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The Ten Books on Architecture
De Architectura
Vitruvius
Vitruvius Ten Books of  Architecture Book 7  << Back

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Vitruvius
The Ten Books on Architecture
Book VII
Introduction

1. It was a wise and useful provision of the ancients to transmit their thoughts to posterity by recording them in treatises, so that they should not be lost, but, being developed in succeeding generations through publication in books, should gradually attain in later times, to the highest refinement of learning. And so the ancients deserve no ordinary, but unending thanks, because they did not pass on in envious silence, but took care that their ideas of every kind should be transmitted to the future in their writings.

2. If they had not done so, we could not have known what deeds were done in Troy, nor what Thales, Democritus, Anaxagoras, Xenophanes, and the other physicists thought about nature, and what rules Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Zeno, Epicurus, and other philosophers laid down for the conduct of human life; nor would the deeds and motives of Croesus, Alexander, Darius, and other kings have been known, unless the ancients had compiled treatises, and published them in commentaries to be had in universal remembrance with posterity.

3. So, while they deserve our thanks, those, on the contrary, deserve our reproaches, who steal the writings of such men and publish them as their own; and those also, who depend in their writings, not on their own ideas, but who enviously do wrong to the works of others and boast of it, deserve not merely to be blamed, but to be sentenced to actual punishment for their wicked course of life. With the ancients, however, it is said that such things did not pass without pretty strict chastisement. What the results of their judgments were, it may not be out of place to set forth as they are transmitted to us.

4. The kings of the house of Attalus having established, under the influence of the great charms of literature, an excellent library at Pergamus to give pleasure to the public, Ptolemy also was aroused with no end of enthusiasm and emulation into exertions to make a similar provision with no less diligence at Alexandria. Having done so with the greatest care, he felt that this was not enough without providing for its increase and development, for which he sowed the seed. He established public contests in honor of the Muses and Apollo, and appointed prizes and honors for victorious authors in general, as is done in the case of athletes.

5. These arrangements having been made, and the contests being at hand, it became necessary to select literary men as judges to decide them. The king soon selected six of the citizens, but could not so easily find a proper person to be the seventh. He therefore turned to those who presided over the library, and asked whether they knew anybody who was suitable for the purpose. Then they told him that there was one Aristophanes who was daily engaged in reading through all the books with the greatest enthusiasm and the greatest care. Hence, when the gathering for the contests took place, and separate seats were set apart for the judges, Aristophanes was summoned with the rest, and sat down in the place assigned to him.

6. A group of poets was first brought in to contend, and, as they recited their compositions, the whole audience by its applause showed the judges what it approved. So, when they were individually asked for their votes, the six agreed, and awarded the first prize to the poet who, as they observed, had most pleased the multitude, and the second to the one who came next. But Aristophanes, on being asked for his vote, urged that the poet who had least pleased the audience should be declared to be the first.

7. As the king and the entire assembly showed great indignation, he arose, and asked and received permission to speak. Silence being obtained, he stated that only one of them his man was a poet, and that the rest had recited things not their own; furthermore, that judges ought to give their approval, not to thefts, but to original compositions. The people were amazed, and the king hesitated, but Aristophanes, trusting to his memory, had a vast number of volumes brought out from bookcases which he specified, and, by comparing them with what had been recited, obliged the thieves themselves to make confession. So, the king gave orders that they should be accused of theft, and after condemnation sent them off in disgrace; but he honored Aristophanes with the most generous gifts, and put him in charge of the library.

8. Some years later, Zoilus, who took the surname of Homeromastix, came from Macedonia to Alexandria and read to the king his writings directed against the Iliad and Odyssey. Ptolemy, seeing the father of poets and captain of all literature abused in his absence, and his works, to which all the world looked up in admiration, disparaged by this person, made no rejoinder, although he thought it an outrage. Zoilus, however, after remaining in the kingdom some time, sank into poverty, and sent a message to the king, requesting that something might be bestowed upon him.

