The Ten Books on Architecture, 9.1.1

Vitruvius  Parallel editions

‹‹‹ Vitr. 9.0.18 | Table of Contents | Vitr. 9.1.2 ›››

Gwilt translation

1It is clearly by a divine and surprising arrangement, that the equinoctial gnomons are of different lengths in Athens, Alexandria, Rome, Piacenza, and in other parts of the earth. Hence the construction of dials varies according to the places in which they are to be erected; for from the size of the equinoctial shadow, are formed analemmata, by means of which the shadows of gnomons are adjusted to the situation of the place and the lines which mark the hours. By an analemma is meant a rule deduced from the sun’s course, and founded on observation of the increase of the shadow from the winter solstice, by means of which, with mechanical operations and the use of compasses, we arrive at an accurate knowledge of the true shape of the world.

Morgan translation

1It is due to the divine intelligence and is a very great wonder to all who reflect upon it, that the shadow of a gnomon at the equinox is of one length in Athens, of another in Alexandria, of another in Rome, and not the same at Piacenza, or at other places in the world. Hence drawings for dials are very different from one another, corresponding to differences of situation. This is because the length of the shadow at the equinox is used in constructing the figure of the analemma, in accordance with which the hours are marked to conform to the situation and the shadow of the gnomon. The analemma is a basis for calculation deduced from the course of the sun, and found by observation of the shadow as it increases until the winter solstice. By means of this, through architectural principles and the employment of the compasses, we find out the operation of the sun in the universe.