On Architecture

Vitruvius Pollio

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

5. Further, it was from the members of the body that they derived the fundamental ideas of the measures which are obviously necessary in all works, as the finger, palm, foot, and cubit. These they apportioned so as to form the “perfect number,” called in Greek te/leion, and as the perfect number the ancients fixed upon ten. For it is from the number of the fingers of the hand that the palm is found, and the foot from the palm. Again, while ten is naturally perfect, as being made up by the fingers of the two palms, Plato also held that this number was perfect because ten is composed of the individual units, called by the Greeks But as soon as eleven or twelve is reached, the numbers, being excessive, cannot be perfect until they come to ten for the second time; for the component parts of that number are the individual units.

6. The mathematicians, however, maintaining a different view,

have said that the perfect number is six, because this number is composed of integral parts which are suited numerically to their method of reckoning: thus, one is one sixth; two is one third; three is one half; four is two thirds, or di/moiros as they call it; five is five sixths, called penta/moiros; and six is the perfect number. As the number goes on growing larger, the addition of a unit above six is the e)/fektos; eight, formed by the addition of a third part of six, is the integer and a third, called e)pi/tritos; the addition of one half makes nine, the integer and a half, termed the addition of two thirds, making the number ten, is the integer and two thirds, which they call e)pidi/moiros; in the number eleven, where five are added, we have the five sixths, called e)pi/pemptos; finally, twelve, being composed of the two simple integers, is called dipla/sios.

7. And further, as the foot is one sixth of a man's height, the height of the body as expressed in number of feet being limited to six, they held that this was the perfect number, and observed that the cubit consisted of six palms or of twenty-four fingers. This principle seems to have been followed by the states of Greece. As the cubit consisted of six palms, they made the drachma, which they used as their unit, consist in the same way of six bronze coins, like our which they call obols; and, to correspond to the fingers, divided the drachma into twenty-four quarter-obols, which some call dichalca others trichalca.

8. But our countrymen at first fixed upon the ancient number and made ten bronze pieces go to the denarius, and this is the origin of the name which is applied to the denarius to this day. And the fourth part of it, consisting of two asses and half of a third, they called “sesterce.” But later, observing that six and ten were both of them perfect numbers, they combined the two, and thus made the most perfect number, sixteen. They found their authority for this in the foot. For if we take two palms from the cubit, there remains the foot of four palms; but the palm contains four fingers. Hence the foot contains sixteen fingers, and asses.


9. Therefore, if it is agreed that number was found out from the human fingers, and that there is a symmetrical correspondence between the members separately and the entire form of the body, in accordance with a certain part selected as standard, we can have nothing but respect for those who, in constructing temples of the immortal gods, have so arranged the members of the works that both the separate parts and the whole design may harmonize in their proportions and symmetry.

1. THERE are certain elementary forms on which the general aspect of a temple depends. First there is the temple in antis, nao\se)nparasta/sin as it is called in Greek; then the prostyle, amphiprostyle, peripteral, pseudodipteral, dipteral, and hypaethral. These different forms may be described as follows.

2. It will be a temple in antis when it has antae carried out in front of the walls which enclose the cella, and in the middle, between the antae, two columns, and over them the pediment constructed in the symmetrical proportions to be described later in this work. An example will be found at the Three Fortunes, in that one of the three which is nearest the Colline gate.

3. The prostyle is in all respects like the temple in antis, except that at the corners, opposite the antae, it has two columns, and that it has architraves not only in front, as in the case of the temple in antis, but also one to the right and one to the left in the wings. An example of this is the temple of Jove and Faunus in the Island of the Tiber.

4. The amphiprostyle is in all other respects like the prostyle, but has besides, in the rear, the same arrangement of columns and pediment.

5. A temple will be peripteral that has six columns in front and six in the rear, with eleven on each side including the corner columns.

Let the columns be so placed as to leave a space, the width of an intercolumniation, all round between the walls and the rows of columns on the outside, thus forming a walk round the cella of
the temple, as in the cases of the temple of Jupiter Stator by Hermodorus in the Portico of Metellus, and the Marian temple of Honour and Valour constructed by Mucius, which has no portico in the rear.

6. The pseudodipteral is so constructed that in front and in the rear there are in each case eight columns, with fifteen on each side, including the corner columns. The walls of the cella in front and in the rear should be directly over against the four middle columns. Thus there will be a space, the width of two intercolumniations plus the thickness of the lower diameter of a column, all round between the walls and the rows of columns on the outside. There is no example of this in Rome, but at Magnesia there is the temple of Diana by Hermogenes, and that of Apollo at Alabanda by Mnesthes.

7. The dipteral also is octastyle in both front and rear porticoes, but it has two rows of columns all round the temple, like the temple of Quirinus, which is Doric, and the temple of Diana at Ephesus, planned by Chersiphron, which is Ionic.

8. The hypaethral is decastyle in both front and rear porticoes. In everything else it is the same as the dipteral, but inside it has two tiers of columns set out from the wall all round, like the colonnade of a peristyle. The central part is open to the sky, without a roof. Folding doors lead to it at each end, in the porticoes in front and in the rear. There is no example of this sort in Rome, but in Athens there is the octastyle in the precinct of the Olympian.