VITRUVIUS, BOOK V, CHAPTER 9:
On Colonnades and Passages behind the Scenes.



1. Post scaenam porticus sunt constituendae, uti, cum imbres repentini ludos interpellaverint, habeat populus, quo se recipiat ex theatro, choragiaque laxamentum habeant ad comparandum. Uti sunt porticus Pompeianae, itemque Athenis porticus Eumeniae Patrisque Liberi fanum et exeuntibus e theatro sinistra parte odeum, quod Themistocles columnis lapideis dispositis navium malis et antemnis e spoliis Persicis pertexit (idem autem etiam incensum Mithridatico bello rex Ariobarzanes restituit); Smyrnae Stratoniceum; Trallibus porticus ex utraque parte, ut scaenae, supra stadium; ceterisque civitatibus, quae diligentiores habuerunt architectos, circa theatra sunt porticus et ambulationes.

Translation

l. Behind the stage, colonnades are to be planned so that when the play is interrupted by sudden showers, the audience may have a place of refuge; the colonnades may also furnish room to set up the stage machinery. At Rome there are the Colonnades of Pompey; at Athens there are the Colonnades of Eumenes, the Temple of Bacchus, and as you leave the theatre, on the left-hand side there is the Odeum. This Themistocles planned with stone columns and completed with masts and yards from the Persian spoils. It was burnt in the Mithridatic War and King Ariobarzanes restored it. At Smyrna is the Colonnade of Stratonice. At Tralles there are colonnades above the stadium on either side, like those of a theatre. In other cities also which have had skilful architects there are colonnades and walks adjoining the theatres.

2. Quae videntur ita oportere conlocari, uti duplices sint habeantque exteriores columnas doricas cum epistyliis et ornamentis ex ratione modulationis perfectas. Latitudines autem earum ita oportere fieri videntur, uti, quanta altitudo columnae fuerit exteriores, tantam latitudinem habeant ab inferiore parte columnarum extremarum ad medias et a medianis ad parietes qui circumcludunt porticus ambulationes. Medianae autem columnae quinta parte altiores sint quam exteriores, sed aut ionico aut corinthio genere deformentur.

Translation

2. These, it appears, should be so planned that they are double, having Doric columns on the outside finished with architraves and ornaments in due proportion. The width of the colonnades should be arranged as follows. Taking the height of the outer columns, this will give the width from the lower part of the outer columns to the middle columns and from the middle columns to the walls which surround the walks of the colonnades. The middle columns are to be designed one fifth higher than the outer ones, and either in the lonic or Corinthian style.

3. Columnarum autem proportiones et symmetriae non erunt isdem rationibus quibus in aedibus sacris scripsi; aliam enim in deorum templis debent habere gravitatem, aliam in porticibus et ceteris operibus subtilitatem. Itaque si dorici generis erunt columnae, dimetiantur earum altitudines cum capitulis in partes xv. Ex eis partibus una constituatur et fiat modulus, ad cuius moduli rationem omnis operis erit explicatio. Et in imo columnae crassitudo fiat duorum modulorum; intercolumnium quinque et moduli dimidia parte; altitudo columnae praeter capitulum XIIII modulorum; capituli altitudo moduli unius, latitudo modulorum duorum et moduli sextae partis. Ceteri operis modulationes, uti in aedibus sacris in libro IIII scriptum est, ita perficiantur.

Translation

3. The proportions and symmetries of the columns will not be calculated in the same way as I have described for sacred edifices. In the temples of the gods dignity should be aimed at; in colonnades and other similar works, elegance. And so if the columns are in the Doric style, their height induding the capitals is to be divided into 15 parts of which one is to be the module. The planning of the whole work is to be calculated to this module. The thickness of the column at the foot is to be of two modules. The intercolumniation is to be 5 1/2 modules. The height of the column excluding the capital is to be 14 modules. The height of the capital is to be one module; the width 2 1/6 modules. The proportions of the rest of the work are to be completed as laid down in the fourth book for sacred edifices.

