CONTENTS OF THIS CHAPTER
1. His perfectis in suis locis spirae conlocentur, eaeque ad symmetriam sic perficiantur, uti crassitudo cum plintho sit columnae ex dimidia crassitudine proiecturamque, quam Graeci ecphoran vocitant, habeant sextantem; ita tum lata et longa erit columnae crassitudinis unius et dimidiae.
1. When this is done, let the bases be put in position, and let them be so finished in proportion that the thickness with the plinth amounts to half the thickness of the column, and have a projection (which the Greeks call ecphora) of one-sixth. The bases will be one and a half thicknessess of a column, front and side.
2. Altitudo eius, si atticurges erit, ita dividiatur, ut superior pars tertia parte sit crassitudinis columnae, reliquum plintho relinquatur. Dempta plintho reliquum torus [quartae; reliquae tres aequaliter dividantur, et una sit inferior torus,] altera pars cum suis quadris scotia, quam Graeci trochilon dicunt.
2. The height, if it is to be an Attic base, is to be one-third of the thickness of the column, and the remainder left to the plinth. Taking the plinth away, the remainder is to be divides into four parts, and the upper torus is to be one-fourth: the remaining three-fourths are to be equally divided so that one is the lower torus and the other the scotia (which the Greeks call trochilos) with its fillets.
3. Sin autem ionicae erunt faciendae, symmetriae earum sic erunt constituendae, uti latitudo spirae quoqueversus sit columnae crassitudinis adiecta crassitudine quarta et octava. Altitudo ita uti atticurges; ita ut eius plinthos; reliquum praeter plinthum, quod erit tertia pars crassitudinis columnae, dividatur in partes septem: inde trium partium torus qui est in summo; reliquae quattuor partes dividendae sunt aequaliter, et una pars fiat cum suis astragalis et supercilio superior trochilus, altera pars inferiori trochilo relinquatur; sed inferior maior apparebit, ideo quod habebit ad axtremam plinthum proiecturam. Astragali faciendi sunt octavae partis trochili; proiectura erit spirae pars octava et sexta decuma pars crassitudinis columnae.
3. But if the bases are to be Ionic, their proportions are to be so fixed that the breath of the base each way is one and three-eigths of the thickness of a column. The height is to be like the Atiic base; so also its plinth. The remainder beside the plinth, which will be the third part of the column's diameter, is to be divided into seven parts: of these the torus at the top is to be three parts; the remaining four are to be equally divided; one half to the upper hollow with its astragals and top moulding, the other half is to be left to the lower trochilus; but the lower will seem greater because it will have a projection to the edge of the plinth. The astragals are to be one-eighth part of the scottia. The projections of the base will be three-sixteenths of the thickness of the column.
4. Spiris perfectis et conlocatis columnae sunt medianae in pronao et postico ad perpendiculum medii centri conlocandae, angulares autem quaeque e regione earum futura sunt in lateribus aedis dextra ac sinistra, uti partes interiores, quae ad parietes cellae spectant, ad perpendiculum latus habeant conlocatum, exteriores autem partes uti dicant se earum contracturam. Sic enim erunt figurae conpositionis aedium contractura eius tali ratione exactae.
4. When the bases are complete and in position, the middle columns in front and at the back are to be set up to a perpendicular, but the corner columns and those which are in line with them on the flanks of the temple right and left are to be set up so that the inside parts which look to the sanctuary, have their faces perpendicular, but the outside parts so as to declare their diminution. In this way the intention of the design of the temple will be completed by such contraction.
5. Scapis columnarum statutis capitulorum ratio si pulvinata erunt, his symmetriis conformabuntur, uti, quam crassus imus scapus fuerit addita octava decuma parte scapi, abacus habeat longitudinem et latitudinem; crassitudinem cum volutis eius dimidiam. Recedendum autem est ab extremo abaco in interiorem partem frontibus volutarum parte duodevicensima et eius dimidia. Tunc crassitudo dividenda est in partes novem et dimidiam, et secundum abacum in quattuor partibus volutarum secundum extremi abaci quadram lineae dimittendae, quae cathetoe dicuntur. Tunc ex novem partibus et dimidia una pars et dimidia abaci crassitudo relinquatur, reliquae octo volutis constituantur.
