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The architecture of Marcus Vitruvius Pollio : in ten books online

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between each tower should not exceed an arrow's flight ;
so that if, at any point between them, an attack be
made, the besiegers may be repulsed by the scorpions
and other missile engines stationed on the towers right
and left of the point in question. The walls will be in-
tercepted by the lower parts of the towers where they
occur, leaving an interval equal to the width of the tower;
which space the tower will consequently occupy: but the
communication across the void inside the tower, must
be of wood, not at all fastened with iron : so that, if
the enemy obtain possession of any part of the walls, the
wooden communication may be promptly cut away by the
defenders, and thus prevent the enemy from penetrating
to the other parts of the walls without the danger of pre-
cipitating themselves into the vacant hollows of the towers.
The towers should be made either round or polygonal.
A square is a bad form, on account of its being easily frac-
tured at the quoins by the battering-ram ; whereas the
circular tower has this advantage, that, when battered, the
pieces of masonry whereof it'is composed being cuneiform,
they cannot be driven in towards their centre without


displacing the whole mass. Nothing tends more to the
security of walls and towers, than backing them with walls
or terraces : it counteracts the effects of rams as well as
of undermining. It is not, however, always necessary to
construct them in this mariner, except in places where the
besiegers might gain high ground very near the walls, from
which, over level ground, an assault could be made. In
the construction of ramparts, very wide and deep trenches
are to be first excavated ; the bottom of which must be
still further dug out, for receiving the foundation of the
wall. This must be of sufficient thickness to resist the
pressure of the earth against it. Then, according to
the space requisite for drawing up the cohorts in
military order on the rampart, another wall is to be
built within the former, towards the city. The outer
and inner walls are then to be connected by cross walls,
disposed on the plan after the manner of the teeth of a
comb or of a saw, so as to divide the pressure of the fill-
ing in earth into many and less forces, and thus prevent
the walls from being thrust out. I do not think it requi-
site to dilate on the materials whereof the wall should be
composed ; because those which are most desirable, can-
not, from the situation of a place, be always procured. We
must, therefore, use what are found on the spot ; such as
square stones, flint, rubble stones, burnt or unburn t bricks;
for every place is not provided, as is Babylon, with such
a substitute for lime and sand as burnt bricks and liquid
bitumen ; yet there is scarcely any spot which does not
furnish materials whereof a durable wall may not be




Their circuit being completed, it behoves us to consider
the manner of disposing of the area of the space enclosed
within the walls, and the proper directions and aspects of
the streets and lanes. They should be so planned as to
exclude the winds : these, if cold, are unpleasant ; if hot,
are hurtful ; if damp, destructive. A fault in this respect
must be therefore avoided, and care taken to prevent
that which occurs in so many cities. For instance ; in
the island of Lesbos, the town of Mytilene is magnificently
and elegantly designed, and well built, but imprudently
placed. When the south wind prevails in it, the inha-
bitants fall sick ; the north-west wind affects them with
coughs ; and the north wind restores them to health : but
the intensity of the cold therein is so great, that no one
can stand about in the streets and lanes. Wind is a
floating wave of air, whose undulation continually varies.
It is generated by the action of heat upon moisture, the
rarefaction thereby produced creating a continued rush
of wind. That such is the case, may be satisfactorily
proved by observations on brazen acolipylae, which clearly
shew that an attentive examination of human inventions
often leads to a knowledge of the general laws of nature.
^Eolipylae are hollow brazen vessels, which have an open-
ing or mouth of small size, by means of which they can
be filled with water. Previous to the water being heated
over the fire, but little wind is emitted, as soon, however, as

