Vitruvius, On Architecture

LCL 251: 250-251

Go To Section
Go To Section


Liber Quintus

1Qui amplioribus voluminibus, imperator, ingenii cogitationes praeceptaque explicaverunt, maximas et egregias adiecerunt suis scriptis auctoritates. Quod etiam vel in nostris quoque studiis res pateretur, ut amplificationibus auctoritas et in his praeceptis augeretur; sed id non est, quemadmodum putatur, expeditum. Non enim de architectura sic scribitur uti historia aut poemata. Historiae per se tenent lectores; habent enim novarum rerum varias expectationes. Poematorum vero carminum metra et pedes, ac verborum elegans dispositio et sententiarum inter personas distinctas, versuum pronuntiatio prolectando sensus legentium perducit sine offensa 2ad summam scriptorum terminationem. Id autem in architecturae conscriptionibus non potest fieri, quod vocabula ex artis propria necessitate concepta inconsueto sermone obiciunt sensibus obscuritatem. Cum ergo ea per se non sint aperta nec pateant eorum in consuetudine nomina, tum etiam praeceptorum late evagantes1 scripturae, si non contrahentur, et paucis et perlucidis sententiis explicentur, frequentia multitudineque sermonis inpediente incertas legentium efficient cogitationes. Itaque occultas nominationes commensusque e membris


Book V.


1. Men, Caesar, who in more ample volumes unfold the notions and rules suggested by their talent, add to their writings very great and unusual authority. Indeed even in our studies, the topic would allow this: namely, that in this treatise also, amplification would afford greater weight of authority. But that is not so convenient as it is thought. For writing about architecture is not like a history, or poems. Histories, of themselves, hold the reader. For they offer the varied prospects of novelty. Again in poems, the measures and feet of the music and the nice arrangement of words and opinions, the recital of verses distributed among the several characters, entice the thoughts1 of the reader and, without hindrance, lead him on to the very close of the book. 2. But in architectural compositions this cannot take place. For the terms, used by the special necessity of the craft, by their unfamiliar sound seem obscure to the perception. Since therefore they of themselves are not obvious, nor is the nomenclature clear by customary use, so further the casual expression of rules—unless they are collected and explained in a few lucid phrases—renders uncertain the notions of the reader: for repetition and a cumbrous style are a hindrance. And while I enumerate, in accordance with the parts of buildings,

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.vitruvius-architecture.1931