9. But it is said that the king replied, that Homer, though dead a thousand years ago, had all that time been the means of livelihood for many thousands of men; similarly, a person who laid claim to higher genius ought to be able to support not one man only, but many others. And in short, various stories are told about his death, which was like that of one found guilty of parricide. Some writers have said that he was crucified by Philadelphus; others that he was stoned at Chios; others again that he was thrown alive upon a funeral pyre at Smyrna. Whichever of these forms of death befell him, it was a fitting punishment and his just due; for one who accuses men that cannot answer and show, face to face, what was the meaning of their writings, obviously deserves no other treatment.

10. But for my part, Caesar, I am not bringing forward the present treatise after changing the titles of other men's books and inserting my own name, nor has it been my plan to win approbation by finding fault with the ideas of another. On the contrary, I express unlimited thanks to all the authors that have in the past, by compiling from antiquity remarkable instances of the skill shown by genius, provided us with abundant materials of different kinds. Drawing from them as it were water from springs, and converting them to our own purposes, we find our powers of writing rendered more fluent and easy, and, relying upon such authorities, we venture to produce new systems of instruction.

11. Hence, as I saw that such beginnings on their part formed an introduction suited to the nature of my own purpose, I set out to draw from them, and to go somewhat further. In the first place Agatharcus, in Athens, when Aeschylus was bringing out a tragedy, painted a scene, and left a commentary about it. This led Democritus and Anaxagoras to write on the same subject, showing how, given a center in a definite place, the lines should naturally correspond with due regard to the point of sight and the divergence of the visual rays, so that by this deception a faithful representation of the appearance of buildings might be given in painted scenery, and so that, though all is drawn on a vertical flat fa?ade, some parts may seem to be withdrawing into the background, and others to be standing out in front.

12. Afterwards Silenus published a book on the proportions of Doric structures; Theodorus, on the Doric temple of Juno which is in Samos; Chersiphron and Metagenes, on the Ionic temple at Ephesus which is Diana's; Pytheos, on the Ionic fane of Minerva which is at Priene; Ictinus and Carpion, on the Doric temple of Minerva which is on the acropolis of Athens; Theodorus the Phocian, on the Round Building which is at Delphi; Philo, on the proportions of temples, and on the naval arsenal which was at the port of Peiraeus; Hermogenes, on the Ionic temple of Diana which is at Magnesia, a pseudodipteral, and on that of Father Bacchus at Teos, a monopteral; Arcesius, on the Corinthian proportions, and on the Ionic temple of Aesculapius at Tralles, which it is said that he built with his own hands; on the Mausoleum, Satyrus and Pytheos who were favored with the greatest and highest good fortune.

13. For men whose artistic talents are believed to have won them the highest renown for all time, and laurels forever green, devised and executed works of supreme excellence in this building. The decoration and perfection of the different fa?ades were undertaken by different artists in emulation with each other: Leochares, Bryaxis, Scopas, Praxiteles, and, as some think, Timotheus; and the distinguished excellence of their art made that building famous among the seven wonders of the world.

14. Then, too, many less celebrated men have written treatises on the laws of symmetry, such as Nexaris, Theocydes, Demophilus, Pollis, Leonidas, Silanion, Melampus, Sarnacus, and Euphranor; others again on machinery, such as Diades, Archytas, Archimedes, Ctesibius, Nymphodorus, Philo of Byzantium, Diphilus, Democles, Charias, Polyidus, Pyrrus, and Agesistratus. From their commentaries I have gathered what I saw was useful for the present subject, and formed it into one complete treatise, and this principally, because I saw that many books in this field had been published by the Greeks, but very few indeed by our countrymen. Fuficius, in fact, was the first to undertake to publish a book on this subject. Terentius Varro, also, in his work "On the Nine Sciences" has one book on architecture, and Publius Septimius, two.

