On Architecture

Vitruvius Pollio

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

1. THIS will be easier if there are open springs of running water. But if there are no springs which gush forth we must search for them underground, and conduct them together. The following test should be applied. Before sunrise, lie down flat in the place where the search is to be made, and placing the chin on the earth and supporting it there, take a look out over the country. In this way the sight will not range higher than it ought, the chin being immovable, but will range over a definitely limited height on the same level through the country. Then, dig in places where vapours are seen curling and rising up into the air. This sign cannot show itself in a dry spot.

2. Searchers for water must also study the nature of different localities; for those in which it is found are well defined. In clay the supply is poor, meagre, and at no great depth. It will not have the best taste. In fine gravel the supply is also poor, but it will be found at a greater depth. It will be muddy and not sweet. In black earth some slight drippings and drops are found that gather from the storms of winter and settle down in compact, hard places. They have the best taste. Among pebbles the veins found are moderate, and not to be depended upon. These, too, are extremely sweet. In coarse grained gravel and carbuncular sand the supply is surer and more lasting, and it has a good taste. In red tufa it is copious and good, if it does not run down through the fissures and escape. At the foot of mountains and in lava it is more plentiful and abundant, and here it is also colder and more wholesome. In flat countries the springs are salt, heavy-bodied, tepid, and ill-flavoured, excepting those which run underground from mountains, and burst forth in the middle of a plain, where, if protected by the shade of trees, their taste is equal to that of mountain springs.


3. In the kinds of soil described above, signs will be found growing, such as slender rushes, wild willows, alders, agnus castus trees, reeds, ivy, and other plants of the same sort that cannot spring up of themselves without moisture. But they are also accustomed to grow in depressions which, being lower than the rest of the country, receive water from the rains and the surrounding fields during the winter, and keep it for a comparatively long time on account of their holding power. These must not be trusted, but the search must be made in districts and soils, yet not in depressions, where those signs are found growing not from seed, but springing up naturally of themselves.

4. If the indications mentioned appear in such places, the following test should be applied. Dig out a place not less than three feet square and five feet deep, and put into it about sunset a bronze or leaden bowl or basin, whichever is at hand. Smear the inside with oil, lay it upside down, and cover the top of the excavation with reeds or green boughs, throwing earth upon them. Next day uncover it, and if there are drops and drippings in the vessel, the place will contain water.