5. When the shafts of the columns are fixed, the proportions of the Ionic capitals are to be conformed to this symmetries: namely, that in adding the eighteenth part of the thickest part of the shaft, the abacus my find its length and breadth; the height of the capital with the volutes, half of that. There must be a set-back from the edge of the abacus inwards on the front of the volutes of an eighteenth part and a half. Then the height of the capital is to be divided into nine and a half parts, and lines (which are called cathetoe) are to be let fall down the abacus, at the four corners of the volutes, following a perpendicular from the edge of the abacus. Then of nine parts and a half, one part and a half are to be left as the thickness of the abacus, and the remaining eight parts are to be allotted to the volutes.
6. Tunc ab linea quae secundum abaci extremam partem dimissa erit, in interiorem artem [alia] recedat unius et dimidiatae partis latitudine. Deinde hae lineae dividantur ita, ut quattuor partes et dimidia sub abaco relinquatur. Tunc in eo loco, qui locus dividit quattuor et dimidiam et tres et dimidiam partem, centrum oculi; signeturque ex eo centro rotunda circinatio tam magna in diametro, quam una pars ex octo partibus est. Ea erit oculi magnitudine, et in ea catheto respondens diametros agatur. Tunc ab summo sub abaco inceptum in singulis tetrantorum actionibus dimidiatum oculi spatium minuatur, donique in eundem tetrantem qui est sub abaco veniat.
6. Then within a vertical line which is let fall at the extreme corner of the abacus, let fall another line at a distance of one part and a half. Next let these lines be so divided that four parts and a half are left under the abacus. Then that point which divides the four and a half and the three and a half is the centre of the eye of the volute: and let there be drawn from that centre a complete circle with a diameter of one part out of the eight parts. That will be the magnitude of the eye. Through the centre let there be drawn a vertical diameter. Then beginning from the top under the abacus, let the radius be successively diminished by half the diameter of the eye in describing the quadrants, until it comes into the quadrant which is under the abacus.
7. Capituli autem crassitudo sic est facienda, ut ex novem partibus et dimidia tres partes praependeant infra astragalum summi scapi; cymatio, adempto abaco et canali, reliqua sit pars. Proiectura autem cymatii habet extra abaci quadram culi magnitudinem. Pulvinorum baltei abaco hanc habeant proiecturam, uti circini centrum unum cum sit positum in capituli tetrante et alterum deducatur ad extremum cymatium, circumactum balteorum extremas partes tangat. Axes volutarum nec crassiores sint quam oculi magnitudo, volutaeque ipsae sic caedantur altitudinis suae duodecim partem. Haec erunt symmetriae capitulorum, quae columnae futurae sunt ab minimo ad pedes XXV. Quae supra erunt, reliqua habebunt ad eundem modum symmetrias, abacus autem erit longus et latus, quam crassa columna est ima adiecta parte VIIII, uti, quo minus habeat capitulum suae symmetriae proiecturam et in altitudine suae partis adiectionem.
7. Now the height of the capital is to be so arranged that of the nine and a half parts, three parts are below the astragal at the top of the shaft. The remaining part is for the cymatium, when the abacus and channel are taken away. The projection of the cymatium beyond the abacus is to be the size of the eye. Let the bands of the pillow have the following projection: one point of the compasses is placed in the centre of the eye, and the other point is taken to the top of the cymatium; The circle thus described will mark the furthest part of the pillow band. The axes of the volutes should not be further apart than the diameter of the eye, and the volutes themselves are to be channelled to the twelfth part of their height. These will be the proportions of capitals when the columns shall be up to twenty-five feet. Those which are more will have their other proportions after the same fashion. The length and breadth of the abacus will be the thickness of the column at its base with the addition of one-ninth: inasmuch as its diminution is less as the heigth is greater, the capital must not have less addition in projection and height.
8. De volutarum descriptionibus, uti ad circinum sint recte involutae, quemadmodum descibantur, in extremo libro forma et ratio earum erit subscripta.
