On Architecture

Vitruvius Pollio

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

1. IN the first place, the warmest possible situation must be selected; that is, one which faces away from the north and northeast. The rooms for the hot and tepid baths should be lighted from the southwest, or, if the nature of the situation prevents this, at all events from the south, because the set time for bathing is principally from midday to evening. We must also see to it that the hot bath rooms in the women's and men's departments adjoin each other, and are situated in the same quarter; for thus it will be possible that the same furnace should serve both of them and their fittings. Three bronze cauldrons are to be set over the furnace, one for hot, another for tepid, and the third for cold water, placed in such positions that the amount of water which flows out of the hot water cauldron may be replaced from that for tepid water, and in the same way the cauldron for tepid water may be supplied from that for cold. The arrangement must allow the semicylinders for the bath basins to be heated from the same furnace.

2. The hanging floors of the hot bath rooms are to be constructed as follows. First the surface of the ground should be laid with tiles a foot and a half square, sloping towards the furnace in such a way that, if a ball is thrown in, it cannot stop inside but must return of itself to the furnace room; thus the heat of the fire will more readily spread under the hanging flooring. Upon them, pillars made of eight-inch bricks are built, and set at such a distance apart that two-foot tiles may be used to cover them. These pillars should be two feet in height, laid with clay mixed with hair, covered on top with the two-foot tiles which support the floor.


3. The vaulted ceilings will be more serviceable if built of masonry; but if they are of framework, they should have tile work on the under side, to be constructed as follows. Let iron bars or arcs be made, and hang them to the framework by means of iron hooks set as close together as possible; and let these bars or arcs be placed at such distances apart that each pair of them may support and carry an unflanged tile. Thus the entire vaulting will be

completely supported on iron. These vaults should have the joints on their upper side daubed with clay mixed with hair, and their under side, facing the floor, should first be plastered with pounded tile mixed with lime, and then covered with polished stucco in relief or smooth. Vaults in hot bath rooms will be more serviceable if they are doubled; for then the moisture from the heat will not be able to spoil the timber in the framework, but will merely circulate between the two vaults.

4. The size of the baths must depend upon the number of the population. The rooms should be thus proportioned: let their breadth be one third of their length, excluding the niches for the washbowl and the bath basin. The washbowl ought without fail to be placed under a window, so that the shadows of those who stand round it may not obstruct the light. Niches for washbowls must be made so roomy that when the first comers have taken their places, the others who are waiting round may have proper standing room. The bath basin should be not less than six feet broad from the wall to the edge, the lower step and the “cushion” taking up two feet of this space.

5. The Laconicum and other sweating baths must adjoin the tepid room, and their height to the bottom of the curved dome should be equal to their width. Let an aperture be left in the middle of the dome with a bronze disc hanging from it by chains. By raising and lowering it, the temperature of the sweating bath can be regulated. The chamber itself ought, as it seems, to be circular, so that the force of the fire and heat may spread evenly from the centre all round the circumference.