15. But to this day nobody else seems to have bent his energies to this branch of literature, although there have been, even among our fellow citizens in old times, great architects who could also have written with elegance. For instance, in Athens, the architects Antistates, Callaeschrus, Antimachides, and Pormus laid the foundations when Peisistratus began the temple of Olympian Jove, but after his death they abandoned the undertaking, on account of political troubles. Hence it was that when, about four hundred years later, King Antiochus promised to pay the expenses of that work, the huge cella, the surrounding columns in dipteral arrangement, and the architraves and other ornaments, adjusted according to the laws of symmetry, were nobly constructed with great skill and supreme knowledge by Cossutius, a citizen of Rome. Moreover, this work has a name for its grandeur, not only in general, but also among the select few.

16. There are, in fact, four places possessing temples embellished with workmanship in marble that causes them to be mentioned in a class by themselves with the highest renown. To their great excellence and the wisdom of their conception they owe their place of esteem in the ceremonial worship of the gods. First there is the temple of Diana at Ephesus, in the Ionic style, undertaken by Chersiphron of Gnosus and his son Metagenes, and said to have been finished later by Demetrius, who was himself a slave of Diana, and by Paeonius the Milesian. At Miletus, the temple of Apollo, also Ionic in its proportions, was the undertaking of the same Paeonius and of the Ephesian Daphnis. At Eleusis, the cella of Ceres and Proserpine, of vast size, was completed to the roof by Ictinus in the Doric style, but without exterior columns and with plenty of room for the customary sacrifices.

17. Afterwards, however, when Demetrius of Phalerum was master of Athens, Philo set up columns in front before the temple, and made it prostyle. Thus, by adding an entrance hall, he gave the initiates more room, and imparted the greatest dignity to the building. Finally, in Athens, the temple of the Olympion with its dimensions on a generous scale, and built in the Corinthian style and proportions, is said to have been constructed, as written above, by Cossutius, no commentary by whom has been found. But Cossutius is not the only man by whom we should like to have writings on our subject. Another is Gaius Mucius, who, having great knowledge on which to rely, completed the cella, columns, and entablature of the Marian temple of Honor and Valor, in symmetrical proportions according to the accepted rules of the art. If this building had been of marble, so that besides the refinement of its art it possessed the dignity coming from magnificence and great outlay, it would be reckoned among the first and greatest of works.

18. Since it appears, then, that our architects in the old days, and a good many even in our own times, have been as great as those of the Greeks, and nevertheless only a few of them have published treatises, I resolved not to be silent, but to treat the different topics methodically in different books. Hence, since I have given an account of private houses in the sixth book, in this, which is the seventh in order, I shall treat of polished finishings and the methods of giving them both beauty and durability.


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Chapter I

Floors

1. First I shall begin with the concrete flooring, which is the most important of the polished finishings, observing that great pains and the utmost precaution must be taken to ensure its durability. If this concrete flooring is to be laid level with the ground, let the soil be tested to see whether it is everywhere solid, and if it is, level it off and upon it lay the broken stone with its bedding. But if the floor is either wholly or partly filling, it should be rammed down hard with great care. In case a wooden framework is used, however, we must see that no wall which does not reach up to the top of the house is constructed under the floor. Any wall which is there should preferably fall short, so as to leave the wooden planking above it an unsupported span. If a wall comes up solid, the unyielding nature of its solid structure must, when the joists begin to dry, or to sag and settle, lead to cracks in the floor on the right and left along the line of wall.

2. We must also be careful that no common oak gets in with the winter oak boards, for as soon as common oak boards get damp, they warp and cause cracks in floors. But if there is no winter oak, and necessity drives, for lack of this it seems advisable to use common oak boards cut pretty thin; for the less thick they are, the more easily they can be held in place by being nailed on. Then, at the ends of every joist, nail on two boards so that they shall not be able to warp and stick up at the edges. As for Turkey oak or beech or ash, none of them can last to a great age.

When the wooden planking is finished, cover it with fern, if there is any, otherwise with straw, to protect the wood from being hurt by the lime.

3. Then, upon this lay the bedding, composed of stones not smaller than can fill the hand. After the bedding is laid, mix the broken stone in the proportions, if it is new, of three parts to one of lime; if it is old material used again, five parts may answer to two in the mixture. Next, lay the mixture of broken stone, bring on your gangs, and beat it again and again with wooden beetles into a solid mass, and let it be not less than three quarters of a foot in thickness when the beating is finished. On this lay the nucleus, consisting of pounded tile mixed with lime in the proportions of three parts to one, and forming a layer not less than six digits thick. On top of the nucleus, the floor, whether made of cut slips or of cubes, should be well and truly laid by rule and level.

