The Ten Books on Architecture, 8.2

Vitruvius  translated by Morris Hicky Morgan

« Vitr. 8.1 | Vitr. 8.2 | Vitr. 8.3 | About This Work »


2Rainwater has, therefore, more wholesome qualities, because it is drawn from the lightest and most delicately pure parts of all the springs, and then, after being filtered through the agitated air, it is liquefied by storms and so returns to the earth. And rainfall is not abundant in the plains, but rather on the mountains or close to mountains, for the reason that the vapour which is set in motion at sunrise in the morning, leaves the earth, and drives the air before it through the heaven in whatever direction it inclines; then, when once in motion, it has currents of air rushing after it, on account of the void which it leaves behind.

2This air, driving the vapour everywhere as it rushes along, produces gales and constantly increasing currents by its mighty blasts. Wherever the winds carry the vapour which rolls in masses from springs, rivers, marshes, and the sea, it is brought together by the heat of the sun, drawn off, and carried upward in the form of clouds; then these clouds are supported by the current of air until they come to mountains, where they are broken up from the shock of the collision and the gales, turn into water on account of their own fulness and weight, and in that form are dispersed upon the earth.

3That vapour, mists, and humidity come forth from the earth, seems due to the reason that it contains burning heat, mighty currents of air, intense cold, and a great quantity of water. So, as soon as the earth, which has cooled off during the night, is struck by the rays of the rising sun, and the winds begin to blow while it is yet dark, mists begin to rise upward from damp places. That the air when thoroughly heated by the sun can make vapours rise rolling up from the earth, may be seen by means of an example drawn from baths.

4Of course there can be no springs above the vaultings of hot bathrooms, but the atmosphere in such rooms, becoming well warmed by the hot air from the furnaces, seizes upon the water on the floors, and takes it up to the curved vaultings and holds it up there, for the reason that hot vapour always pushes upwards. At first it does not let the moisture go, for the quantity is small; but as soon as it has collected a considerable amount, it cannot hold it up, on account of the weight, but sprinkles it upon the heads of the bathers. In the same way, when the atmospheric air feels the heat of the sun, it draws the moisture from all about, causes it to rise, and gathers it into clouds. For the earth gives out moisture under the influence of heat just as a man’s heated body emits sweat.

5The winds are witnesses to this fact. Those that are produced and come from the coolest directions, the north and northeast winds, blow in blasts that are rarefied by the great dryness in the atmosphere, but the south wind and the others that assail us from the direction of the sun’s course are very damp, and always bring rain, because they reach us from warm regions after being well heated there, and licking up and carrying off the moisture from the whole country, they pour it out on the regions in the north.

6That this is the state of the case may be proved by the sources of rivers, the majority and the longest of which, as drawn and described in geographies of the world, are found to rise in the north. First in India, the Ganges and Indus spring from the Caucasus; in Syria, the Tigris and Euphrates; in Pontus in Asia, the Dnieper, Bug, and Don; in Colchis, the Phasis; in Gaul, the Rhone; in Celtica, the Rhine; on this side of the Alps, the Timavo and Po; in Italy, the Tiber; in Maurusia, which we call Mauretania, the Dyris, rising in the Atlas range and running westerly to Lake Heptagonus, where it changes its name and is called Agger; then from Lake Heptabolus it runs at the base of barren mountains, flowing southerly and emptying into the marsh called . . . It surrounds Meroë, which is a kingdom in southern Ethiopia, and from the marsh grounds there, winding round by the rivers Astansoba and Astoboa and a great many others, it passes through the mountains to the Cataract, and from there it dashes down, and passes to the north between Elephantis and Syene and the plains of Thebes into Egypt, where it is called the Nile.

7That the source of the Nile is in Mauretania is known principally from the fact that there are other springs on the other side of the Atlas range flowing into the ocean to the west, and that ichneumons, crocodiles, and other animals and fishes of like nature are found there, although there are no hippopotamuses.

8Therefore, since in descriptions of the world it appears that all rivers of any size flow from the north, and since in the plains of Africa, which are exposed to the course of the sun in the south, the moisture is deeply hidden, springs not common, and rivers rare, it follows that the sources of springs which lie to the north or northeast are much better, unless they hit upon a place which is full of sulphur, alum, or asphalt. In this case they are completely changed, and flow in springs which have a bad smell and taste, whether the water is hot or cold.

The fact is, heat is not at all a property of water, but when a stream of cold water happens upon a hot place, it boils up, and issues through the fissures and out of the ground in a state of heat. This cannot last very long, but in a short time the water becomes cold. If it were naturally hot, it would not cool off and lose its heat. Its taste, however, and its smell and colour are not restored, because it has become saturated and compounded with these qualities on account of the rarity of its nature.

« Vitr. 8.1 | Vitr. 8.2 | Vitr. 8.3 | About This Work »