Capitulis perfectis deinde columnarum non ad libellam sed ad aequalem modulum conlocatis, ut, quae adiectio in stylobatis facta fuerit, in superioibus membris respondeat symmetria epistyliorum. Epistyliorum ratio sic est habenda, uti, si columnae fuerint a minima XII pedum ad quindecim pedes, epistylii sit altitudi dimidia crassitudinis imae columnae; item ab XV pedibus ad XX, columnae altitudo demetiatur in pertes tredecim, et unius partis altitudo in partes XII et semissem, et eius una pars epistylium in altitudine fiat; item si ab XXV pedibus ad XXX, dividatur in partes XII, et eius una pars altitudo fiat. Itam ratam partem ad eundem modum ex altitudine columnarum expediendae sunt altitudines epistyliorum.
8. At the end of the book a diagram and formula will be furnished for the drawing of the volutes so that they may be correctly turned by the compass.
When the capitals are completed they are to be set, not level through the range of columns, but with a corresponding adjustment; so that the architraves in the upper members may correspond to the addition in the stylobates. the proportion of the architraves should be as follows: if the columns are from twelve to fifteen feet, the height of the architrave should be half the thickness of the column at the bottom; from fifteen to twenty feet let the height of the column be divided into thirteen parts, and the height of the architrave be one part; from twenty to twenty-five feet, let the height be divided into twelve parts and a half, and let the architrave be one part of that in height; also from twenty-five to thirty let it be divided into twelve parts, and let the height be made of one part. Thus the height of the architraves are to be determined in accordance with the height of the columns.
9. Quo altius enim scandit oculi species, non facile persecat aeris crebritatem; dilapsa itaque altitudinis spatio et viribus, extructam incertam modulorum renuntiat sensibus quantitatem. Quare semper adiciendum est rationi supplementum in symmetriam membris, ut, cum fuerint aut altioribus locis opera aut etiam ipsa colossicotera, habeant magnitudinum rationem. Epistylii latitudo in imo, quod supra capitulum erit, quanta crassitudo summae columnae sub capitulo erit, tanta fiat; summum, quantum imus scapus.
9. For the higher the glance of the eye rises, it perces with the more difficulty the denseness of the air; therefore it fails owing to the amount and power of the height, and reports to te senses the assemblage of the uncertain quantity of the modules. And so we must always add a supplement to the proportion in the case of the symmetrical parts, so that works which are either in higher positions or themselves more grandiose may have proportionate dimensions. The breadth of the architrave at the bottom where it rests upon the capital should equal the diameter of the top of the column under the capital: the top of the architrave should be as wide as the lower diameter of the shaft.
10. Cymatium epistylii septima parte suae altitudinis est faciendum, et in proiectura tantundem. Reliqua pars praeter cymatium dividenda est in partes XII, et earum trium ima fascia est facienda, secunda IIII, summa V. Item zophorus supra epistylium quarta parte minus quam epistylium; sin autem sigilla designari oportuerit, quarta parte altior quam epistylium, uti auctoritatem habeant sculpturae. Cymatium suae altitudinis partis septimae; proiecturae cymatium quantum crassitudo.
10. The cymatium of the architrave should be made one-seventh of its height and the projection of it the same. The remainder apart from the cymatium is to be divided into twelve parts of which the lowest fascia is to have three; the second, four; and the top, five. The frieze also above the architrave is to be a fourth less than the architrave; but if figures are to be introduced, a fourth higher, so that the carvings may be effective. The cymatium a seventh part of its height; the projection of the cymatium as much as the thickness.
11. Supra zophorum denticulus est faciendus tam altus quam epistylii media fascia; proiectura eius quantum altitudo. Intersectio, quae Graece metope dicitur, sic est dividenda, uti denticulus altitudinis suae dimidiam partem habeat in fronte, cavus autem intersectionis huius frontis e tribus duas partes; huius cymatium altitudinis eius sextam partem. Corona cum suo cymatio, praeter simam, quantum media fascia epistylii; proiectura coronae cum denticulo facienda est, quantum erit altitudo a zophoro ad summum coronae cymatium; et omnino omnes ecphorae venustiorem habeant speciem, quae quantum altitudinis tantundem habeant proiecturae.
