On Architecture

Vitruvius Pollio

Vitruvius Pollio, creator; Morgan, M. H. (Morris Hicky), 1859-1910, translator

1. A MACHINE a combination of timbers fastened together, chiefly efficacious in moving great weights. Such a machine is set in motion on scientific principles in circular rounds, which the Greeks call kuklikh\ ki/nhsis There is, however, a class intended for climbing, termed in Greek a)krobatiko/n another worked by air, which with them is called pneumatiko/n and a third for hoisting; this the Greeks named bapoulko/sIn the climbing class are machines so disposed that one can safely climb up high, by means of timbers set up on end and connected by crossbeams, in order to view operations. In the pneumatic class, air is forced by pressure to produce sounds and tones as in an o)/pgavov.

2. In the hoisting class, heavy weights are removed by machines which raise them up and set them in position. The climbing machine displays no scientific principle, but merely a spirit of daring. It is held together by dowels and crossbeams and twisted lashings and supporting props. A machine that gets its motive power by pneumatic pressure will produce pretty effects by scientific refinements. But the hoisting machine has opportunities for usefulness which are greater and full of grandeur, and it is of the highest efficacy when used with intelligence.

3. Some of these act on the principle of the mhxanh/ , others on that of the o)/pganon. The difference between “machines” and “engines” is obviously this, that machines need more workmen and greater power to make them take effect, as for instance ballistae and the beams of presses. Engines, on the other hand, accomplish their purpose at the intelligent touch of a single workman, as the scorpio or anisocycli when they are turned. Therefore engines, as well as machines, are, in principle, practical necessities, without which nothing can be unattended with difficulties.


4. All machinery is derived from nature, and is founded on the teaching and instruction of the revolution of the firmament. Let us but consider the connected revolutions of the sun, the moon, and the five planets, without the revolution of which, due to mechanism, we should not have had the alternation of day and night, nor the ripening of fruits. Thus, when our ancestors had seen that this was so, they took their models from nature, and by imitating them were led on by divine facts, until they perfected the contrivances which are so serviceable in our life. Some things, with a view to greater convenience, they worked out by means of machines and their revolutions, others by means of engines, and so, whatever they found to be useful for investigations, for the arts, and for established practices, they took care to improve step by step on scientific principles.