The Ten Books on Architecture, 5.3.8

Vitruvius  Parallel editions

‹‹‹ Vitr. 5.3.7 | Table of Contents | Vitr. 5.4.1 ›››

Gwilt translation

8On this account the antient architects, following nature as their guide, and reflecting on the properties of the voice, regulated the true ascent of steps in a theatre, and contrived, by musical proportions and mathematical rules, whatever its effect might be on the stage (scena), to make it fall on the ears of the audience in a clear and agreeable manner. Since in brazen or horn wind instruments, by a regulation of the genus, their tones are rendered as clear as those of stringed instruments, so by the application of the laws of harmony, the antients discovered a method of increasing the power of the voice in a theatre.

Morgan translation

8Hence the ancient architects, following in the footsteps of nature, perfected the ascending rows of seats in theatres from their investigations of the ascending voice, and, by means of the canonical theory of the mathematicians and that of the musicians, endeavoured to make every voice uttered on the stage come with greater clearness and sweetness to the ears of the audience. For just as musical instruments are brought to perfection of clearness in the sound of their strings by means of bronze plates or horn ἡχεια, so the ancients devised methods of increasing the power of the voice in theatres through the application of harmonics.