VITRUVIUS, BOOK V
Preface



1. Qui amplioribus voluminibus, imperator, ingenii cogitationes praeceptaque explicaverunt, maximas et egregias adiecerunt suis scriptis auctoritates. Quod etiam vel in nostris quoque studiis res pateretur, ut ampificationibus auctoritas et in his praeceptis augeretur; sed id non est, quemadmodum putatur, expeditum. Non enim de architectura sic scribitur uti histotia aut poemata. Historiae per se tenent lectores; habent enim novarum rerum varias expectationes. Poematorum vero carminum metra et pedes, ac verborum elegans dispositio et sententiarum inter personas distinctas, versuum pronuntiatio prolectando sensus legentium perducit sine offensa ad summam scriptorum terminationem.

Translation

1. Men, Caesar, who in more ample volumes unfold the notions and rules suggested by their talent, add to their writings very great and unusual authority. Indeed even in our studies, the topic would allow this: namely, that in this treatise also, amplification would afford greater weight of authority. But that is not so convenient as it is thought. For writing about architecture is not like a history, or poems. Histories, of themselves, hold the reader. For they offer the varied prospects of novelty. Again in poems, the measures and feet of the music and the nice arrangement of the words and opinions, the recital of verses distributed among the several characters, entice the thoughts of the reader and, without hindrance, lead him to the very close of the book.

2. Id autem in architecturae conscriptionibus non potest fieri, quod vocabula ex artis propria necessitate concepta inconsueto sermone obiciunt sensibus obscuritatem. Cum ergo ea per se non sint aperta nec pateant eorum in consuetudine nomina, tum etiam praeceptorum late evagantes scripturae, si non contrahentur, et paucis et perlucidis sententiis explicentur, frequentia multitudineque sermonis inpediente incertas legentium efficient cogitationes. Itaque occultas nominationes commensusque e membris operum pronuntians, ut emoriae tradantur, breviter exponam; sic enim expeditius ea recipere poterunt mentes.

Translation

2. But in architectural compositions this cannot take place. For the terms, used by the special necessity of the craft, by their unfamiliar sound seem obscure to the perception. Since therefore they of themselves are not obvious, nor is the nomenclature clear by customary use, so further the casual expression of rules - unless they are collected and axplained in a few lucid phrases - renders uncertain the notions of the reader; for repetition and a cumbrous style are a hindrance. And while I enumerate, in accordance with the parts of buildings, the obsure terms and measurements, I will expound them briefly so that they may be remembered. For thus the mind will be able to receive them more conveniently.

3. Non minus cum animadvertissem distentam occupationibus civitatem publicis et privatis negotiis, paucis iudicavi scribendum, uti angusto spatio vacuitatis ea legentes breviter percipere possent.
Etiamque Pythagoras quique eius haeresim fuerunt secuti, placuit cybicis rationibus praecepta in voluminibus scribere, constitueruntque cybum CCXVI versus eosque non plus tres in una conscriptione oportere esse putaverunt.

Translation

3. None the less, perceiving the state to be overstrained by public and private business, I decided that I must write briefly so that the reader might understand in his scanty leisure.
Pythagoras also, and those who followed his seet, decided to write their rules, cube fashion, in their volumes, and fixed upon a cube - 216 lines - and they thought that not more than three cubes should be in one treatise.

4. Cybus autem est corpus ex lateribus aequali latitudine planitiarum perquadratus. Is cum est iactus, quam in partem incubuit, dum est intactus, inmotam habet stabilitatem, uti sunt etiam tesserae quas in alveo ludentes iaciunt. Hanc autem similitudinem ex eo sumpsisse videntur, quod is numerus versuum, uti cybus, in quemcumque sensum insederit, inmotam efficiat ibi memoriae stabilitatem. Graeci quoque poetae comici interponentes e choro canticum diviserunt spatia fabularum. Ita partes cybica ratione facientes intercapedinibus levant auctorem pronuntiationis.

Translation

4. Now a cube is a body with all its sides squared and their surfaces equal. When a cube is thrown, on whatever part it rests, it retains its stability unmoved so long as it is untouched, like the dice which players throw in a tray. Now this analogy they seem to have taken from the fact that this number of verses, like a cube upon whatever sense it falls, makes the memory there stable and unmoved. Greek comic poets also, interposing the canticum sung by the chorus, divided the spaces of their plays. Thus making the parts cube fashion, they relieve by intervals the delivery of the author's words.

5. Cum ergo haec naturali modo sint a maioribus observata animoque advertam inusitatas et obscuras multis res esse mihi scribendas, quo facilius ad sensus legentium pervenire possint, brevibus voluminibus iudicavi scribre; ita enim expedita erunt ad intellegendum. Eorumque ordinationes institui, uti non sint quaerentibus separatim colligenda, sed e corpore uno et in singulis voluminibus generum haberent explicationes. Itaque, Caesar, tertio et quarto volumine aedium sacrarum rationes exposui, hoc libro publicorum locorum expediam dispositiones. Primumque forum uti oporteat constitui dicam, quod in eo et publicarum et privatarum rerum rationes per magistratus gubernantur.

Translation

5. Since then, these things have been observed by our forefathers in the order of nature, and I find that I must deal with topics unfamiliar and obscure to the many, I decided to write in short compass, that they might more easily reach the perception of the reader. For so they will be convenient for understanding. And I fixed their arrangement so that the inquirer has not to collect them, one by one, but that from one corpus and in the several books they might get the explanations of the several subjects. And so, Caesar, in the third and fourth volume, I explained the plans of temples; in this book I will set forth the arrangements of public places. And first I will say how the forum should be planned, because in it business, both of a public and private nature, is controlled by the magistrates.

COMMENT

Vitruvius is clearly aware of the difficulty of his treatise. He is struggling with the fact that before him nothing of this kind has been written. Therefore he had to create his own language with an appropriate vocabulary and architectural terrminology. The great part of his terminology is derived from Greek, has we have seen in previous chapters. He latinised these Greek words. During the renaissance the Vitruvian Latin was widely criticized. Some authors said that he was a Roman writing Greek with latin words while for Greeks he found his inspiration in Greek literature but chattering Latin.
To make his purpose as clear as possible he decided to be brief. In this he is referring to Pythagorean theories. In this philosophy the cube is the perfect figure which represents total rest. The cube started from the number 6 which is the first perfect number (2 x 3) and which formed the edge of the cube. The content of a cube is defined as the surface of the base (6 x 6) multiplied by its height, i.e. 6 x 6 x 6 = 216.

In the following book Vitruvius will write about public architecture: the forum, the basilica, the theatre, thermae, harbours and shipyards. This text will give us great opportunity to make comparisons between Vitruvius' theories and the remaining ruins.

A very interesting topic in this book is the basilica of Fano, the only building Vitruvius built himself.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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, Darmstadt, 1985