Vitruvius, On Architecture, Volume I

LCL 251: viii-ix

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at Paris, the Bodleian, St. John’s College, Oxford, and Eton College. A word of special thanks is due to his Excellency the Spanish Ambassador to London, his Eminence the Cardinal Merry del Val and the Secretary of the British Embassy at Paris, for their assistance.

Mr. Paul Gray, M.A., of this College, has given me valuable help in preparing the MS. for the press.

Frank Granger.

University College, Nottingham,

September, 1929.

Introduction Vitruvius and the architecture of the West

The history of architectural literature is taken by Vitruvius to begin with the theatre of Dionysus at Athens.1 In earlier times the spectators were accommodated upon wooden benches. According to one account,2 in the year 500 b.c. or thereabouts, the scaffolding collapsed, and in consequence a beginning was made towards a permanent stone structure. The elaborate stage settings of Aeschylus reached their culmination at the performance of the Agamemnon and its associated plays in 458. According to Suidas,3 the collapse of the scaffolding, which occurred at a performance of one of Aeschylus’ dramas, led to the exile of the poet in Sicily, where he died in 456. In that case the permanent construction of the theatre would begin in the Periclean age some time between 458 and 456.

The performance of the Oresteia probably coincided with the first use of scene-painting. Agatharchus,4 an artist of Samos, who was employed upon this, introduced the method of perspective as a practical expedient, not only in scene-painting but elsewhere. His elder contemporary, Polygnotus,