11. Above the frieze the dentil is to be made as high as the middle fascia of the architrave; its projection as much as its height. The interval, which in Greek is called metope, is to be arranged so that the dentil is half as wide as it is high; The hollow of the interval is two-thirds of the front of the dentil; the cymatium of this, one-sixth its height. The cornice with its cymatium, but without the sima, is to be equal to the middle fascia of the architrave. The projection of the cornice with the dentil is to be made equal to the height from the frieze to the top of the cymatium of the cornice; and generally all projections have a more graceful appearance when they are equal to the height of the feature.
12. Tympani autem, quod est in fastigio, altitudo sic est facienda, uti frons coronae ab extremis cymatiis tota dimetiatur in partes novem et ex eis una pars in medio cacumine tympani constituatur, dum contra epistylia columnarumque hypotrachelia ad perpendiculum respondeant. Coronaeque supra aequaliter imis praeter simas sunt conlocandae. Insuper coronas simae, quas Graeci epaietidas dicunt, faciendae sunt altiores octava parte coronarum altitudinis. Acroteria angularia tam alta, quantum est tympanum medium, mediana altiora octava parte quam angularia.
12. The height of the tympanum which is in the pediment is to be such, that the whole front of the cornice from the outside of the cymatia is to be measured into nine parts; and of these one is to be set up in the middle for the summit of the tympanum. The architraves and hypotrachelia of the columns are vertically under it. The cornices above the tympana are to be made equal to those below, omitting the simae. Above the cornices the simae, which the Greeks call epaietides, are to be made higher by one-height than the coronae. The angle acroteria are to be as high as the middle of the tympanum; the middle ones are to be one-eighth higher than those at the angles.
13. Membra omnia, quae supra capitula columnarum sunt futura, id est epistylia, zophora, coronae, tympana, fastigia, acroteria, inclinanda sunt in frontis suae cuiusque altitudinis parte XII, ideo quod, cum steterimus contra frontes, ab oculo lineae duae si extensae fuerint et una tetigerit imam operis partem, altera summam, quae summam tetigerit, longior fiet. Ita quo longior visus linea in superiorem partem procedit, resupinatum facit eius speciem. Cum autem, uti supra sriptum est, n fronte inclinata fuerit, tunc in aspectu videbuntur esse ad perpendiculum et normam.
13. All the features which are to be above the capitals of the columns, that is to say, architraves, friezes, cornices, tympana, pediments, acroteria, are to be inclined towards their front by a twelfth part of their height; because when we stand against the fronts, if two lines are drawn from the eye, and one touches hte lowest part of the work, and the other the highest, that which touches the highest, will be the longer. Thus because the longer line of vision goes to the upper part, it gives the appearance of leaning backwards. When however, as written above, the line in inclined to the front, then the parts will seem vertical and to measure.
14. Columnarum striae faciendae sunt XXIIII ita excavatae, uti norma in cavo striae cum fuerit coniecta, circumdata anconibus striarum dextra ac sinistra tangat acumenque normae circum rotundationem tangendo pervagari possit. Crassitudines striarum faciendae sunt, quantum adiectio in media columna ex descriptione invenietur.
14. The flutes of the columns are to be twenty four, hollowed out in such a way that if a set square is placed into the hollow of a flute and moved round its ends, it will touch the fillets on the right and left, and the point of the square will touch the curve as it moves round. The width of the flutes is to be altered so as to suit the addition produced by the swelling of the column.
15. In simis, quae supra coronam in lateribus sunt aedium, capita leonina sunt scalpenda, disposita [ita], uti contra columnas singulas primum sint designata, cetera aequali modo disposita, uti singula singulis mediis tegulis respondeant. Haec autem, quae erunt contra columnas, perterebrata sint ad canalem, qui excipit e tegulis aquam caelestem; mediana autem sint solida, uti, quae cadit vis aquae per tegulas in canalem, ne deiciatur per intercolumnia neque transeuntes perfundat, sed quae sunt contra columnas, videantur emittere vomentia ructus aquarum ex ore.
Aedium ionicarum, quam apertissime potui, dispositiones hoc volumine scripsi; doricarum autem et corinthiarum quae sint proportiones, insequenti libro explicabo.
