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

But perhaps to the inexperienced it will seem a marvel that human nature can comprehend such a great number of studies and keep them in the memory. Still, the observation that all studies have a common bond of union and intercourse with one another, will lead to the belief that this can easily be realized. For a liberal education forms, as it were, a single body made up of these members. Those, therefore, who from tender years receive instruction in the various forms of learning, recognize the same stamp on all the arts, and an intercourse between all studies, and so they more readily comprehend.

Furthermore philosophy treats of physics where a more careful knowledge is required because the problems which come under this head are numerous and of very different kinds; as, for example, in the case of the conducting of water. For at points of intake and at curves, and at places where it is raised to a level, currents of air naturally form in one way or another; and nobody who has not learned the fundamental principles of physics from philosophy will be able to provide against the damage which they do.

It was left by Aristoxenus, who with great ability and labour classified and arranged in it the different modes. In accordance with it, and by giving heed to these theories, one can easily bring a theatre to perfection, from the point of view of the nature of the voice, so as to give pleasure to the audience.

Some have held that there are only four winds: Solanus from the east; Auster from the south; Favonius from due west; Septentrio from the north. But more careful investigators tell us that there are eight.

Then, too, the columns at the corners should be made thicker than the others by a fiftieth of their own diameter, because they are sharply outlined by the unobstructed air around them, and seem to the beholder more slender than they are.

When his companions wished to return to their country, and asked him what message he wished them to carry home, he bade them say this: that children ought to be provided with property and resources of a kind that could swim with them even out of a shipwreck.

Consequently, since this study is vast in extent, embellished and enriched as it is with many different kinds of learning, I think that men have no right to profess themselves architects hastily, without having climbed from boyhood the steps of these studies and thus, nursed by the knowledge of many arts and sciences, having reached the heights of the holy ground of architecture.

Furthermore, since I have observed that our citizens are distracted with public affairs and private business, I have thought it best to write briefly, so that my readers, whose intervals of leisure are small, may be able to comprehend in a short time.

Let the stone be taken from the quarry two years before building is to begin, and not in winter, but in summer. Then let it lie exposed in an open place. Such stone as been damaged by the two years of exposure should be used in the foundations. The rest, which remains unhurt, has passed the test of nature and will endure in those parts of the building which are above ground.

Some springs are acid, as at Lyncestus and in Italy in the Velian country, at Teano in Campania, and in many other places. These when used in drinks have the power of breaking up stones in the bladder, which form in the human body.

There are also in some places springs which have the peculiarity of giving fine singing voices to the natives, as at Tarsus in Magnesia and in other countries of that kind.

When it appears that a work has been carried out sumptuously, the owner will be the person to be praised for the great outlay which he has authorized; when delicately, the master workmen will be approved for his execution; but when proportions and symmetry lend it an imposing effect, then the glory of it will belong to the architect.

Copious springs are found where there are mines of gold, silver, iron, copper, lead, and the like, but they are very harmful.

Hence, as the line of sight to the upper part is the longer, it makes that part look as if it were leaning back. But when the members are inclined to the front, as described above, they will seem the beholder to be plumb and perpendicular.

Moreover, they collected from the members of the human body the proportionate dimensions which appear necessary in all building operations; the finger or inch, the palm, the foot, the cubit. and these they grouped into the perfect number which the Greeks call teleon. Now the ancients determined as perfect the number which is called ten. For from the hands they took the number of the inches; from the palm, the foot was discovered. Now while in the two palms with their fingers, ten inches are naturally complete, Plato considered that number perfect, for the reason that from the individual things which are called monades among the Greeks, the decad is perfect. But as soon as they are made eleven or twelve, because they are in excess, they cannot be perfect until they reach the second decad. For individual things are minor parts of that number.

Such as possess the gifts of fortune are easily deprived of them: but when learning is once fixed in the mind, no age removes it, nor is its stability affected during the whole course of life.

There are three departments of architecture: the art of building, the making of time-pieces, and the construction of machinery.

Wind is a flowing wave of air, moving hither and thither indefinitely. It is produced when heat meets moisture, the rush of heat generating a mighty current of air. That is the fact we may learn from bronze eolipiles, and thus by means of a scientific invention discover a divine truth in the laws of the heavens.

Dimension stone, flint, rubble, burnt or unburnt brick, - use them as you find them.

Hence, men that are born in the north are rendered over-timid and weak by fever, but their wealth of blood enables them to stand up against the sword without timidity.

Music, also, the architect ought to understand so that he may have knowledge of the canonical and mathematical theory, and besides be able to tune ballistae, catapultae, and scorpiones to the proper key. For to the right and left in the beams are the holes in the frames through which the strings of twisted sinew are stretched by means of windlasses and bars, and these strings must not be clamped and made fast until they give the same correct note to the ear of the skilled workman. For the arms thrust through those stretched strings must, on being let go, strike their blow together at the same.

The architect must not only understand drawing, but music.

There is nothing to which an architect should devote more thought than to the exact proportions of his building with reference to a certain part selected as the standard.

Economy consists in a due and proper application of the means afforded according to the ability of the employer and the situation chosen; care being taken that the expenditure is prudently conducted.

Hence, water ought by no means to be conducted in lead pipes, if we want to have it wholesome. That the taste is better when it comes from clay pipes may be proved by everyday life, for though our tables are loaded with silver vessels, yet everybody uses earthenware for the sake of purity of taste.

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"