4. After it is laid and set at the proper inclination, let it be rubbed down so that, if it consists of cut slips, the lozenges, or triangles, or squares, or hexagons may not stick up at different levels, but be all jointed together on the same plane with one another; if it is laid in cubes, so that all the edges may be level; for the rubbing down will not be properly finished unless all the edges are on the same level plane. The herring-bone pattern, made of Tibur burnt brick, must also be carefully finished, so as to be without gaps or ridges sticking up, but all flat and rubbed down to rule. When the rubbing down is completely finished by means of the smoothing and polishing processes, sift powdered marble on top, and lay on a coating of lime and sand.

5. In the open air, specially adapted kinds of floors must be made, because their framework, swelling with dampness, or shrinking from dryness, or sagging and settling, injures the floors by these changes; besides, the frost and rime will not let them go unhurt. Hence, if necessity drives, we must proceed as follows in order to make them as free from defects as possible. After finishing the plank flooring, lay a second plank flooring over it at right angles, and nail it down so as to give double protection to the framework. Then, mix with new broken stone one third the quantity of pounded tile, and let lime be added to the mixture in the mortar trough in the proportion of two parts to five.

6. Having made the bedding, lay on this mixture of broken stone, and let it be not less than a foot thick when the beating is finished. Then, after laying the nucleus, as above described, construct the floor of large cubes cut about two digits each way, and let it have an inclination of two digits for every ten feet. If it is well put together and properly rubbed down, it will be free from all flaws. In order that the mortar in the joints may not suffer from frosts, drench it with oil dregs every year before winter begins. Thus treated, it will not let the hoarfrost enter it.

7. If, however, it seems needful to use still greater care, lay twofer tiles, jointed together in a bed of mortar, over the broken stone, with little channels of one finger's breadth cut in the faces of all the joints. Connect these channels and fill them with a mixture of lime and oil; then, rub the joints hard and make them compact. Thus, the lime sticking in the channels will harden and solidify into a mass, and so prevent water or anything else from penetrating through the joints. After this layer is finished, spread the nucleus upon it, and work it down by beating it with rods. Upon this lay the floor, at the inclination above described, either of large cubes or burnt brick in herring-bone pattern, and floors thus constructed will not soon be spoiled.


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Chapter  II

The Slaking of Lime for Stucco

1. Leaving the subject of floors, we must next treat of stucco work. This will be all right if the best lime, taken in lumps, is slaked a good while before it is to be used, so that if any lump has not been burned long enough in the kiln, it will be forced to throw off its heat during the long course of slaking in the water, and will thus be thoroughly burned to the same consistency. When it is taken not thoroughly slaked but fresh, it has little crude bits concealed in it, and so, when applied, it blisters. When such bits complete their slaking after they are on the building, they break up and spoil the smooth polish of the stucco.

2. But when the proper attention has been paid to the slaking, and greater pains have thus been employed in the preparation for the work, take a hoe, and apply it to the slaked lime in the mortar bed just as you hew wood. If it sticks to the hoe in bits, the lime is not yet tempered; and when the iron is drawn out dry and clean, it will show that the lime is weak and thirsty; but when the lime is rich and properly slaked, it will stick to the tool like glue, proving that it is completely tempered. Then get the scaffolding ready, and proceed to construct the vaultings in the rooms, unless they are to be decorated with flat coffered ceilings.


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Chapter  III

Vaulting and Stucco Work

1. When vaulting is required, the procedure should be as follows. Set up horizontal furring strips at intervals of not more than two feet apart, using preferably cypress, as fir is soon spoiled by decay and by age. Arrange these strips so as to form a curve, and make them fast to the joists of the floor above or to the roof, if it is there, by nailing them with many iron nails to ties fixed at intervals. These ties should be made of a kind of wood that neither decay nor time nor dampness can spoil, such as box, juniper, olive, oak, cypress, or any other similar wood except common oak; for this warps, and causes cracks in work in which it is used.