c >5

the water begins to boil, a violent wind issues forth.
Thus a simple experiment enables us to ascertain and de-
termine the causes and effects of the great operations of
the heavens and the winds. In a place sheltered from the
winds, those who are in health preserve it, those who are
ill soon convalesce, though in other, even healthy places,
they would require different treatment, and this entirely
on account of their shelter from the winds. The disorders
difficult to cure in exposed situations are colds, the gout,
coughs, phthisis, pleurisy, spitting of blood, and those
diseases which are treated by replenishment instead of ex-
haustion of the natural forces. Such disorders are cured
with difficulty. First, because they are the effect of cold ;
secondly, because the strength of the patient being greatly
diminished by the disorder, the air agitated by the action
of the winds becomes poor and exhausts the body's moist-
ure, tending to make it low and feeble ; whereas, that air
which from its soft and thick nature is not liable to great
agitation, nourishes and refreshes its strength. Accord-
ing to some, there are but four winds, namely, Solanus,
the east wind, Auster, the south wind, Favonius, the west
wind, and Septentrio, the north wind. But those who are
more curious in these matters reckon eight winds ; among
such was Andronicus Cyrrhestes, who, to exemplify the
theory, built at Athens an octagonal marble tower, on
each side of which was sculptured a figure representing
the wind blowing from the quarter opposite thereto. On
the top of the roof of this tower a brazen Triton with a rod
in his right hand moved on a pivot, and pointed to the
figure of the quarter in which the wind lay. The other
winds not above named are Eurus, the south-east wind,
Africus, the south-west wind, Caurus, by many called


North Carolina State College


Corus, the north-west wind, and Aqnilo the north-east
wind. Thus are expressed the number and names of the
winds and the points whence they blow. To find and lay
down their situation we proceed as follows : let a marble
slab be fixed level in the centre of the space enclosed by
the walls, or let the ground be smoothed and levelled, so
that the slab may not be necessary. In the centre of this
plane, for the purpose of marking the shadow correctly, a
brazen gnomon must be erected. The Greeks call this
gnomon <nc/a^aj. The shadow cast by the gnomon is to
be marked about the fifth ante-meridianal hour, and the
extreme point of the shadow accurately determined. From
the central point of the space whereon the gnomon stands,
as a centre, with a distance equal to the length of shadow
just observed, describe a circle. After the sun has passed
the meridian, watch the shadow which the gnomon con-
tinues to cast till the moment when its extremity again
touches the circle which has been described. From the two
points thus obtained in the circumference of the circle de-
scribe two arcs intersecting each other, and through their
intersection and the centre of the circle first described
draw a line to its extremity: this line will indicate the
north and south points. One-sixteenth part of the circum-
ference of the whole circle is to be set out to the right and
left of the north and south points, and drawing lines from
the points thus obtained to the centre of the circle, we
have one-eighth part of the circumference for the region
of the north, and another eighth part for the region of the
south. Divide the remainders of the circumference on
each side into three equal parts, and the divisions or re-
gions of the eight winds will be then obtained : then let the
directions of the streets and lanes be determined by the


tendency of the lines which separate the different regions
of the winds. Thus will their force be broken and turned
away from the houses and public ways ; for if the di-
rections of the streets be parallel to those of the winds,
the latter will rush through them with greater violence,
since from occupying the whole space of the surrounding
country they will be forced up through a narrow pass.
Streets or public ways ought therefore to be so set out,
that when the winds blow hard their violence may be
broken against the angles of the different divisions of the
city, and thus dissipated. Those who are accustomed to
the names of so many winds, will perhaps be surprised at
our division of them into eight only; but if they reflect that

the circuit of the earth was ascertained by Eratosthenes of

Cyrene, from mathematical calculations, founded on the ^jr a ^ ^ -

sun's course, the shadow of an equinoctial gnomon, and the -^

obliquity of the heavens, and was discovered to be equal

to two hundred and fifty-two thousand stadia or thirty-one

millions and five hundred thousand paces, an eighth part

whereof, as occupied by each wind, being three millions

nine hundred and thirty-seven thousand five hundred

paces, their surprise will cease, because of the number

of impediments and reverberations it must naturally

be subject to in travelling such distance through such

varied space. To the right and left of the south wind blow

respectively Euronotus and Altanus. On the sides of Afri-

cus, the south-west wind, Libonotus southward and

Subvesperus northward. On the southern side of Favo-

nius, the west wind, Argestes, and on its northern side

Etesise. On the western side of Caurus, the north-west

wind, Circius, on its northern side Corus. On the west-
ern and eastern sides respectively of Septentrio, the north