4. Sin autem ionicae columnae fient, scapus praeter spiram et capitulum in octo et dimidiam partem dividatur, et ex his una crassitudini columnae detur; cum plintho dimidia crassitudine constituatur; capituli ratio ita fiat, uti in libro tertio est demonstratum. Si corinthia erit, scapus et spira uti in ionica; capitulum autem, quemadmodum in quarto libro est scriptum, ita habeant rationem. Stylobatisque adiectio quae fit per scabillos inpares, ex descriptione, quae supra scripta est in libro tertio, sumatur. Epistylia, coronae ceteraque omnia ad columnarum rationem ex scriptis voluminum superiorum explicentur.

Translation

4. But if the columns are lonic, the shaft apart from the base and capital is to be divided into 8 1/2 parts and of these one is to be given to the diameter of the column. The base, with the plinth, is to be of half the diameter. The capital is to be designed as set forth in the third book. If the column is Corinthian, the shaft and base are to be as in the lonic, but the capital is to be proportioned as set forth in the fourth book. The addition to the stylobates is to be made by unequal ordinates in accordance with the description which is given above in the third book. The architraves, cornices and other features are to be arranged to suit the columns in accordance with the previous books.

5. Media vero spatia quae erunt subdiu inter porticus, adornanda viridibus videntur, quod hypaethroe ambulationes habent magnam salubritatem. Et primum oculorum, quod ex viridibus subtilis et extenuatus aer propter motionem corporis influens perlimat speciem et ita auferens ex oculis umorem crassum, aciem tenuem et acutam speciem relinquit; praeterea, cum corpus motionibus in ambulatione calescat, umores ex membris aer exsugendo inminuit plenitates extenuatque dissipando quod plus inest quam corpus potest sustinere.

Translation

5. The open spaces which are between the colonnades under the open sky, are to be arranged with green plots; because walks in the open are very healthy, first for the eyes, because from the green plantations, the air being subtle and rarefied, flows into the body as it moves, clears the vision, and so by removing the thick humour from the eyes, leaves the glance defined and the image clearly marked. Moreover, since in walking the body is heated by motion, the air extracts the humours from the limbs, and diminishes repletion, by dissipating what the body has, more than it can carry.

6. Hoc autem ita esse ex eo licet animadvertere, quod, sub tectis cum sint aquarum fontes aut etiam sub terra palustris abundantia, ex his nullus surgit umor nebulosus, sed in apertis hypaethrisque locis, cum sol oriens vapore tangat mundum, ex umidis et abundantius excitat umores et exconglobatos in altitudinem tollit. Ergo si ita videtur, uti in hypaethris locis ab aere umores ex corporibus exsugantur molestiores, quemadmodum ex terra per nebulas videntur, non puto dubium esse, quin amplissimas et ornatissimas subdiu hypaethrisque conlocari oporteat in civitatibus ambulationes.

Tranlation

6. We can perceive that this is so from the fact that when springs of water are under cover, or there is underground a marshy flow, no moist vapour rises. In places open to the air and sky, when the rising sun touches the world with its warmth, it draws the moisture from moist sites even more abundantly, gathers it together and raises it above. Therefore if it appears that in open places the more troublesome moisture is sucked out from the body, as it is seen to be drawn from the earth through the clouds, I do not think it is doubtful but that in cities extensive and ornate parades should be placed in the open, and exposed to the sun.

7. Eae autem uti sint semper siccae et non lutosae, sic erit faciendum. Fodiantur et exinaniantur quam altissime. Dextra atque sinistra structiles cloacae fiant, inque earum parietibus qui ad ambulationem spectaverint, tubuli instruantur inclinati fastigio. In cloacis his perfectis compleantur ea loca carbonibus, deinde insuper sabulone eae ambulationes sternantur et exaequentur. Ita propter carbonum raritatem naturalem et tubulorum in cloacas instructionem excipientur aquarum abundantiae, et ita siccae et sine umore perfectae fuerint ambulationes.

