On Architecture

Vitruvius Pollio

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

1. THE semicircular form, hollowed out of a square block, and cut under to correspond to the polar altitude, is said to have been invented by Berosus the Chaldean; the Scaphe or Hemisphere, by Aristarchus of Samos, as well as the disc on a plane surface; the Arachne, by the astronomer Eudoxus or, as some say, by Apollonius; the Plinthium or Lacunar, like the one placed in the Circus Flaminius, by Scopinas of Syracuse; the pro\s ta\ i(stopou/mena Parmenio; the pro\s pa=n kli=ma, by Theodosius and Andreas; the Pelecinum, by Patrocles; the Cone, by Dionysodorus; the Quiver, by Apollonius. The men whose names are written above, as well as many others, have invented and left us other kinds: as, for instance, the Conarachne, the Conical Plinthium, and the Antiborean. Many have also left us written directions for making dials of these kinds for travellers, which can be hung up. Whoever wishes to find their baseplates, can easily do so from the books of these writers, provided only he understands the figure of the analemma.

2. Methods of making water clocks have been investigated by the same writers, and first of all by Ctesibius the Alexandrian, who also discovered the natural pressure of the air and pneumatic principles. It is worth while for students to know how these discoveries came about. Ctesibius, born at Alexandria, was the son of a barber. Preeminent for natural ability and great industry, he is said to have amused himself with ingenious devices. For example, wishing to hang a mirror in his father's shop in such a way that, on being lowered and raised again, its weight should be raised by means of a concealed cord, he employed the following mechanical contrivance.

3. Under the roof-beam he fixed a wooden channel in which he arranged a block of pulleys. He carried the cord along the channel to the corner, where he set up some small piping. Into this a

leaden ball, attached to the cord, was made to descend. As the weight fell into the narrow limits of the pipe, it naturally compressed the enclosed air, and, as its fall was rapid, it forced the mass of compressed air through the outlet into the open air, thus producing a distinct sound by the concussion.

4. Hence, Ctesibius, observing that sounds and tones were produced by the contact between the free air and that which was forced from the pipe, made use of this principle in the construction of the first water organs. He also devised methods of raising water, automatic contrivances, and amusing things of many kinds, including among them the construction of water clocks. He began by making an orifice in a piece of gold, or by perforating a gem, because these substances are not worn by the action of water, and do not collect dirt so as to get stopped up.

5. A regular flow of water through the orifice raises an inverted bowl, called by mechanicians the “cork” or “drum.” To this are attached a rack and a revolving drum, both fitted with teeth at regular intervals. These teeth, acting upon one another, induce a measured revolution and movement. Other racks and other drums, similarly toothed and subject to the same motion, give rise by their revolution to various kinds of motions, by which figures are moved, cones revolve, pebbles or eggs fall, trumpets sound, and other incidental effects take place.

6. The hours are marked in these clocks on a column or a pilaster, and a figure emerging from the bottom points to them with a rod throughout the whole day. Their decrease or increase in length with the different days and months, must be adjusted by inserting or withdrawing wedges. The shutoffs for regulating the water are constructed as follows. Two cones are made, one solid and the other hollow, turned on a lathe so that one will go into the other and fit it perfectly. A rod is used to loosen or to bring them together, thus causing the water to flow rapidly or slowly into the vessels. According to these rules, and by this mechanism, water clocks may be constructed for use in winter.

7. But if it proves that the shortening or lengthening of the

day is not in agreement with the insertion and removal of the wedges, because the wedges may very often cause errors, the following arrangement will have to be made. Let the hours be marked off transversely on the column from the analemma, and let the lines of the months also be marked upon the column. Then let the column be made to revolve, in such a way that, as it turns continuously towards the figure and the rod with which the emerging figure points to the hours, it may make the hours short or long according to the respective months.