wind, Thrascias and Gallicus. From the northern side
of Aquilo, the north-east wind, blows Supernas, from its
southern side Boreas. Solanus, the east wind, has Car-
bas on its northern side, and Ornithiae on its southern
side. Eurus, the south-east wind, has Caecias and Vul-
turnus on its eastern and southern sides respectively.
Many other names, deduced from particular places, rivers,
or mountain storms, are given to the winds. There
are also the morning breezes, which the sun rising
from his subterranean regions, and acting violently on
the humidity of the air collected during the night, ex-
tracts from the morning vapours. These remain after
sunrise, and are classed among the east winds, and hence
receive the name of evgog given by the Greeks to that wind,
so also from the morning breezes they called the morrow
a.vgtov. Some deny that Eratosthenes was correct in his
measure of the earth, whether with propriety or other-
wise, is of no consequence in tracing the regions whence
the winds blow : for it is clear there is a great difference be-
tween the forces with which the several winds act. Inas-
much as the brevity with which the foregoing rules are laid
down may prevent their being clearly understood, I have
thought it right to add for the clearer understanding
thereof two figures, or as the Greeks call them a-^^aTo,,
at the end of this book. The first shews the precise re-
gions whence the different winds blow. The second, the
method of disposing the streets in such a manner as to
dissipate the violence of the winds and render them in-
noxious. Let A be the centre of a perfectly level and
plane tablet whereon a gnomon is erected. The ante-
meridianal shadow of the gnomon being marked at. B,
from A, as a centre with the distance AB, describe a


complete circle. Then replacing the gnomon correctly,
watch its increasing shadow, which after the sun has
passed his meridian, will gradually lengthen till it become
exactly equal to the shadow made in the forenoon, then
again touching the circle at the point C. From the
points B and. C, as centres, describe two arcs cutting each
other in D. From the point D, through the centre of
the circle, draw the line EF, which will give the north
and south points. Divide the whole circle into sixteen
parts. From the point E, at which the southern end of
the meridian line touches the circle, set off at G and H
to the right and left a distance equal to one of the said
sixteen parts, and in the same manner on the north side,
placing one foot of the compasses on the point F, mark
on each side the points I and K, and with lines drawn
through the centre of the circle join the points GK and
HI, so that the space from G to H will be given to the
south wind and its region ; that from I to K to the
north wind. The remaining spaces on the right and left
are each to be divided into three equal parts ; the ex-
treme points of the dividing lines on the east sides, to be
designated by the letters L and M ; those on the west by
the letters N O ; from M to O and from L to N draw
lines crossing each other : and thus the whole circum-
ference will be divided into eight equal spaces for the
winds. The figure thus described will be furnished with
a letter at each angle of the octagon. Thus, beginning
at the south, between the regions of Eurus and Auster,
will be the letter G ; between those of Auster and Afri-
cus, H ; between Africus and Favonius, N ; between
that and Caurus, Q ; K between Caurus and Septen-
trio j between Septentrio and Aquilo, I ; between Aquilo


and Solanus, L ; and between that and Eurus, M. Thus
adjusted, let a bevel gauge be applied to the different
angles of the octagon, to determine the directions of the
different streets and lanes.




The lanes and streets of the city being set out, the choice
of sites for the convenience and use of the state remains
to be decided on ; for sacred edifices, for the forum, and
for other public buildings. If the place adjoin the sea,
the forum should be placed close to the harbour : if in-
land, it should be in the centre of the town. The tem-
ples of the gods, protectors of the city, also those of
Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, should be on some eminence
which commands a view of the greater part of the city.
The temple of Mercury should be either in the forum,
or, as also the temple of Isis and Serapis, in the great
public square. Those of Apollo and Father Bacchus
near the theatre. If there be neither amphitheatre nor
gymnasium, the temple of Hercules should be near the
circus. The temple of Mars should be out of the city,
in the neighbouring country. That of Venus near to the
gate. According to the regulations of the Hetrurian
Haruspices, the temples of Venus, Vulcan, and Mars
should be so placed that those of the first be not in the
way of contaminating the matrons and youth with the
influence of lust ; that those of Vulcan be away from
the city, which would consequently be freed from the
danger of fire ; the divinity presiding over that element
being drawn away by the rites and sacrifices performing
in his temple. The temple of Mars should be also out
of the city, that no armed frays may disturb the peace of