2. Having arranged the furring strips, take cord made of Spanish broom, and tie Greek reeds, previously pounded flat, to them in the required contour. Immediately above the vaulting spread some mortar made of lime and sand, to check any drops that may fall from the joists or from the roof. If a supply of Greek reed is not to be had, gather slender marsh reeds, and make them up with silk cord into bundles all of the same thickness and adjusted to the proper length, provided that the bundles are not more than two feet long between any two knots. Then tie them with cord to the beams, as above described, and drive wooden pegs into them. Make all the other preparations as above described.

3. Having thus set the vaultings in their places and interwoven them, apply the rendering coat to their lower surface; then lay on the sand mortar, and afterwards polish it off with the powdered marble. After the vaultings have been polished, set the impost moldings directly beneath them. These obviously ought to be made extremely slender and delicate, for when they are large, their weight carries them down, and they cannot support themselves. Gypsum should by no means be used in their composition, but powdered marble should be laid on uniformly, lest gypsum, by setting too quickly should keep the work from drying uniformly. We must also beware of the ancients' scheme for vaultings; for in their moldings the soffits overhang very heavily, and are dangerous.

4. Some moldings are flat, others in relief. In rooms where there has to be a fire or a good many lights, they should be flat, so that they can be wiped off more easily. In summer apartments and in exedrae where there is no smoke nor soot to hurt them, they should be made in relief. It is always the case that stucco, in the pride of its dazzling white, gathers smoke not only from its own house but also from others.

5. Having finished the moldings, apply a very rough rendering coat to the walls, and afterwards, when the rendering coat gets pretty dry, spread upon it the layers of sand mortar, exactly adjusted in length to rule and line, in height to the plummet, and at the angles to the square. The stucco will thus present a faultless appearance for paintings. When it gets pretty dry, spread on a second coat and then a third. The better the foundation of sand mortar that is laid on, the stronger and more durable in its solidity will be the stucco.

6. When not less than three coats of sand mortar, besides the rendering coat, have been laid on, then, we must make the mixture for the layers of powdered marble, the mortar being so tempered that when mixed it does not stick to the trowel, but the iron comes out freely and clean from the mortar trough. After this powdered marble has been spread on and gets dry, lay on a medium second coat. When that has been applied and well rubbed down, spread on a finer coat. The walls, being thus rendered solid by three coats of sand mortar and as many of marble, will not possibly be liable to cracks or to any other defect.

7. And further, such walls, owing to the solid foundation given by thorough working with polishing instruments, and the smoothness of it, due to the hard and dazzling white marble, will bring out in brilliant splendor the colors which are laid on at the same time with the polishing.

These colors, when they are carefully laid on stucco still wet, do not fade but are permanent. This is because the lime, having had its moisture burned out in the kiln, becomes porous and loses its strength, and its dryness makes it take up anything that may come in contact with it. On mixing with the seeds or elements that come from other substances, it forms a solid mass with them and, no matter what the constituent parts may then be, it must, obviously, on becoming dry, possess the qualities which are peculiar to its own nature.

8. Hence, stucco that is properly made does not get rough as time goes on, nor lose its colors when it is wiped off, unless they have been laid on with little care and after it is dry. So, when the stucco on walls is made as described above, it will have strength and brilliancy, and an excellence that will last to a great age. But when only one coat of sand mortar and one of fine marble have been spread on, its thin layer is easily cracked from want of strength, and from its lack of thickness it will not take on the brilliance, due to polishing, which it ought to have.

9. Just as a silver mirror that is formed of a thin plate reflects indistinctly and with a feeble light, while one that is substantially made can take on a very high polish, and reflects a brilliant and distinct image when one looks therein, so it is with stucco. When the stuff of which it is formed is thin, it not only cracks but also soon fades; when, however, it has a solid foundation of sand mortar and of marble, thickly and compactly applied, it is not only brilliant after being subjected to repeated polishings, but also reflects from its surface a clear image of the beholder.