Translation

7. in order that these walks may be always dry and free from mud, the following measures should be taken. They are to be dug and emptied out as deeply as possible. Drains are to be constructed right and left. In the walls of these, which are on the side of the parade, pipes are to be fixed inclined to the drains. When this is complete, the place is to be filled with charcoal; then above this the walks are to be covered with sand and levelled. Thus by the natural porosity of the charcoal, and by the insertion of the pipes, the overflow of the water will be taken off. Thus the parades will be dry and without moisture.

8. Praeterea in his operibus thensauri sunt civitatibus in necessariis rebus a moribus constituti. in conclusionibus enim reliqui omnes faciliores sunt apparatus quam lignorum. Sal enim facile ante inportatur, frumenta publice privatimque expeditius congeruntur, et si defit, holeribus, carne seu leguminibus defenditur, aquae fossuris puteorum et de caelo repentinis tempestatibus ex tegulis excipiuntur. De lignatione quae maxime necessaria est ad cibum quoquendum, difficilis et molesta est apparatio, quod et tarde conportatur et plus consumitur.

Translation

8. Moreover in these buildings, custom included depots for stores required by the cities. In times of siege, the provision of everything else is more easy than that of wood. Salt is easily brought in beforehand. Corn is quickly gathered by the community and by individuals. If it fails, provision can be made with green vegetables, meat or beans. Water is obtained by the digging of wells; in sudden storms it is received from the sky by the roof tiles. But the provision of fire-wood, which is most necessary for cooking food, is difficult and troublesome. For it takes time to collect and is used in large quantities.

9. In eiusmodi temporibus tunc eae ambulationes aperiuntur et mensurae tributim singulis capitibus designantur. Ita duas res egregias hypaethra ambulationem praestant, unam in pace salubritatis, alteram in bello salutis. Ergo his rationibus ambulationum explicationes non solum post scaenam theatri, sed etiam omnium deorum templis effectae magnas civitatibus praestare poterunt ulilitates.
Quoniam haec nobis satis videntur esse exposita, nunc insequentur balinearum dispositionum demonstrationes.

Translation

9. In times of siege the walks are thrown open, and wood is distributed to each citizen according to his tribe. Thus walks in the open air serve two outstanding purposes: health in time of peace, and security in war. In this way the laying out of walks, not only behind the stage of the theatre but also for the temples of all the gods, can furnish cities with great advantages.
Since these topics seem to us to be enough explained, there will now follow a description of the planning of baths.

COMMENT

The first period of this chapter describes the origin of the portico behind the scene. Vitruvius refers to Greek examples. Indeed, it was common practice in Greece to build a portico or collonade in relation to a theatre to provide shelter to the spectators in case of rain or as a walking place during the pauses between the plays. The most striking example is maybe the portico of Eumenes at the right side (seen from the theatre) of the theatre of Dionysos on the south slope of the acropolis at Athens. The odeon which is mentionned in relation to this stoa is the odeon of Pericles at the left side of the theatre. It consists of a square covered hall with a ceiling supported by rows of columns.

Roman architects adopted these colonnades behind the scene. Vitruvius mentions a colonnade in relation to the theatre of Pompey, one of the two theatres he could have seen in Rome. The theatre of Pompey was built in 55 BC. Not much is known about it. It is represented on the forma urbis but nowadays it is completely built over but from scattered finds and the indications on the Forma Urbis a quadriporticus of 180 x 135 m is supposed. It is possible that the architects of Rome saw exaples of these quadriporticoes in the Greek colonies of southern Italy which in their turn influenced the layout of the great theatre of Pompeii. This theatre can be dated at about 200 BC and it is much influenced by Greek prototypes. It has a great quadriportico behind the scene. After the earthquake of 62 AD it was transformed in to the gladiatorial barracks.
Also the theatre of Ostia, built in the early augustan period (18-12 BC) has a similar quadriportico of 107x78 m.

