On Architecture

Vitruvius Pollio

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

1. THERE are, however, some hot springs that supply water of the best taste, which is so delightful to drink that one does not think with regret of the Fountain of the Muses or the Marcian aqueduct. These hot springs are produced naturally, in the following manner. When fire is kindled down beneath in alum or asphalt or sulphur, it makes the earth immediately over it very hot, and emits a glowing heat to the parts still farther above it, so that if there are any springs of sweet water found in the upper strata, they begin to boil in their fissures when they are met by this heat, and so they run out with their taste unimpaired.

2. And there are some cold springs that have a bad smell and

taste. They rise deep down in the lower strata, cross places which are on fire, and then are cooled by running a long distance through the earth, coming out above ground with their taste, smell, and colour spoiled; as, for instance, the river Albula on the road to Tivoli and the cold springs of Ardea, which have the same smell and are called sulphur springs, and others in similar places. Although they are cold, yet at first sight they seem to be hot for the reason that when they happen upon a burning spot deep down below, the liquid and the fire meet, and with a great noise at the collision they take in strong currents of air, and thus, swollen by a quantity of compressed wind, they come out at the springs in a constant state of ebullition. When such springs are not open but confined by rocks, the force of the air in them drives them up through the narrow fissures to the summits of hills.

3. Consequently those who think that they have excavated sources of springs at the height of such hills find themselves mistaken when they open up their excavations. Suppose a bronze vase filled not to the very lips, but containing two thirds of the quantity of water which forms its capacity, and with a cover placed upon it. When it is subjected to a very hot fire, the water must become thoroughly heated, and from the rarity of its nature it greatly expands by taking in the heat, so that it not only fills the vase but raises its cover by means of the currents of air in it, and swells and runs over. But if you take the cover off, the expanding forces are released into the open air, and the water settles down again to its proper level. So it is with the sources of springs. As long as they are confined in narrow channels, the currents of air in the water rush up in bubbles to the top, but as soon as they are given a wider outlet, they lose their air on account of the rarity peculiar to water, and so settle down and resume their proper level.

4. Every hot spring has healing properties because it has been boiled with foreign substances, and thus acquires a new useful quality. For example, sulphur springs cure pains in the sinews,

by warming up and burning out the corrupt humours of the body by their heat. Aluminous springs, used in the treatment of the limbs when enfeebled by paralysis or the stroke of any such malady, introduce warmth through the open pores, counteracting the chill by the opposite effect of their heat, and thus equably restoring the limbs to their former condition. Asphaltic springs, taken as purges, cure internal maladies.

5. There is also a kind of cold water containing natron, found for instance at Penne in the Vestine country, at Cutiliae, and at other similar places. It is taken as a purge and in passing through the bowels reduces scrofulous tumours. Copious springs are found where there are mines of gold, silver, iron, copper, lead, and the like, but they are very harmful. For they contain, like hot springs, sulphur, alum, asphalt, . . . and when it passes into the body in the form of drink, and spreading through the veins reaches the sinews and joints, it expands and hardens them. Hence the sinews, swelling with this expansion, are contracted in length and so give men the cramp or the gout, for the reason that their veins are saturated with very hard, dense, and cold substances.

6. There is also a sort of water which, since it contains . . . that are not perfectly clear, and it floats like a flower on the surface, in colour like purple glass. This may be seen particularly in Athens, where there are aqueducts from places and springs of that sort leading to the city and the port of Piraeus, from which nobody drinks, for the reason mentioned, but they use them for bathing and so forth, and drink from wells, thus avoiding their unwholesomeness. At Troezen it cannot be avoided, because no other kind of water at all is found, except what the Cibdeli furnish, and so in that city all or most of the people have diseases of the feet. At the city of Tarsus in Cilicia is a river named Cydnus, in which gouty people soak their legs and find relief from pain.

7. There are also many other kinds of water which have peculiar properties; for example, the river Himera in Sicily, which,

after leaving its source, is divided into two branches. One flows in the direction of Etruria and has an exceedingly sweet taste on account of a sweet juice in the soil through which it runs; the other runs through a country where there are salt pits, and so it has a salt taste. At Paraetonium, and on the road to Ammon, and at Casius in Egypt there are marshy lakes which are so salt that they have a crust of salt on the surface. In many other places there are springs and rivers and lakes which are necessarily rendered salt because they run through salt pits.

8. Others flow through such greasy veins of soil that they are overspread with oil when they burst out as springs: for example, at Soli, a town in Cilicia, the river named Liparis, in which swimmers or bathers get anointed merely by the water. Likewise there is a lake in Ethiopia which anoints people who swim in it, and one in India which emits a great quantity of oil when the sky is clear. At Carthage is a spring that has oil swimming on its surface and smelling like sawdust from citrus wood, with which oil sheep are anointed. In Zacynthus and about Dyrrachium and Apollonia are springs which discharge a great quantity of pitch with their water. In Babylon, a lake of very great extent, called Lake Asphaltitis, has liquid asphalt swimming on its surface, with which asphalt and with burnt brick Semiramis built the wall surrounding Babylon. At Jaffa in Syria and among the Nomads in Arabia, are lakes of enormous size that yield very large masses of asphalt, which are carried off by the inhabitants thereabouts.

9. There is nothing marvellous in this, for quarries of hard asphalt are numerous there. So, when a quantity of water bursts its way through the asphaltic soil, it carries asphalt out with it, and after passing out of the ground, the water is separated and so rejects the asphalt from itself. Again, in Cappadocia on the road from Mazaca to Tyana, there is an extensive lake into which if a part of a reed or of some other thing be plunged, and withdrawn the next day, it will be found that the part thus withdrawn has turned into stone, while the part which remained above water retains its original nature.