VITRUVIUS, BOOK V, CHAPTER 2:
On the treasury, prison and curia.



1. Aerarium, carcer, curia foro sunt coniungenda, sed ita uti magnitudo symmetriae eorum foro respondeant. Maxime quidem curia in primis est facienda ad dignitatem municipii sive civitatis. Et si quadrata erit, quantum habuerit latitudinis dimidia addita constituatur altitudo; sin autem oblonga fuerit, longitudo et latitudo componatur, et summae compositae eius dimidia pars sub lacunaris altitudini detur.

Translation

1.The treasury, prison, senate-house are to adjoin the forum but in such a way that their scale and proportion answers to that of the forum, in the first place especialiy the senate-house is to be built with a view to the dignity of the municipality or city. If it be square its height must be one and a half times its width; but if it be oblong, let the length and breadth be added together and let half of the total amount be given to the height under the ceiling.

2. Praeterea praecingendi sunt parietes medii coronis ex intestino opere aut albario ad dimidiam partem altitudinis. Quae si non erunt, vox ibi disputantium elata in altitudinem intellectui non poterit esse audientibus. Cum autem coronis praecincti parietes erunt, vox ab imis morata priusquam in aera elata dissipabitur, auribus erit intellecta.

Translation

2. Moreover the interior walls are to be surrounded half way up with cornices of fine joiners' work or plaster at half their height. If this is not done, the voice of the disputants rising upwards cannot be understood by the audience. When, however, the walls are girt with cornices, the voice, being delayed by the lowest parts before it rises into the air and is scattered, will be perceived by the ear.

COMMENT

In this second chapter Vitruvius goes on with the description of the important buildings of a town. It was the curia that gave a place the status of a town, and we may conclude that the presence of capitolium, basilica and curia with comitium around a central open space (which evolved into the forum) were the constituent buildings to indicate the difference between town and country.

The word curia is derived from the three old tribes of Rome, the Tities, Ramnes and Luceres which were called curiae. The curia indicated in a first stage the assembly of the elected representants of these tribes: ten per tribe. These thirty men, forming a kind of senate, had their meeting place on the comitium (which literally means 'meeting place' derived from coire: gathering together). On the Forum in Rome this old comitium was a circular open space surrounded by steps roughly situated between the present Curia Iulia, the arch of Septimius Severus and the rostra.
According to tradition Tullus Hostilius, the third king of Rome, erected a building for this assembly on the north side of the comitium known as the Curia Hostilia. From that moment the word curia was transfered from the assembly to the building. In the first days of its evolution the curia was seen as a templum, a sacred space in which not only the state assemblies were held but which housed religious meetings as well.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

F.Granger, Vitruvius, on architecture, Cambridge, Massachusetts, London, 1931
A.BoŽthius - J.B.Ward-Perkins, Etruscan and Roman architecture, Harmondsworth, 1970
F.Coarelli, Guida archeologica di Roma, 1974
P.Gros, L'architecture Romaine, 1. Les monuments publics, Paris, 1996


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