prIn the famous and important Greek city of Ephesus there is said to be an ancient ancestral law, the terms of which are severe, but its justice is not inequitable. When an architect accepts the charge of a public work, he has to promise what the cost of it will be. His estimate is handed to the magistrate, and his property is pledged as security until the work is done. When it is finished, if the outlay agrees with his statement, he is complimented by decrees and marks of honour. If no more than a fourth has to be added to his estimate, it is furnished by the treasury and no penalty is inflicted. But when more than one fourth has to be spent in addition on the work, the money required to finish it is taken from his property.
2Would to God that this were also a law of the Roman people, not merely for public, but also for private buildings. For the ignorant would no longer run riot with impunity, but men who are well qualified by an exact scientific training would unquestionably adopt the profession of architecture. Gentlemen would not be misled into limitless and prodigal expenditure, even to ejectments from their estates, and the architects themselves could be forced, by fear of the penalty, to be more careful in calculating and stating the limit of expense, so that gentlemen would procure their buildings for that which they had expected, or by adding only a little more. It is true that men who can afford to devote four hundred thousand to a work may hold on, if they have to add another hundred thousand, from the pleasure which the hope of finishing it gives them; but if they are loaded with a fifty per cent increase, or with an even greater expense, they lose hope, sacrifice what they have already spent, and are compelled to leave off, broken in fortune and in spirit.
3This fault appears not only in the matter of buildings, but also in the shows given by magistrates, whether of gladiators in the forum or of plays on the stage. Here neither delay nor postponement is permissible, but the necessities of the case require that everything should be ready at a fixed time,—the seats for the audience, the awning drawn over them, and whatever, in accordance with the customs of the stage, is provided by machinery to please the eye of the people. These matters require careful thought and planning by a well trained intellect; for none of them can be accomplished without machinery, and without hard study skilfully applied in various ways.
4Therefore, since such are our traditions and established practices, it is obviously fitting that the plans should be worked out carefully, and with the greatest attention, before the structures are begun. Consequently, as we have no law or customary practice to compel this, and as every year both praetors and aediles have to provide machinery for the festivals, I have thought it not out of place, Emperor, since I have treated of buildings in the earlier books, to set forth and teach in this, which forms the final conclusion of my treatise, the principles which govern machines.