the citizens, and that this divinity may, moreover, be ready
to preserve them from their enemies and the perils of war.
The temple of Ceres should be in a solitary spot out of
the city, to which the public are not necessarily led but
for the purpose of sacrificing to her. This spot is to be re-
verenced with religious awe and solemnity of demeanour,
by those whose affairs lead them to visit it. Appropriate
situations must also be chosen for the temples and places
of sacrifice to the other divinities. For the construc-
tion and proportions of the edifices themselves, I shall
give rules in the third and fourth books ; because it ap-
pears to me, that in the second book I ought to ex-
plain the nature of the different materials employed in
building, their qualities and use ; and then, in the other
books, to give rules for the dimensions of buildings, the
orders, and their proportions.






Dinocrates the architect, relying on the powers of his
skill and ingenuity, whilst Alexander was in the midst of
his conquests, set out from Macedonia to the army, de-
sirous of gaining the commendation of his sovereign.
That his introduction to the royal presence might be fa-
cilitated, he obtained letters from his countrymen and
relations to men of the first rank and nobility about the
king's person ; by whom being kindly received, he be-


sought them to take the earliest opportunity of accom-
plishing his wish. They promised fairly, but were slow
in performing ; waiting, as they alleged, for a proper occa-
sion. Thinking, however, they deferred this without just
grounds, he took his own course for the object he had in
view. He was, I should state, a man of tall stature, pleas-
ing countenance, and altogether of dignified appearance.
Trusting to the gifts with which nature had thus endowed
him, he put off his ordinary clothing, and having anointed
himself with oil, crowned his head with a wreath of pop-
lar, slung a lion's skin across his left shoulder, and carrying
a large club in his right hand, he sallied forth to the royal
tribunal, at a period when the king was dispensing jus-
tice. The novelty of his appearance excited the atten-
tion of the people ; and Alexander soon discovering, with
astonishment, the object of their curiosity, ordered the
crowd to make way for him, and demanded to know who
he was. " A Macedonian architect," replied Dinocrates,
" who suggests schemes and designs worthy your royal
renown. I propose to form Mount Athos into the statue
of a man holding a spacious city in his left hand, and in
his right a huge cup, into which shall be collected all the
streams of the mountain, which shall thence be poured
into the sea." Alexander, delighted at the proposition,
made immediate inquiry if the soil of the neighbourhood
were of a quality capable of yielding sufficient produce for
such a state. When, however, he found that all its sup-
plies must be furnished by sea, he thus addressed Dino-
crates : " I admire the grand outline of your scheme, and
am well pleased with it : but I am of opinion he would
be much to blame who planted a colony on such a spot.
For as an infant is nourished by the milk of its mother,


depending thereon for its progress to maturity, so a city
depends on the fertility of the country surrounding it for
its riches, its strength in population, and not less for its
defence against an enemy. Though your plan might be
carried into execution, yet I think it impolitic. I never-
theless request your attendance on me, that I may other-
wise avail myself of your ingenuity." From that time
Dinocrates was in constant attendance on the king, and
followed him into Egypt ; where Alexander having per-
ceived a spot, at the same time naturally strong, the centre
of the commerce of the country, a land abounding with
corn, and having those facilities of transport which the Nile
afforded, ordered Dinocrates to build a city whose name
should be Alexandria. Dinocrates obtained this honour
through his comely person and dignified deportment. But
to me, Emperor, nature hath denied an ample stature ; my
face is wrinkled with age, and sickness has impaired my
constitution. Deprived of these natural accomplish-
ments, 1 hope, however, to gain some commendation
through the aid of my scientific acquirements, and the
precepts I shall deliver. In the first book I have treated
of architecture, and the parts into which it is divided ;
of the walls of a city, and the division of the space within
the walls. The directions for the construction of sacred
buildings, their proportions and symmetry, will follow
and be explained : but I think they will be out of place,
unless I previously give an account of the materials and
workmanship used in their erection, together with an in-
vestigation of their several properties and application in
different cases. Even this I must preface with an in-
quiry into the origin and various species of the earliest