Rome, Theatre and porticus of Pompeius

Ostia, Theatre and porticus

Pompeii, theatre and porticus

The second period gives the general layout of the quadriporticus. It consists of a double row of columns. The distances of the middle column to the front and the rear wall equals the heigth of the outer column. The intercolumniation or distance from one column to another is 5,5 modules. The end of the sentence is remarquable in that the central column is one fifth higher than the outer column. At first thoughts this seems rather strange since we are used to think about a roof with a timber construction made of beams and rafters that rest on a substructure of equal height. This way of thinking even led some scholars to think that Vitruvius made here a mistake or that there crept in an error in the manuscripts. But this disposition was exactly meant by Vitruvius and further in this discussion we will see why this higher central column is necessary. We can find an example of this layout in the stoa of Zeus Eleutherios on the north west corner of the Athenian agora. Although almost nothing is left in situ we learn from the excavation that this was a double portico in a single storey. The outer order was doric while the central columns where ionic. Since these central columns had to support the ridge of the roof without interference of a rafter and beam construction, they had to be higher than the outer columns. This practice was generally followed in Greek stoa construction and it is obvious that Vitruvius uses here these porticoes as model for his own prescriptions.

periods 3 and 4 are about the proportions of the columns. The explanation may seem a little confused: de proportions of the outer doric order are derived from a modular system which is 1/15 of the height of the column. On the other hand the proportions of the inner ionic order are based on the lower diameter of the column. It seems like Vitruvius is mixing two different measure systems. In reality he stays consequent with his own way of thinking. Indeed, in book 3 which handles about the ionic order, he used the lower diameter of the column as basic measure from which all other are derived. On the other hand, when he discusses the doric column in book 4 he takes the module als basic element. In book 4 as well as in this sentence this module equals half the lower diameter of the column.
There were also optical corrections: the stylobate has a slight curvature. The purpose of this correction, as is already described in book 3, chapter 4, is to obtain the aspect of a level line; if the stylobate is made level (i.e. without curvature) the eye will percieve it as a hollow line. Here also Vitruvius prescribes the method of the scabelli (or scamilli) impares.
At the end of the sentence he refers to book 4 were we can find the proportions of the architrave and the frieze and cornice of the doric order. It means that to the height of the columns 1 module is added for the architrave, 1,5 module for the frieze an half a module for the cornice. When we consider all these measures together we can see that to the initial height of the doric column 1/5 is added for achitrave, frieze and cornice. So, the overall height of the fašade equals the height of the central ionic column. If we put a longitudinal beam on top of the central columns, this will add a little to the height of the central part of the portico. The result is a nearly flat roof.

Period 5 and 6 are about the layout of the central part of the quadriporticus. Trees and shrubs provide shade and are healthy for those who walk there. As is the case in other parts of the treatise, Vitruvius shows once again his general concern about health and wellness.

The drainage system that is described in period 7 is very effective. It can even be used today and will prove very efficient.

Finally in periods 8 and 9 Vitruvius describes some additional uses of these colonnades as storeroom for provisions and wood in case of siege.

Pula (Croatia), Theatre and porticus as represented by Serlio (1540)

Tergeste (trieste), theatre and porticus

Vitruvius' description is merely based on the layout of the theatre of Pompey but in some later examples we find the porticus behind the scene reduced to a single colonnade against the back wall of the scene. An example of this disposition is seen in the great theatre of Pula (Croatia), built around the middle of the 1st century AD and represented in the treatise of Serlio. Another one is the theatre of Tergeste (Triest) where we see a portico of 4 m wide and 63,85 m long adjacent to the rear wall of the scene.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

F.Granger, Vitruvius, On Architecture, Cambridge, Massachussets, London, 1932.
C.Perrault, Les dix livres d'architecture de Vitruve, Paris, 1684.
T.Peters, Vitruvius, Handboek Bouwkunde, Amsterdam, 1999.
W.B.Dinsmoor, The Architecture of Ancient Greece, London, New York, Toronto, Sydney, 1950.
H.Knell, Vitruvs Architekturtheorie, Darmstadt, 1991.
P.Gros, L'architecture Romaine, 1 Les monuments publics, Paris, 2002.
F.Sear, Roman Theatres, an Architectural Study, Oxford, 2006.


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