must be a man of letters that he may keep record of useful precedents': Every planning process begins with a reflection on the history of building.
Sentence 4: 'By his skill in draughtsmanship he will find it easy by coloured drawings to represent the effect desired': the first plans and drawings are made. These serve to make people understand how the future building will look. This is a kind of prefiguration which the employer can approve, disapprove or give some remarques on.
Sentence 4: 'Mathematics again furnishes many resources to architecture. It teaches the use of rule and compass and thus facilitates the laying out of buildings on their sites by the use of set-squares, levels and alignments': after the approval of the coloured drawing the final plans are made. These are real plans as we understand it today, made with rule and compass. During this proces the architect must be fully aware of the exact location of his building. So this drawings are made after having taken the exact measurements of the building site.
Sentence 4: 'By arithmetic, the cost of building is summed up': the architect must make an estimation of the costs of the building. It means probably that he had to sum up prizes of materials and labour to give the employer an exact idea of the final prize of the building he ordered.
Sentence 10: 'Again, in writing the specifications, careful regard is to be paid both to the employer and to the contractor': apart from the estimation the architect had also to write an elaborate 'cahier de charge' in which the materials and their qualifications and the building techniques were carefully desribed. This document had effect to both parties involved: the employer and the contractor: the contractor could know how he had to work and the employer had a reference if the contractor was making faults.
In the matter of linguistics we notice that Vitruvius had clearly a profound knowlegde of Greek literature on architecture because he frequently uses words derived from Greek when he comes to technical terminology. This can cause some problems in the translation. The main problem I met in this fragment is in sentence 8: 'for in the crossbeams on right and left are holes 'of half-tones' (hemitonia) through wich ropes...'. The meaning of this hemitonia is not clear and through the ages there have been some discussion on it.
The French translation by Claude Perrault, dating 1684, suggests to replace the word 'hemitoniorum' by 'homotoniorum'. Adopting this version the text becomes much more understandable. If, further, we relate 'homotoniorum' to the original Greek word 'tonos' which means 'spring' we can try another translation of this sentence, homotoniorum meaning 'springs with equal strength'. We must be aware of the fact that also the meaning of the word 'capitulis' can be discussed. In the English translation of Frank Granger we find 'crossbeams', Perrault makes it easy with a litteral French interpretation of the word, writing 'chapiteaux'. From this we can understand 'capitulis' as the main superstructure of balistic engines. I propose to translate as follows 'For in the head (of the engine) are holes on the right and the left for equal springs through which ropes...'. We can find this interpretation also in a recent Dutch translation by Ton Peters (1997). A further discussion on balistics is given by Vitruvius in his book X.
Vitruvius and history
Another interesting fragment in this chapter is the attempt of Vitruvius to relate the origin of the use of caryatids instead of columns to historic events. But here too the text seems to be corrupt. We do not know which town is meant with 'Caria'. The insertion 'civitas Peloponnensis' is possibly not of Vitruvius' hand but from a medieval copyist. Indeed, the history Vitruvius refers to, played in Asia Minor in the 6th century B.C. and had nothing to do with the Persian wars, as the text now would suggest. It is about a dispute between the inhabitants of Cnidos, a town in the province Caria (Ionian coast), and some surrounding municipalities. After the victory the Cnidians constructed a treasury at the famous oracle of Delphi around 565 - 555 B.C. There appear for the first time statues of women instead of columns. It is this building that Vitruvius had in mind when giving his history on the origin of Caryatids. From this building only ruins remain. In the museum at Delphi fragments of the caryatids are conserved. The other building Vitruvius mentions has completely disappeared. We only know it from a description of Pausanias who wrote around 170 A.D. a guidebook for Greek tourists about towns and places in Greece, known as 'Periegesis Hellados'. In his book III, chapter XI we can read: 'The most striking feature in the market-place is the portico which they call Persian because is was made from spoils taken in the Persian wars. In course of time they have altered it until it is as large and as splendid as it is now. On the pillars are white-marble figures of Persians, including Mardonius, son of Gobryas. There is also a figure of Artemisia, daughter of Lygdamis and queen of Halicarnassos.'
Les dix livres d'architecture de Vitruve, Coriigés et traduits en 1684 par C.Perrault, Paris, 1684
Vitruvius, De Architectura libri X, ed. F.Granger, London, 1962
Ton Peters, Vitruvius, Handboek Bouwkunde, Amsterdam, 1999
W.B.Dinsmoor, The Architecture of Ancient Greece, London, New York, Toronto, Sydney, 1950
A.Boethius-J.B.Ward-Perkins, Etruscan and Roman Architecture, harmondsworth, 1970
P.H.Schrijvers, Vitruve I 1,1: explication de texte, in Munus non Ingratum (ed. H.Geertman&J.J.De Jong), Leiden, 1989
H.Knell, Vitruvs Architekturtheorie, Darmstadt, 1991
H.Geertman, De Architectura als archeologische bron: tekst en context van Vitruvius' theorie en praktijk, in Vitruviuscongres 1995, Heerlen, 1997
Alina A.Payne, The Architectural Treatise in the Italian Renaissance, Cambridge, 1999
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