The Ten Books on Architecture, 3.0

Vitruvius  translated by Morris Hicky Morgan

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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.

2In particular we can learn this from the case of the sculptors and painters of antiquity. Those among them who were marked by high station or favourably recommended have come down to posterity with a name that will last forever; for instance, Myron, Polycletus, Phidias, Lysippus, and the others who have attained to fame by their art. For they acquired it by the execution of works for great states or for kings or for citizens of rank. But those who, being men of no less enthusiasm, natural ability, and dexterity than those famous artists, and who executed no less perfectly finished works for citizens of low station, are unremembered, not because they lacked diligence or dexterity in their art, but because fortune failed them; for instance, Teleas of Athens, Chion of Corinth, Myager the Phocaean, Pharax of Ephesus, Boedas of Byzantium, and many others. Then there were painters like Aristomenes of Thasos, Polycles and Andron of Ephesus, Theo of Magnesia, and others who were not deficient in diligence or enthusiasm for their art or in dexterity, but whose narrow means or ill-luck, or the higher position of their rivals in the struggle for honour, stood in the way of their attaining distinction.

3Of 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 pretence. Now if, as Socrates wished, our feelings, opinions, and knowledge gained by study had been manifest and clear to see, popularity and adulation would have no influence, but men who had reached the height of knowledge by means of correct and definite courses of study, would be given commissions without any effort on their part. However, since such things are not plain and apparent to the view, as we think they should have been, and since I observe that the uneducated rather than the educated are in higher favour, thinking it beneath me to engage with the uneducated in the struggle for honour, I prefer to show the excellence of our department of knowledge by the publication of this treatise.

4In my first book, Emperor, I described to you the art, with its points of excellence, the different kinds of training with which the architect ought to be equipped, adding the reasons why he ought to be skilful in them, and I divided up the subject of architecture as a whole among its departments, duly defining the limits of each. Next, as was preëminent and necessary, I explained on scientific principles the method of selecting healthy sites for fortified towns, pointed out by geometrical figures the different winds and the quarters from which they blow, and showed the proper way to lay out the lines of streets and rows of houses within the walls. Here I fixed the end of my first book. In the second, on building materials, I treated their various advantages in structures, and the natural properties of which they are composed. In this third book I shall speak of the temples of the immortal gods, describing and explaining them in the proper manner.

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