The Ten Books on Architecture, 6.7

Vitruvius  translated by Joseph Gwilt

« Vitr. 6.6 | Vitr. 6.7 | Vitr. 6.8 | About This Work »

Of the Arrangement and Parts of Grecian Houses

7The Greeks using no atrium, and not building as we do, make a passage, of no great breadth, from the entrance gate, on one side whereof the stable is placed, and on the other the porter’s rooms, which immediately adjoin the inner gates. The space between the two gates, is, by the Greeks, called θυρωρεῖον. From this you enter into the peristylium, which has a portico on three sides. On that side facing the south are two antæ, at a considerable distance apart, which carry beams, and the recess behind them is equal to one-third less than their distance from each other. This part is called προστὰς (prostas) by some, and by others παραστὰς (parastas).

2Interior to this the great oecus is placed, in which the mistress of the family sits with the spinsters. On the right and left of the prostas are the bed-chambers, of which one is called the thalamus, the other the antithalamus. Round the porticos are the triclinia for common use, the bed chambers, and other apartments for the family. This part of the building receives the name of Gynæconitis.

3Adjoining this is a larger house, with a more spacious peristylium, in which there are four porticos equal in height, though that towards the south may have higher columns. If a peristylium have one portico higher than the rest, it is called a Rhodian portico. These houses have magnificent vestibules, elegant gates, and the porticos of the peristylia are decorated with stucco and plastering, and with inlaid ceilings. In the porticos to the north the cyziceni, triclinia, and pinacothecæ, are situated. The libraries are on the east side, the exedræ on the west, and to the south are square oeci, of such ample dimensions that there is room therein for four triclinia and the attendants on them, as well as for the games.

4These oeci are used only for entertainments given to men; for it is not the practice with women to recline on a couch at dinner. The peristylium, and this part of the house, is called Andronitis, because the men employ themselves therein without interruption from the women. On the right and left, moreover, are small sets of apartments, each having its own door, triclinium, and bed-chamber, so that on the arrival of guests they need not enter the peristylium, but are received in rooms (hospitalia) appropriated to their occupation. For when the Greeks were more refined, and possessed greater wealth, they provided a separate table with triclinia and bed-chambers for their guests. On the day of their arrival they were invited to dinner, and were afterwards supplied with poultry, eggs, herbs, fruits, and other produce of the country. Hence the painters gave the name of Xenia to those pictures which represent the presents made to guests. Masters of families therefore, living in these apartments, were quite, as it were, at home, being at liberty to do as they pleased therein.

5Between the peristylium and the lodging rooms are passages, which are called Mesaulæ, from their situation between two aulæ (halls). By us these are called Andrones. But it is remarkable that this appellation seems to suit neither the Greek nor Latin terms. For the Greeks call the oeci, in which male guests are entertained, ἀνδρῶνες, because the women do not enter them. There are other discrepancies similar to this, as the xystus, prothyrum, telamones, and others of that sort: ξυστὸς, in Greek means a portico of large dimensions, in which athletæ exercise in the winter season: we, on the contrary, call by the name of xysti those open walks which the Greeks call περιδρόμιδες. The vestibule in front of a house, by the gates, is called prothyrum by the Greeks; we, however, give the name of prothyrum to that which the Greeks call διάθυρον (diathyrum).

6We call telamones those figures placed for the support of mutuli or cornices, but on what account is not found in history. The Greeks, however, call them ἄτλαντες (atlantes). Atlas, according to history, is represented in the act of sustaining the universe, because he is said to have been the first person who explained to mankind the sun’s course, that of the moon, the rising and setting of the stars, and the celestial motions, by the power of his mind and the acuteness of his understanding. Hence it is, that, by painters and sculptors, he is, for his exertions, represented as bearing the world: and his daughters, the Atlantides, whom we call Vergiliæ, and the Greeks, Πλειάδες, were honoured by being placed among the constellations.

7I mention these things, not to induce persons to change the names at this period, but that they may be known to philologists. I have explained the different arrangement of buildings after the practice of the Italians, as well as that of the Greeks, by giving the proportions and divisions of each; and, as we have already laid down the principles of beauty and propriety, we shall now consider the subject of strength, by which a building may be without defects, and durable.

« Vitr. 6.6 | Vitr. 6.7 | Vitr. 6.8 | About This Work »