The Ten Books on Architecture, 3.4

Vitruvius  translated by Joseph Gwilt

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Of Foundations; and of Columns and Their Ornaments

4If solid ground can be come to, the foundations should go down to it and into it, according to the magnitude of the work, and the substruction should be built up as solid as possible. Above the ground of the foundation, the wall should be one-half thicker than the columns it is to receive, so that the lower parts which carry the greatest weight, may be stronger than the upper part, which is called the stereobata: nor must the mouldings of the bases of the columns project beyond the solid. Thus, also, should be regulated the thickness of all walls above ground. The intervals between the foundations brought up under the columns, should be either rammed down hard, or arched, so as to prevent the foundation piers from swerving.

2If solid ground cannot be come to, and the ground be loose or marshy, the place must be excavated, cleared, and either alder, olive, or oak piles, previously charred, must be driven with a machine, as close to each other as possible, and the intervals, between the piles, filled with ashes. The heaviest foundations may be laid on such a base.

3When they are brought up level, the stylobatæ (plinths) are placed thereon, according to the arrangement used, and above described for the pycnostylos, systylos, diastylos or eustylos, as the case may be. In the aræostylos it is only necessary to preserve, in a peripteral building, twice the number of intercolumniations on the flanks that there are in front, so that the length may be twice the breadth. Those who use twice the number of columns for the length, appear to err, because they thus make one intercolumniation more than should be used.

4The number of steps in front should always be odd, since, in that case, the right foot, which begins the ascent, will be that which first alights on the landing of the temple. The thickness of the steps should not, I think, be more than ten inches, nor less than nine, which will give an easy ascent. The treads not less than one foot and a half, nor more than two feet; and if the steps are to go all round the temple, they are to be formed in the same manner.

5But if there is to be a podium on three sides of the temple, the plinths, bases of the columns, columns, coronæ, and cymatium, may accord with the stylobata, under the bases of the columns. The stylobata should be so adjusted, that, by means of small steps or stools, it may be highest in the middle. For if it be set out level, it will have the appearance of having sunk in the centre. The mode of adjusting the steps (scamilli impares), in a proper manner, will be shewn at the end of the book.

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