On Architecture

Vitruvius Pollio

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

8. That it is a fact that things are made heavier from being in places naturally moist, and higher pitched from places that are hot, may be proved from the following experiment. Take two cups which have been baked in the same oven for an equal time, which are of equal weight, and which give the same note when struck. Dip one of them into water and, after taking it out of both. This done, there will be a great difference in their notes, and the cups can no longer be equal in weight. Thus it is with men: though born in the same general form and under the same all-embracing heaven, yet in some of them, on account of the heat in their country, the voice strikes

the air on a high note, while in others, on account of abundance of moisture, the quality of tones produced is very heavy.

9. Further, it is owing to the rarity of the atmosphere that southern nations, with their keen intelligence due to the heat, are very free and swift in the devising of schemes, while northern nations, being enveloped in a dense atmosphere, and chilled by moisture from the obstructing air, have but a sluggish intelligence. That this is so, we may see from the case of snakes. Their movements are most active in hot weather, when they have got rid of the chill due to moisture, whereas at the winter solstice, and in winter weather, they are chilled by the change of temperature, and rendered torpid and motionless. It is therefore no wonder that man's intelligence is made keener by warm air and duller by cold.

10. But although southern nations have the keenest wits, and are infinitely clever in forming schemes, yet the moment it comes to displaying valour, they succumb because all manliness of spirit is sucked out of them by the sun. On the other hand, men born in cold countries are indeed readier to meet the shock of arms with great courage and without timidity, but their wits are so slow that they will rush to the charge inconsiderately and inexpertly, thus defeating their own devices. Such being nature's arrangement of the universe, and all these nations being allotted temperaments which are lacking in due moderation, the truly perfect territory, situated under the middle of the heaven, and having on each side the entire extent of the world and its countries, is that which is occupied by the Roman people.

11. In fact, the races of Italy are the most perfectly constituted in both respects—in bodily form and in mental activity to correspond to their valour. Exactly as the planet Jupiter is itself temperate, its course lying midway between Mars, which is very hot, and Saturn, which is very cold, so Italy, lying between the north and the south, is a combination of what is found on each side, and her preeminence is well regulated and indisputable. And so by her wisdom she breaks the courageous onsets of the

barbarians, and by her strength of hand thwarts the devices of the southerners. Hence, it was the divine intelligence that set the city of the Roman people in a peerless and temperate country, in order that it might acquire the right to command the whole world.

12. Now if it is a fact that countries differ from one another, and are of various classes according to climate, so that the very nations born therein naturally differ in mental and physical conformation and qualities, we cannot hesitate to make our houses suitable in plan to the peculiarities of nations and races, since we have the expert guidance of nature herself ready to our hand. I have now set forth the peculiar characteristics of localities, so far as I could note them, in the most summary way, and have stated how we ought to make our houses conform to the physical qualities of nations, with due regard to the course of the sun and to climate. Next I shall treat the symmetrical proportions of the different styles of houses, both as wholes and in their separate parts.