Taken from Ancient History from Primary Sources: A Literary Timeline by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn

Vitruvius (Marcus Vitruvius Pollio)

fl. late first century b.c. & early first century a.d.

Vitruvius was a Roman writer, engineer, and architect for the Emperor Augustus. He also served as a military engineer during the civil wars and Caesar’s African wars, and was well educated and well traveled. His On Architecture is a handbook of the classical principles of architecture. His is the only ancient work on architecture which has survived.

Extant works

On Architecture (10 books) – Covers the history of architecture; city planning and civil engineering; construction methods and materials for buildings of all kinds; Ionian, Corinthian, Doric, and Tuscan capitals; floor paving and ornamental plaster work; water supply and aqueducts; military engines.

Significant excerpts

On Architecture
1.2.1-7 – Of what things architecture consists.
1.4.1-7 – Choosing a site.
1.4.9-12 – On inspecting the livers of animals for testing the quality of the air.
1.5.1-4 – On the foundations of walls and the establishment of towns.
5.8.1-2 – On acoustics.
7.7.1-5 – On natural colors.
7.11.1-2 – On blue and yellow.
7.13.1-3 – On purple.
8.1.1-7 – On finding water.
8.4.1-2 – On testing water.
10.9.1-7 – On measuring a journey.

The English text of On Architecture can be found here.


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