The Ten Books on Architecture, 4.3

Vitruvius  translated by Joseph Gwilt

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Of the Doric Proportions

3Some antient architects have asserted that sacred buildings ought not to be constructed of the Doric order, because false and incongruous arrangements arise in the use of it. Such were the opinions of Tarchesius, Pitheus, and Hermogenes. The latter, indeed, after having prepared a large quantity of marble for a Doric temple, changed his mind, and, with the materials collected, made it of the Ionic order, in honour of Bacchus. It is not because this order wants beauty, antiquity (genus), or dignity of form, but because its detail is shackled and inconvenient, from the arrangement of the triglyphs, and the formation of the sofite of the corona (lacunaria).

2It is necessary that the triglyphs stand centrally over the columns, and that the metopæ which are between the triglyphs should be as broad as high. Over the columns, at the angles of the building, the triglyphs are set at the extremity of the frieze, and not over the centre of the columns. In this case the metopæ adjoining the angular triglyphs are not square, but wider than the others by half the width of the triglyph. Those who resolve to make the metopæ equal, contract the extreme intercolumniation half a triglyph’s width. It is, however, a false method, either to lengthen the metopæ or to contract the intercolumniations; and the antients, on this account, appear to have avoided the use of the Doric order in their sacred buildings.

3I will, however, proceed to explain the method of using it, as instructed therein by my masters; so that if any one desire it, he will here find the proportions detailed, and so amended, that he may, without a defect, be able to design a sacred building of the Doric order. The front of a Doric temple, when columns are to be used, must if tetrastylos, be divided into twenty-eight parts; if hexastylos, into forty-four parts; one of which parts is called a module, by the Greeks ἐμβάτης: from the module so found the distribution of all the parts is regulated.

4The thickness of the columns is to be equal to two modules, their height equal to fourteen. The height of the capital one module, its breadth one module and a sixth. Let the height of the capital be divided into three parts; then one of those parts is to be assigned for the abacus and its cymatium, another for the echinus, with its fillets; the third for the hypotrachelium. The diminution of the column is to be as directed for the Ionic order in the third book. The architrave or epistylium, with its tænia and guttæ, is to be one module in height; the tænia is the seventh part of a module; the length of the guttæ under the tænia plumb with the triglyphs, and including the fillet, the sixth part of a module. The width of the soffit of the architrave is to correspond with the thickness of the column at the hypotrachelium. Over the architrave triglyphs are placed, with metopæ one module and a half high, and one module wide on the face. They are to be distributed so, that as well over the columns at the angles, as over the intermediate columns, they may stand above the two central quarters of the columns. Two are to be placed in each intercolumniation, except in the central one of the pronaos and posticum, in which three are to be set; because, by making the middle intercolumniations wider, a freer passage will be given to those who approach the statues of the gods.

5The width of a triglyph is divided into six parts, of which five are left in the middle, and of the two halves of the remaining part, one is placed on the right and the other on the left extremity. In the centre a flat surface is left, called the femur (thigh), by the Greeks μηρὸς, on each side of which channels are cut, whose faces form a right angle; and on the right and left of these are other femora; and, lastly, at the angles are the two half channels. The triglyphs being thus arranged, the metopæ, which are the spaces between the triglyphs, are to be as long as they are high. On the extreme angles are semi-metopæ half a module wide. In this way all the defects in the metopæ, intercolumniations, and lacunaria, will be remedied.

6The capitals of the triglyphs are to be made the sixth part of a module. Over the capitals of the triglyphs the corona is to be laid, whose projection is one half and a sixth part of a module, with a Doric cymatium over it, and another above it, so that, with the cymatia, the corona is one half of a module high. In the soffit of the corona, perpendicularly over the triglyphs and centres of the metopæ, are arranged guttæ and sinkings. The former, so as to have six guttæ appearing in front, and three on the return: the remaining spaces, which occur from the increased width of the metopæ beyond that of the triglyphs, are left plain or sculptured with representations of thunderbolts, and near the edge of the corona a channel is cut, called a scotia. The remaining parts, the tympana, simæ, and coronæ, are to be executed similar to those described for Ionic buildings.

7The above is the method used in diastyle works. If the work be systyle, with a monotriglyph: the front of the building, when tetrastylos, is to be divided into twenty-three parts; when hexastylos, into thirty-five: of these, one part is taken for a module; according to which, as above directed, the work is to be set out.

8Thus, over the epistylia are two metopæ and one triglyph, and in the angles a space will be left equal to half a triglyph. The middle part, under the pediment, will be equal to the space of three triglyphs and three metopæ, in order that the central intercolumniation may give room to those approaching the temple, and present a more dignified view of the statue of the god. Over the capitals of the triglyphs a corona is to be placed, with a Doric cymatium below, as above described, and another above. The corona, also, together with the cymatia, is to be half a module high. The soffit of the corona, perpendicularly over the triglyphs and centres of the metopæ, is to have guttæ and sinkings, and the other parts as directed for the diastyle.

9It is necessary that the columns should be wrought in twenty faces, which, if plane, will have twenty angles; but if channelled, they are to be so formed, that a square being described, whose side is equal to that of the channel or flute, if, in the middle of the square, the point of a pair of compasses be placed, and a segment of a circle be drawn, touching the angles of the square, such segment will determine their sinking. Thus is the Doric column properly chamfered.

10In respect of the additional thickness in the middle thereof, as mentioned in the third book, respecting Ionic columns, reference must be made to that place. As the external symmetry of Corinthian, Doric, and Ionic edifices has been explained, it is necessary to give directions for the interior arrangements of the cell and pronaos.

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