10. The Greek stucco workers not only employ these methods to make their works durable, but also construct a mortar trough, mix the lime and sand in it, bring on a gang of men, and beat the stuff with wooden beetles, and do not use it until it has been thus vigorously worked. Hence, some cut slabs out of old walls and use them as panels, and the stucco of such panels and "reflectors" has projecting beveled edges all round it.

11. But if stucco has to be made on "wattle and daub," where there must be cracks at the uprights and acrostic's, because they must take in moisture when they are daubed with the mud, and cause cracks in the stucco when they dry and shrink, the following method will prevent this from happening. After the whole wall has been smeared with the mud, nail rows of reeds to it by means of "flannels," then spread on the mud a second time, and, if the first rows have been nailed with the shafts transverse, nail on a second set with the shafts vertical, and then, as above described, spread on the sand mortar, the marble, and the whole mass of stucco. Thus, the double series of reeds with their shafts crossing on the walls will prevent any chipping or cracking from taking place.


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Chapter  IV

On Stucco Work in Damp Places and On the Decoration of Dining Rooms

1. Having spoken of the method by which stucco work should be done in dry situations, I shall next explain how the polished finish is to be accomplished in places that are damp, in such a way that it can last without defects. First, in apartments which are level with the ground, apply a rendering coat of mortar, mixed with burnt brick instead of sand, to a height of about three feet above the floor, and then lay on the stucco so that those portions of it may not be injured by the dampness. But if a wall is in a state of dampness all over, construct a second thin wall a little way from it on the inside, at a distance suited to circumstances, and in the space between these two walls run a channel, at a lower level than that of the apartment, with vents to the open air. Similarly, when the wall is brought up to the top, leave airless there. For if the moisture has no means of getting out by vents at the bottom and at the top, it will not fail to spread all over the new wall. This done, apply a rendering coat of mortar made with burnt brick to this wall, spread on the layer of stucco, and polish it.

2. But if there is not room enough for the construction of a wall, make channels with their vents extending to the open air. Then lay twofer tiles resting on the margin of the channel on one side, and on the other side construct a foundation of pillars for them, made of eighteenth bricks, on top of each of which the edges of two tiles may be supported, each pillar being not more than a hand's breadth distant from the wall. Then, above, set hooked tiles fastened to the wall from bottom to top, carefully covering the inner sides of them with pitch so that they will reject moisture. Both at the bottom and at the top above the vaulting they should have airless.

3. Then, whitewash them with lime and water so that they will not reject the rendering coat of burnt brick. For, as they are dry from the loss of water burnt out in the kiln, they can neither take nor hold the rendering coat unless lime has been applied beneath it to stick the two substances together, and make them unite. After spreading the rendering coat upon this, apply layers of burnt brick mortar instead of sand mortar, and finish up all the rest in the manner described above for stucco work.

4. The decorations of the polished surfaces of the walls ought to be treated with due regard to propriety, so as to be adapted to their situations, and not out of keeping with differences in kind. In winter dining rooms, neither paintings on grand subjects nor delicacy of decoration in the cornice work of the vaultings is a serviceable kind of design, because they are spoiled by the smoke from the fire and the constant soot from the lamps. In these rooms there should be panels above the dadoes, worked in black, and polished, with yellow ochre or vermilion blocks interposed between them. After the vaulting has been treated in the flat style, and polished, the Greek method of making floors for use in winter dining rooms may not be unworthy of one's notice, as being very inexpensive and yet serviceable.

5. An excavation is made below the level of the dining room to a depth of about two feet, and, after the ground has been rammed down, the mass of broken stones or the pounded burnt brick is spread on, at such an inclination that it can find vents in the drain. Next, having filled in with charcoal compactly trodden down, a mortar mixed of gravel, lime, and ashes is spread on to a depth of half a foot. The surface having been made true to rule and level, and smoothed off with whetstone, gives the look of a black pavement. Hence, at their dinner parties, whatever is poured out of the cups, or spirited from the mouth, no sooner falls than it dries up, and the servants who wait there do not catch cold from that kind of floor, although they may go barefoot.


