1. When Alexander was master of the world, the architect Dinocrates, confident in his ideas and his skill, set out from Macedonia to the army, being desirous of royal commendation. He brought from home to the officers and the high officials, a letter from his relatives and friends that he might have more easy access; and being courteously received by them, he asked to be introduced as soon as possible to Alexander. After promising this they were somewhat slow, waiting for a suitable occasion. Therefore Dinocrates, thinking he was mocked by them, sought a remedy from himself. Now he was of ample stature, pleasing countenance, and the highest grace and dignity. Trusting then in these gifts of nature, he left his clothes in the inn, and anointed himself with oil; he wreathed his head with poplar leaves, covered his left shoulder with a lion's skin, and holding a club in his right hand, he Walked opposite the tribunal where the king was giving judgment.
2. Novitas populum cum avertisset, conspexit eum Alexander. Admirans ei iussit locum dari, ut accederet, interrogavitque, quis esset. At ille: 'Dinocrates,' inquit, 'architectus Macedo qui ad te cogitationes et formas adfero dignas tuae claritati. Namque Athon montem formavi in statuae virilis figuram, cuius manu laeva designavi civitatis amplissimae moenia, dextera pateram, quae exciperet omnium fluminum, quae sunt in eo monte, aquam, ut inde in mare profunderetur.'
2. When this novel spectacle attracted the people, Alexander saw him. Wondering, he commanded room to be made for him to approach, and asked who he was. And he replied: 'Dinocrates, a Macedonian architect, who brings you ideas and plans worthy of you, illustrious prince. For I have shaped Mount Athos int the figure of the statue of a man, in whose left hand I have shown the ramparts of a very extensive city; in his right a bowl to receive the water of all the rivers which are in that mountain."
3. Delectatus Alexander natione formae statim quaesiit, si essent agri circa, qui possint frumentaria ratione eam civitatem tueri. Cum invenisset non posse nisi transmarinis subvectionibus: 'Dinocrates,' inquit, 'adtendo egregiam formae conpositionem et ea delector. Sed animadverto, si qui deduxerit eo loco coloniam, forte ut iudicium eius vituperetur. Ut enim natus infans sine nutricis lacte non potest ali neque ad vitae crescentis gradus perduci, sic civitas sine agris et eorum fructibus in moenibus affluentibus non potest crescere nec sine abundantia cibi frequentiam habere populumque sine copia tueri. Itaque quemadmodum formationem puto probandam, sic iudicio locum inprobandum: teque volo esse mecum, quod tua opera sum usurus.'
3. Alexander, delighted with his kand of plan, at once inquired if there were fields about, which could furnish that city with a corm supply. When he found this could not be done, except by sea transport, her said: 'I note, Dinocrates, the unusual formation of your plan, and am pleased with it, but I perceive that if anyone leads a colony to that place, his judgment will be blamed. For just as a child when born, if it lacks the nurse's milk cannot be fed, nor led up the staircase of growing life, so a city without cornfields and their produce abounding within its remparts, cannot grow, nor become populous without abundance of food, nor maintain its people without a supply. Therefore, just as I think your planning worthy of approval, so, in my judgment, the site is worthy of disapproval; yet I want you to be with me, because I intend to make use of your services.'
4. Ex eo dinocrates ab rege non discessit et in Aegyptum est eum persecutus. Ibi Alexander cum animadvertisset portum naturaliter tutum, emporium, egregium campos circa total Aegyptum frumentarios, inmanis fluminis Nili magnas utilitates, iussit eum suo nomine civitatem Alexandriam constituere. Ita Dinocrates a facie dignitateque corporis commendatus ad eam nobilitatem pervenit. Mihi autem, imperator, staturam non tribuit natura, faciem deformavit aetas, valetudo detraxit vires. Itaque quoniam ab his praesidiis sum desertus, ut spero, perveniam ad commendationem.
4. After that, Dinocrates did not leave the king, and followed him to Egypt. There when Alexander had observed a port naturally protected, an excellent market, cornfields all over Egypt, the great advantages of the huge Nile river, he ordered Dinocrates to lay out a city in his name, Alexandria. Thus Dinocrates commended by his face and the dignity of his person, reached to this distinction. But natur has not given me stature, my countenance in uncomely with age, ill-health has taken away my strength. Therefore, although I am deserted by these defences, by the help of science and by my writings I shall, I hope, gain approval.
5. Cum autem primo volumine de officio architecturae terminationibusque artis perscripsi, item de moenibus et intra moenia arearum divisionibus, insequatur ordo de aedibus sacris et publicis aedificiis itemque privatis, quibus proportionibus et symmetriis debeant esse, uti explicentur, non putavi ante ponendum, nisi prius de materiae copiis, e quibus conlatis aedificia structuris et materiae rationibus perficiuntur, quas habeant in usu virtutes, exposuissem, quibusque rerum naturae principiis essent temperata, dixissem. Sed antequam naturales res incipiam explicare, de aedificiorum rationibus, unde initia ceperint et uti creverit eorum inventiones, ante ponam, et insequar ingressus antiquitatis rerum naturae et eorum qui initia humanitatis et inventiones perquisitas scriptorum praeceptis dedicaverunt. Itaque quemadmodum ab his sum institutus, exponam.
5. Now since in the first book I have written on the services of architecture, and the definitions of the craft, also about ramparts and the allotments of sites within the ramparts, there should follow the arranging of temples and public buildings and also private ones, in order to explain of what proportions and symmeties they ought to be. Yet I thought I ought to put nothing before, until I had first considered the supplies of building material, from the assemblage of which buildings are completed in their structures and the appropriate treatment of the materials. Afterwards I shall expound what virtues they have when employed, and I shall declare of what natural elemtns they are blended. But before I begin to explain natural objects, I will preface somewhat respecting the methods of building, whence they took their beginnings and how inventions grzw; and I will follow the approaches of antiquity to Nature herself, and in particular of those writers who have committed to their manuals the beginnings of the humanities, and the record of inventions. Therefore I will set forth the matter as I have been instructed by them.
In this preface, once again, Vitruvius seeks the favor of the emperor. He compares himself to Deinocrates, a Macedonian architect who followed Alexander the Great on his campaigns. Vitruvius tells us how Deinocrates disguised himself as Heracles in order to be seen by Alexander. Then he presents a most fantastic plan: to shape mount Athos in the form of a human figure. Alexander was impressed by the proposal, but at the same time he demonstrated the impossibility of such an undertaking. Nevertheless, by his spectacular action, he was accepted by Alexander, and later, when in Egypt Alexander discovered an appropriate place to found his city, Deinocrates controlled the works. After this story follows an eager remark of Vitruvius. He is an old man and is unable to do spectacular things. He must draw the attention of the emperor by his writings. In these writings he will not present impossible things but his precepts will be realistic. In this way he hopes to bring the emperor to choose good architects who make buildings that will correspond to the grandeur of the emperor and the roman history. The whole story of Deinocrates with his position against this background is a further explanation of what he already announced at the end of the preface of book I.
Les dix livres d'architecture de Vitruve, Corrigés 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.
H. Knell, Vitruvs Architekturtheorie, Versuch einer Interpretation, Darmstadt, 1985.
Alina A.Payne, The Architectural Treatise in the Italian Renaissance, Cambridge, 1999.
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