Vitruvius, fully Marcus Vitruvius Pollio

Vitruvius, fully Marcus Vitruvius Pollio
c. 80 B.C.
c. 15 B.C.

Roman Writer, Architect and Engineer known for "The Ten Books on Architecture"

Author Quotes

For Nature has so planned the human body that the face from the chin to the top of the forehead and the roots of the hair is a tenth part; also the palm of the hand from the wrist to the top of the middle finger is as much; the head from the chin to the crown, an eighth part; from the top to the breast with the bottom of the neck to the roots of the hair, a sixth part; from the middle of the breast to the crown, a fourth part; a third part of the height of the face is from the bottom of the chin to the bottom of the nostrils; the nose from the bottom of the nostrils to the line between the brows, as much; from that line to the roots of the hair, the forehead is given as the third part. The foot is a sixth of the height of the body; the cubit a quarter, the breast also a quarter. The other limbs also have their own proportionate measurements. And by using these, ancient painters and famous sculptors have attained great and unbounded distinction.

If then, at this great distance, our human vision can discern that sight, why, pray, are we to think that the divine splendor of the stars can be cast into darkness?

Noting all these things with the great delight which learning gives, we cannot but be stirred by these discoveries when we reflect upon the influence of them one by one.

The gravity of a substance depends not on the amount of its weight, but on its nature.

These rules for symmetry were established by Hermogenes, who was also the first to devise the principal of the pseudodipteral octastyle.

For not all things are practicable on identical principles.

In a word, the opinions of learned authors, though their bodily forms are absent, gain strength as time goes on, and, when taking part in councils and discussions, have greater weight than those of any living men.

Of course, we need not be surprised if artistic excellence goes unrecognized on account of being unknown; but there should be the greatest indignation when, as often, good judges are flattered by the charm of social entertainments into an approbation which is a mere a pretense.

The moon makes her circuit of the heaven in twenty-eight days plus about an hour, and with her return to the sign from which she set forth, completes a lunar month.

They make a fine purple color by treating bilberry in the same way and mixing it with milk.

For siege works against bold and venturesome men should be constructed on one plan, on another against cautious men, and on still another against the cowardly.

In accordance with the foregoing investigations on mathematical principles, let bronze vessels be made, proportionate to the size of the theatre, and let them be so fashioned that, when touched, they may produce with one another the notes of the fourth, the fifth, and so on up the double octave.

On this principle of arrangement, the voice, uttered from the stage as from a center, and spreading and striking against the cavities of the different vessels, as it comes in contact with them, will be increased in clearness of sound, and will wake an harmonious note in unison with itself.

The planning of temples depends upon symmetry: and the method of this architects must diligently apprehend. It arises from proportion (which in Greek is called analogia). Proportion consists in taking a fixed module, in each case, both for the parts of a building and for the whole, by which the method of symmetry and proportion is put into practice. For without symmetry and proportion no temple can have a regular plan; that is, it must have an exact proportion worked out after the fashion of the members of a finely-shaped human body.

They never begin to build defensive works in a place until after they had made many such trials and satisfied themselves that good water and food had made the liver sound and firm. If they continued to find it abnormal, they argued from this that the food and water supply found in such a place would be just as unhealthy for man, and so they moved away and changed to another neighborhood, healthfulness being their chief object.

For the eye is always in search of beauty, and if we do not gratify its desire for pleasure by a proportionate enlargement in these measures, and thus make compensation for ocular deception, a clumsy and awkward appearance will be presented to the beholder.

In fact, all kinds of men, and not merely architects, can recognize a good piece of work.

One who in accordance with these notes will take pains in selecting his method of construction, may count upon having something that will last.

The steps in front must be arranged so that there shall always be an odd number of them; for thus the right foot, with which one mounts the first step, will also be the first to reach the level of the temple itself.

Thus by such victory, not by machines but in oppositions to the principle to the principles of machines, has the freedom of states been preserved by the cunning of architects.

But as for me, Emperor, nature has not given me stature, age has marred my face, and my strength is impaired by ill health. Therefore, since these advantages fail me, I shall win your approval, as I hope, by the help of my knowledge and my writings.

For the human body is so designed by nature that the face, from the chin to the top of the forehead and the lowest roots of the hair, is a tenth part of the whole height; the open hand from the wrist to the tip of the middle finger is just the same; the head from the chin to the crown is an eighth, and with the neck and shoulder from the top of the breast to the lowest roots of the hair is a sixth; from the middle of the breast to the summit of the crown is a fourth. If we take the height of the face itself, the distance from the bottom of the chin to the under-side of the nostrils is one third of it; the nose from the under-side of the nostrils to a line between the eyebrows is the same; from there to the lowest roots of the hair is also a third, comprising the forehead. The length of the foot is one sixth of the height of the body; of the forearm, one fourth; and the breadth of the breast is also one fourth... Then again, in the human body the central point is naturally the navel. For if a man be placed flat on his back, with his hands and feet extended, and a pair of compasses centered at his navel, the fingers and toes of his two hands and feet will touch the circumference of a circle described therefrom. And just as the human body yields a circular outline, so too a square figure may be found from it. For if we measure the distance from the soles of the feet to the top of the head, and then apply that measure to the outstretched arms, the breadth will be found to be the same as the height, as in the case of plane surfaces which are perfectly square.

In like fashion the members of temples ought to have dimensions of their several parts answering suitably to the general sum of their whole magnitude. Now the navel is naturally the exact center of the body. For if man lies on his back with hands and feet outspread, and the center of a circle is placed on his navel, his figure and toes will be touched by the circumference. Also a square will be found described within the figure, in the same way as a round figure is produced. For if we measure from the sole of the foot to the top of the head, and apply the measure to the outstretched hands, the breadth will be found equal to the height, just like sites which are squared by rule.

Owing to this favor I need to have no fear of want to the end of my life, and being thus laid under obligation I began to write this work for you, because I saw that you have built and are now building extensively, and that in future also you will take care that our public and private buildings shall be worthy to go down to posterity by the side of your other splendid achievements.

The thickness of the wall should, in my opinion, be such that armed men meeting on top of it may pass one another without interference.

Author Picture
First Name
Vitruvius, fully Marcus Vitruvius Pollio
Birth Date
c. 80 B.C.
Death Date
c. 15 B.C.

Roman Writer, Architect and Engineer known for "The Ten Books on Architecture"