The Ten Books on Architecture, 7.7

Vitruvius  translated by Joseph Gwilt

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Of Natural Colours

7Some are found in certain places in a native state, and thence dug up, whilst others are composed of different substances, ground and mixed together, so as to answer the same purpose. First we shall explain the nature of that which is found native, called by the Greeks ὦχρα. This, as in Italy, is discovered in many places, but the best is the Attic sort, which cannot now be procured, for in working the silver mines at Athens, if by chance they fell upon a vein of ochre, they followed it up just as they would one of silver. Hence the ancients used abundance of ochre in their finishings.

2Red ochre is also found in many places, but the best only in a few, as at Sinope, in Pontus; in Egypt; in the Balearic Islands, near the coast of Spain; also in Lemnos, the revenue of which island the senate and people of Rome granted to the Athenians. The Parætonion takes its name from the place where it is dug up. The Melinon on a similar account is so called, from its abundance in Melos, one of the Cyclades. Green chalk is also found in many places; but the best comes from Smyrna, and is called by the Greeks θεοδότιον, because Theodotus was the owner of the land in which it was first discovered. Orpiment, which is called ἀρσένικον in Greek, is obtained from Pontus. Red lead is also obtained from many places, but the best comes from Pontus, near the river Hypanis. In other spots as in the country between the borders of Magnesia and Ephesus, it is procured from the earth in such a state as to want neither grinding nor sifting, but quite as fine as that which is ground and pounded by hand.

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