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Chapter V

The Decadence of Fresco Painting

1. For the other apartments, that is, those intended to be used in Spring, Autumn, and Summer, as well as for atriums and peristyles, the ancients required realistic pictures of real things. A picture is, in fact, a representation of a thing which really exists or which can exist: for example, a man, a house, a ship, or anything else from whose definite and actual structure copies resembling it can be taken. Consequently the ancients who introduced polished finishings began by representing different kinds of marble slabs in different positions, and then cornices and blocks of yellow ochre arranged in various ways.

2. Afterwards they made such progress as to represent the forms of buildings, and of columns, and projecting and overhanging pediments; in their open rooms, such as exedrae, on account of the size, they depicted the fa?ades of scenes in the tragic, comic, or satyric style; and their walks, on account of the great length, they decorated with a variety of landscapes, copying the characteristics of definite spots. In these paintings there are harbors, promontories, seashores, rivers, fountains, straits, fanes, groves, mountains, flocks, shepherds; in some places there are also pictures designed in the grand style, with figures of the gods or detailed mythological episodes, or the battles at Troy, or the wanderings of Ulysses, with landscape backgrounds, and other subjects reproduced on similar principles from real life.

3. But those subjects which were copied from actual realities are scorned in these days of bad taste. We now have fresco paintings of monstrosities, rather than truthful representations of definite things. For instance, reeds are put in the place of columns, fluted appendages with curly leaves and volutes, instead of pediments, candelabra supporting representations of shrines, and on top of their pediments numerous tender stalks and volutes growing up from the roots and having human figures senselessly seated upon them; sometimes stalks having only half length figures, some with human heads, others with the heads of animals.

4. Such things do not exist and cannot exist and never have existed. Hence, it is the new taste that has caused bad judges of poor art to prevail over true artistic excellence. For how is it possible that a reed should really support a roof, or a candelabrum a pediment with its ornaments, or that such a slender, flexible thing as a stalk should support a figure perched upon it, or that roots and stalks should produce now flowers and now half length figures? Yet when people see these frauds, they find no fault with them but on the contrary are delighted, and do not care whether any of them can exist or not. Their understanding is darkened by decadent critical principles, so that it is not capable of giving its approval authoritatively and on the principle of propriety to that which really can exist. The fact is that pictures which are unlike reality ought not to be approved, and even if they are technically fine, this is no reason why they should offhand be judged to be correct, if their subject is lacking in the principles of reality carried out with no violations.

5. For instance, at Tralles, Apaturius of Alabanda designed with skillful hand the scaena of the little theater representing columns in it and statues, Centaurs supporting the architraves, rotundas with round roofs on them, pediments with overhanging returns, and cornices ornamented with lions' heads, which are meant for nothing but the rainwater from the roofs, and then on top of it all he made an episcaenium in which were painted rotundas, porticoes, half pediments, and all the different kinds of decoration employed in a roof. The effect of high relief in this scaena was very attractive to all who beheld it, and they were ready to give their approval to the work, when Licymnius the mathematician came forward and said that (6.) the Alabandines were considered bright enough in all matters of politics, but that on account of one slight defect, the lack of the sense of propriety, they were believed to be unintelligent. "In their gymnasium the statues are all pleading causes, in their forum, throwing the discus, running, or playing ball. This disregard of propriety in the interchange of statues appropriate to different places has brought the state as a whole into disrepute. Let us then beware lest this scaena of Apaturius make Alabandines or Abderites of us. Which of you can have houses or columns or extensive pediments on top of his tiled roof? Such things are built above the floors, not above the tiled roofs. Therefore, if we give our approval to pictures of things which can have no reason for existence in actual fact, we shall be voluntarily associating ourselves with those communities which are believed to be unintelligent on account of just such defects."