15. On the mouldings which are above the cornice on the sides of temples, lions' heads are to be carved, and arranged firstly so as to be set over against the tops of the several columns; the others at equal intervals so as to answer to the middle of the roof tiling. But these which will be against the columns are to be pierced for a gutter which takes the rainwater from the tiles. The intervening heads are to be solid so that the water which falls over the tiles into the gutter, may not fall down through the intercolumniations upon the passers by. But those which are against the columns are to seem to vomit and let fall streams of water from their mouths.
In this book I have written about the arrangements of Ionic temples as clearly as I could; I will unfold in the next book the proportions of Doric and Corinthian temples.
This is a quite difficult fragment and without the necessary drawings it is almost impossible to understand it correctly. Unfortunately the original designs made by Vitruvius are lost. Later translators and commentators tried to reconstruct these drawings. Instead of giving a long and confusing explanation of this text I preferred to insert these illustrations in the text. The illustrations are borrowed from Claude Perrault's edition of 1684.
One of the great difficulties of this text is the description of the method how to draw the volute of the Ionic capital. In renaissance literature about the subject different interpretations were given of this difficult fragment. Alberti gives a simplified version but the result is not very satisfactory. Serlio follows Alberti. It was only around 1540 that a better method was developped by theVenetian painter Giuseppe Porta, also known as Salviati. It is this method that we finally find in the writings of Palladio and Vignola, although Vignola gives still another, more complicated method to reach the same effect.De l'Orme follows the Salviati model.
In later architectural literature this texts has often been copied. And also Vitruvius copied it, possibly from his predecessor Hermogenes. In the previous chapter we have seen that Vitruvius had an extraordinary admiration for this Hermogenes whom he ascribes (erroneously) the invention of the Ionic style. I found two arguments to corroborate this opinion:
1. The description of the double torus in sentence 3. This a feature which was almost unknown in Roman architecture in Vitruvius' days. It occurs from the Augustan period but in combination with the Corinthian and composite style. On the other hand it is very current in Asian Greek architecture where we find this kind of column base in the period of the temples mentioned in chapter 4 as works of Hermogenes.
2. In the description of the perpendicular lines (sentence 5) which serve as bases for the design of the Ionic volute Vitruvius uses the Greek word cathetos which means perpendicular line. Instead of this latinized Greek word (which in later literature wasn't understood anymore), Vitruvius could have used a proper Latin terminology (ad perpendiculum). The fact that he prefers the Greek word indicates at least clearly his dependence on a Greek source.
Here we touch the problem of the third book. When we compare books III and IV we can see a striking contrast. Book III is a well organised and continous explanation while book IV is rather a ragbag of different notes. Further we can see that book III is essentially about Greek architecture, and it is only in this last chapter that it becomes clear that the whole book is only about the Ionic style. Vitruvius saw the difficulty to make his point clear to the reader. Therefore he added Roman examples from his own experience. Since these examples are in different styles, they obscure the fact that Vitruvius' source wrote only the rules of the Ionic style.
For a better understanding of this text it can be interesting to put all the measures and proportions in tables. This can give us the occasion to compare the Vitruvian precepts with later literature about the Ionic order. In the following tables I followed the text.
Tables 1 and 2 give the proportions of the Attic and Ionic bases as described in sentences 2 and 3.
When he comes to the proportions of the entablature Vitruvius seems to leave his method of reckoning in moduli. Here we read that these proportions depend on the height of the column which is now expressed in feet. If we accept that the ideal height of a column is 9 moduli or 9 x the lower diameter of the column, we can try to put the whole description into his modular system which gives following table.
|CH=12-15 f||CH=15-20 f||CH=20-25 f||CH=25-30 f|
1) Lower diameter
2) Height architrave
3) Cyma of architrave
4) Lower fascia
5) Middle fascia
6) Upper fascia
7a) Height unadorned frieze
8a) Cyma unadorned frieze
7b) Height adorned frieze
8b) Cyma adorned frieze
9) Height of dentils
10) Width of dentils
11) Space between dentils
12) Cyma of dentils
13) Height cornice
In my next contributions I shall try to compare this text and the tables I made with the texts of Alberti, Vignola, Palladio, Serlio and De l'Orme. They are very dependent from Vitruvius in the concept and composition of their ideas around the 5 orders. But until now it isn't made clear if they also followed his metric concept in the proportions of the different parts.
