The Ten Books on Architecture, 3.3

Vitruvius  translated by Morris Hicky Morgan

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The Proportions of Intercolumniations and of Columns

3There are five classes of temples, designated as follows: pycnostyle, with the columns close together; systyle, with the intercolumniations a little wider; diastyle, more open still; araeostyle, farther apart than they ought to be; eustyle, with the intervals apportioned just right.

2The pycnostyle is a temple in an intercolumniation of which the thickness of a column and a half can be inserted: for example, the temple of the Divine Caesar, that of Venus in Caesar’s forum, and others constructed like them. The systyle is a temple in which the thickness of two columns can be placed in an intercolumniation, and in which the plinths of the bases are equivalent to the distance between two plinths: for example, the temple of Equestrian Fortune near the stone theatre, and the others which are constructed on the same principles.

3These two kinds have practical disadvantages. When the matrons mount the steps for public prayer or thanksgiving, they cannot pass through the intercolumniations with their arms about one another, but must form single file; then again, the effect of the folding doors is thrust out of sight by the crowding of the columns, and likewise the statues are thrown into shadow; the narrow space interferes also with walks round the temple.

4The construction will be diastyle when we can insert the thickness of three columns in an intercolumniation, as in the case of the temple of Apollo and Diana. This arrangement involves the danger that the architraves may break on account of the great width of the intervals.

5In araeostyles we cannot employ stone or marble for the architraves, but must have a series of wooden beams laid upon the columns. And moreover, in appearance these temples are clumsy-roofed, low, broad, and their pediments are adorned in the Tuscan fashion with statues of terra-cotta or gilt bronze: for example, near the Circus Maximus, the temple of Ceres and Pompey’s temple of Hercules; also the temple on the Capitol.

6An account must now be given of the eustyle, which is the most approved class, and is arranged on principles developed with a view to convenience, beauty, and strength. The intervals should be made as wide as the thickness of two columns and a quarter, but the middle intercolumniations, one in front and the other in the rear, should be of the thickness of three columns. Thus built, the effect of the design will be beautiful, there will be no obstruction at the entrance, and the walk round the cella will be dignified.

7The rule of this arrangement may be set forth as follows. If a tetrastyle is to be built, let the width of the front which shall have already been determined for the temple, be divided into eleven parts and a half, not including the substructures and the projections of the bases; if it is to be of six columns, into eighteen parts. If an octastyle is to be constructed, let the front be divided into twenty-four parts and a half. Then, whether the temple is to be tetrastyle, hexastyle, or octastyle, let one of these parts be taken, and it will be the module. The thickness of the columns will be equal to one module. Each of the intercolumniations, except those in the middle, will measure two modules and a quarter. The middle intercolumniations in front and in the rear will each measure three modules. The columns themselves will be nine modules and a half in height. As a result of this division, the intercolumniations and the heights of the columns will be in due proportion.

8We have no example of this in Rome, but at Teos in Asia Minor there is one which is hexastyle, dedicated to Father Bacchus.

These rules for symmetry were established by Hermogenes, who was also the first to devise the principle of the pseudodipteral octastyle. He did so by dispensing with the inner rows of thirty-eight columns which belonged to the symmetry of the dipteral temple, and in this way he made a saving in expense and labour. He thus provided a much wider space for the walk round the cella between it and the columns, and without detracting at all from the general effect, or making one feel the loss of what had been really superfluous, he preserved the dignity of the whole work by his new treatment of it.

9For the idea of the pteroma and the arrangement of the columns round a temple were devised in order that the intercolumniations might give the imposing effect of high relief; and also, in case a multitude of people should be caught in a heavy shower and detained, that they might have in the temple and round the cella a wide free space in which to wait. These ideas are developed, as I have described, in the pseudodipteral arrangement of a temple. It appears, therefore, that Hermogenes produced results which exhibit much acute ingenuity, and that he left sources from which those who came after him could derive instructive principles.

10In araeostyle temples, the columns should be constructed so that their thickness is one eighth part of their height. In the diastyle, the height of a column should be measured off into eight and a half parts, and the thickness of the column fixed at one of these parts. In the systyle, let the height be divided into nine and a half parts, and one of these given to the thickness of the column. In the pycnostyle, the height should be divided into ten parts, and one of these used for the thickness of the column. In the eustyle temple, let the height of a column be divided, as in the systyle, into nine and a half parts, and let one part be taken for the thickness at the bottom of the shaft. With these dimensions we shall be taking into account the proportions of the intercolumniations.

11For the thickness of the shafts must be enlarged in proportion to the increase of the distance between the columns. In the araeostyle, for instance, if only a ninth or tenth part is given to the thickness, the column will look thin and mean, because the width of the intercolumniations is such that the air seems to eat away and diminish the thickness of such shafts. On the other hand, in pycnostyles, if an eighth part is given to the thickness, it will make the shaft look swollen and ungraceful, because the intercolumniations are so close to each other and so narrow. We must therefore follow the rules of symmetry required by each kind of building. 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 round them, and seem to the beholder more slender than they are. Hence, we must counteract the ocular deception by an adjustment of proportions.

12Moreover, the diminution in the top of a column at the necking seems to be regulated on the following principles: if a column is fifteen feet or under, let the thickness at the bottom be divided into six parts, and let five of those parts form the thickness at the top. If it is from fifteen feet to twenty feet, let the bottom of the shaft be divided into six and a half parts, and let five and a half of those parts be the upper thickness of the column. In a column of from twenty feet to thirty feet, let the bottom of the shaft be divided into seven parts, and let the diminished top measure six of these. A column of from thirty to forty feet should be divided at the bottom into seven and a half parts, and, on the principle of diminution, have six and a half of these at the top. Columns of from forty feet to fifty should be divided into eight parts, and diminish to seven of these at the top of the shaft under the capital. In the case of higher columns, let the diminution be determined proportionally, on the same principles.

13These proportionate enlargements are made in the thickness of columns on account of the different heights to which the eye has to climb. 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. With regard to the enlargement made at the middle of columns, which among the Greeks is called ἑντασις, at the end of the book a figure and calculation will be subjoined, showing how an agreeable and appropriate effect may be produced by it.

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