The Ten Books on Architecture, 3.0.1

Vitruvius  Parallel editions

‹‹‹ Vitr. 2.10.3 | Table of Contents | Vitr. 3.0.2 ›››

Gwilt translation

prThe Delphic Apollo, by the answer of his priestess, declared Socrates the wisest of men. Of him it is said he sagaciously observed that it had been well if men’s breasts were open, and, as it were, with windows in them, so that every one might be acquainted with their sentiments. Would to God they had been so formed. We might then not only find out the virtues and vices of persons with facility, but, being also enabled to obtain ocular knowledge of the science they profess, we might judge of their skill with certainty; whereby those who are really clever and learned would be held in proper esteem. But as nature has not formed us after this fashion, the talents of many men lie concealed within them, and this renders it so difficult to lay down an accurate theory of any art. However an artist may promise to exert his talents, if he have not either plenty of money, or a good connexion from his situation in life; or if he be not gifted with a good address or considerable eloquence, his study and application will go but little way to persuade persons that he is a competent artist.

Morgan translation

prApollo at Delphi, through the oracular utterance of his priestess, pronounced Socrates the wisest of men. Of him it is related that he said with sagacity and great learning that the human breast should have been furnished with open windows, so that men might not keep their feelings concealed, but have them open to the view. Oh that nature, following his idea, had constructed them thus unfolded and obvious to the view! For if it had been so, not merely the virtues and vices of the mind would be easily visible, but also its knowledge of branches of study, displayed to the contemplation of the eyes, would not need testing by untrustworthy powers of judgement, but a singular and lasting influence would thus be lent to the learned and wise. However, since they are not so constructed, but are as nature willed them to be, it is impossible for men, while natural abilities are concealed in the breast, to form a judgement on the quality of the knowledge of the arts which is thus deeply hidden. And if artists themselves testify to their own skill, they can never, unless they are wealthy or famous from the age of their studios, or unless they are also possessed of the public favour and of eloquence, have an influence commensurate with their devotion to their pursuits, so that people may believe them to have the knowledge which they profess to have.