buildings, and their gradual advance to perfection. In
this I shall follow the steps of Nature herself, and those
who have written on the progress from savage to civil-
ized life, and the inventions consequent on the latter
state of society. Thus guided, I will proceed.




Mankind originally brought forth like the beasts of the
field, in woods, dens, and groves, passed their lives in
a savage manner, eating the simple food which nature af-
forded. A tempest, on a certain occasion, having ex-
ceedingly agitated the trees in a particular spot, the fric-
tion between some of the branches caused them to take
fire; this so alarmed those in the neighbourhood of the
accident, that they betook themselves to flight. Return-
ing to the spot after the tempest had subsided, and find-
ing the warmth which had thus been created extremely
comfortable, they added fuel to the fire excited, in order
to preserve the heat, and then went forth to invite others,
by signs and gestures, to come and witness the discovery.
In the concourse that thus took place, they testified their
different opinions and expressions by different inflexions
of the voice. From dailv association words succeeded to
these indefinite modes of speech ; and these becoming by
degrees the signs of certain objects, they began to join
them together, and conversation became general. Thus
the discovery of fire gave rise to the first assembly of
mankind, to their first deliberations, and to their union
in a state of society. For association with each other
they were more fitted by nature than other animals, from
their erect posture, which also gave them the advantage
of continually viewing the stars and firmament, no less
than from their being able to grasp and lift an object, and


turn it about with their hands and fingers. In the as-
sembly, therefore, which thus brought them first together,
they were led to the consideration of sheltering themselves
from the seasons, some by making arbours with the
boughs of trees, some by excavating caves in the moun-
tains, and others in imitation of the nests and habitations
of swallows, by making dwellings of twigs interwoven
and covered with mud or clay. From observation of and
improvement on each others' expedients for sheltering
themselves, they soon began to provide a better species
of huts. It was thus that men, who are by nature of an
imitative and docile turn of mind, and proud of their own
inventions, gaining daily experience also by what had been
previously executed, vied with each other in their pro-
gress towards perfection in building. The first attempt
was the mere erection of a few spars united together with
twigs and covered with mud. Others built their walls of
dried lumps of turf, connected these walls together by
means of timbers laid across horizontally, and covered the
erections with reeds and boughs, for the purpose of shel-
tering themselves from the inclemency of the seasons.
Finding, however, that flat coverings of this sort would
not effectually shelter them in the winter season, they
made their roofs of two inclined planes meeting each
other in a ridge at the summit, the whole of which they
covered with clay, and thus carried oft" the rain. We are
certain that buildings were thus originally constructed,
from the present practice of uncivilized nations, whose
buildings are of spars and thatch, as may be seen in
Gaul, in Spain, in Portugal, and in Aquitaine. The
woods of the Colchi, in Pontus, furnish such abun-
dance of timber, that they build in the following manner.


Two trees are laid level on the earth, right and left, at
such distance from each other as will suit the length of
the trees which are to cross and connect them. On the
extreme ends of these two trees are laid two other trees
transversely: the space which the house will inclose is
thus marked out. The four sides being thus set out,
towers are raised, whose walls consist of trees laid hori-
zontally but kept perpendicularly over each other, the
alternate layers yoking the angles. The level interstices
which the thickness of the trees alternately leave, is filled
in with chips and mud. On a similar principle they form

Online LibraryVitruvius PollioThe architecture of Marcus Vitruvius Pollio : in ten books → online text (page 4 of 24)