On Architecture

Vitruvius Pollio

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

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.

1. NEXT, although the building of palaestrae is not usual in Italy, I think it best to set forth the traditional way, and to show ob

long peristyle in a palaestra should be so formed that the circuit of it makes a walk of two stadia, a distance which the Greeks call the di/aulos. Let three of its colonnades be single, but let the fourth, which is on the south side, be double, so that when there is bad weather accompanied by wind, the drops of rain may not be able to reach the interior.

2. In the three colonnades construct roomy recesses (A) with seats in them, where philosophers, rhetoricians, and others who delight in learning may sit and converse. In the double colonnade let the rooms be arranged thus: the young men's hall (B) in the middle; this is a very spacious recess (exedra) with seats in it, and it should be one third longer than it is broad. At the right, the bag room (C); then next, the dust room (D); beyond the dust room, at the corner of the colonnade, the cold washing room (E), which the Greeks call loutro/n. At the left of the young men's hall is the anointing room (F); then, next to the anointing room, the cold bath room (G), and beyond that a passage into the furnace room (H) at the corner of the colonnade. Next, but inside and on a line with the cold bath room, put the vaulted sweating bath (I), its length twice its breadth, and having at the ends on one side a Laconicum (K), proportioned in the same manner as above described, and opposite the Laconicum the warm washing room (L). Inside a palaestra, the peristyle ought to be laid out as described above.

3. But on the outside, let three colonnades be arranged, one as you leave the peristyle and two at the right and left, with running-tracks in them. That one of them which faces the north should be a double colonnade of very ample breadth, while the other should be single, and so constructed that on the sides next the walls and the side along the columns it may have edges, serving as paths, of not less than ten feet, with the space between them sunken, so that steps are necessary in going down from the edges a foot and a half to the plane, which plane should be not less than twelve feet wide. Thus people walking round on the edges will not be interfered with by the anointed who are exercising.


4. This kind of colonnade is called among the Greeks custo/s, because athletes during the winter season exercise in covered running tracks. Next to this “xystus” and to the double colonnade should be laid out the uncovered walks which the Greeks term paradromi/des and our people “xysta”, into which in fair weather during the winter, the athletes come out from the “xystus” for exercise. The “xysta” ought to be so constructed that there may be plantations between the two colonnades or groves

of plane trees, with walks laid out in them among the trees and resting places there, made of “opus signinum.” Behind the “xystus” a stadium, so designed that great numbers of people may have plenty of room to look on at the contests between the athletes. I have now described all that seemed necessary for the proper arrangement of things within the city walls.