Abacus: The uppermost member of a capital. Plain in the Doric order, moulded in the Ionic and Corinthian orders. The sides are concave in the Corinthian capital, and curve out over the canted volute of the special Ionic capital used at the corner of a building. Back
Acroteria: The figures or ornaments at the lower angles or apex of a pediment, generally supported on plinths. Back
Architrave: A lintel in stone or beam of timber carried from the top of one column or pier to another; the lowest member of the entablature. Applied also to the lintel and side posts or jambs of a door or window. Back
Astragal: A small moulding of rounded, convex section. Back
Cornice: The upper member of the entablature subdivided into bed-moulding, corona, and sima, though the last properly belongs to the roof. Back
Cymatium: A wave moulding of double curvature. When the concave portion protrudes (normally at the top) it is called a cyma recta; when the convex part protrudes it is called cyma reversa; the Doric hawksbeak is another example of such a moulding, related to the cyma recta. Back
Dentil: rectangular blocks in the bed-mould of a cornice, or occupying the place of a frieze, originally representing the ends of joist which carried a flat roof. Back
Fascia: The term given to the planes into which the architrave of the Ionic an Corinthian orders is subdivided, or to a flat projecting band. Back
Fillet: A narrow flat moulding, used also of the flattened area between the deeper flutes of Ionic columns. Back
Flutes: The vertical channels employed in the shaft of columns in the classic styles. The flutes are separated one from the other by an arris in the Greek Doric and early Ionic orders, and by a fillet in the developed Ionic and Corinthian orders. Back
Frieze: the middle member of the entablature. Applied also to any horizontal band enriched with sculpture. In Greek also called zophoros. Back
Hypotrachelium: One or more grooves under the necking or gorge of a capital which mask the junction of capital and shaft. Back
Metope: The normal definition of metope is only applicable to Doric temples. It means the panels of brick wall between the holes left for the ends of the beams of the Doric ceiling, and applied afterwards to the sunk panels between the triglyphs. Vitruvius uses the term in this fragment to indicate the spaces between the dentils.Back
Mutule: A projecting slab on the soffit of a cornice.
Ovolo: A convex moulding which, though sometimes closely related to a torus, generally shifts the point of maximum projection toward the top and finally degenerates into a quarter-round.
Pediment: The triangular termination of a ridge roof, including the tympanum and the raking cornice above. Back
Torus: A convex moulding of semicircular profile, larger than an astragal. Back
Tympanum: The triangular wall enclosed by the raking cornice of the pediment and the horizontal cornice of the entablature beneath. Back
Scotia or trochilus: A 'shaded' or concave moulding generally more or less semicircular (as in Ionic bases), but sometimes merely a quarter-circle. Back
Soffit: The exposed lower surface of a lintel or architrave, of an arch or of a cornice.
Stylobate: The upper step of a temple, which formed a platform for the columns. The term is sometimes misapplied to the three steps, properly known as the crepidoma. Back
Zophoros: A continuous frieze sculptured in relief with the forms of human beings and animals. Back
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.
W.B. Dinsmoor, The architecture of Ancient Greece, London, 1950
H. Knell, Vitruvs Architekturtheorie, Versuch einer Interpretation, Darmstadt, 1985
R.Tomlinson, Vitruvius and Hermogenes, in Munus non Ingratum, ed. H.Geertman & J.J.de Jong, Leiden, 1989
W.Hoepfner - E.L.Schwandner (ed.), Hermogenes und die Hochhellenistische Architektur, Mainz, 1990
Philibert De l'Orme, Architecture, Rouen, 1648
Andrea Palladio, The Four Books of Architecture, London, 1738
J.Ryckwert - N.Leach - R.Tavernor, Leon Battista Alberti, On the Art of Building in Ten Books, Cambridge, 1988
B.Mitrovic, Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola, Canon of the Five Orders of Architecture, New York, 1999
A.Payne, The Architectural Treatise in the Italian Renaissance, Cambridge, 1999
Back to contents Book III
Suggestions and remarks?
don't hesitate to send me a message