7. Apaturius did not venture to make any answer, but removed the scaena, altered it so that it conformed to reality, and gave satisfaction with it in its improved state. Would to God that Licymnius could come to life again and reform the present condition of folly and mistaken practices in fresco painting! However, it may not be out of place to explain why this false method prevails over the truth. The fact is that the artistic excellence which the ancients endeavored to attain by working hard and taking pains, is now attempted by the use of colors and the brave show which they make, and expenditure by the employer prevents people from missing the artistic refinements that once lent authority to works.

8. For example, which of the ancients can be found to have used vermilion otherwise than sparingly, like a drug? But today whole walls are commonly covered with it everywhere. Then, too, there is malachite green, purple, and Armenian blue. When these colors are laid on, they present a brilliant appearance to the eye even although they are inartistically applied, and as they are costly, they are made exceptions in contracts, to be furnished by the employer, not by the contractor.

I have now sufficiently explained all that I could suggest for the avoidance of mistakes in stucco work. Next, I shall speak of the components as they occur to me, and first I shall treat of marble, since I spoke of lime at the beginning.


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Chapter VI

Marble for Use In Stucco

Marble is not produced everywhere of the same kind. In some places the lumps are found to contain transparent grains like salt, and this kind when crushed and ground is extremely serviceable in stucco work. In places where this is not found, the broken bits of marble or "chips," as they are called, which marble workers throw down as they work, may be crushed and ground and used in stucco after being sifted. In still other place, for example, on the borderland of Magnesia and Ephesus there are places where it can be dug out all ready to use, without the need of grinding or sifting, but as fine as any that is crushed and sifted by hand.


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Chapter VII

Natural Colors

As for colors, some are natural products found in fixed places, and dug up there, while others are artificial compounds of different substances treated and mixed in proper proportions so as to be equally serviceable.

1. We shall first set forth the natural colors that are dug up as such, like yellow ochre. This is found in many places, including Italy, but Attic, which was the best, is not now to be had because in the times when there were slaves in the Athenian silver mines, they would dig galleries underground in order to find the silver. Whenever a vein of ochre was found there, they would follow it up like silver, and so the ancients had a fine supply of it to use in the polished finishings of their stucco work.

2. Red earths are found in abundance in many places, but the best in only a few, for instance at Sinope in Pontus, in Egypt, in the Balearic islands of Spain, as well as in Lemnos, an island the enjoyment of whose revenues the Senate and Roman people granted to the Athenians.

3. Paraetonium white gets its name from the place where it is dug up. The same is the case with Melian white, because there is said to be a mine of it in Melos, one of the islands of the Cyclades.

4. Green chalk is found in numerous places, but the best at Smyrna. This kind of chalk was first found on the estate of a person named Theodotus.

5. Orpiment is dug up in Pontus. Sandarach, in many places, but the best is mined in Pontus close by the river Hypanis.


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Chapter VIII

Cinnabar and Quicksilver

1. I shall now proceed to explain the nature of cinnabar. It is said that it was first found in the Cilbian country belonging to Ephesus, and both it and its properties are certainly very strange. First, before getting to the vermilion itself by methods of treatment, they dig out what is called the clod, an ore like iron, but rather of a reddish color and covered with a red dust. During the digging it sheds, under the blows of the tools, tear after tear of quicksilver, which is at once gathered up by the diggers.

2. When these clods have been collected, they are so full of moisture that they are thrown into an oven in the laboratory to dry, and the fumes that are sent up from them by the heat of the fire settle down on the floor of the oven, and are found to be quicksilver. When the clods are taken out, the drops which remain are so small that they cannot be gathered up, but they are swept into a vessel of water, and there they run together and combine into one. Four pints of it, when measured and weighed, will be found to be one hundred pounds.

3. If the quicksilver is poured into a vessel, and a stone weighing one hundred pounds is laid upon it, the stone swims on the surface, and cannot depress the liquid, nor break through, nor separate it. If we remove the hundred pound weight, and put on a scruple of gold, it will not swim, but will sink to the bottom of its own accord. Hence, it is undeniable that the gravity of a substance depends not on the amount of its weight, but on its nature.

4. Quicksilver is a useful thing for many purposes. For instance, neither silver nor copper can be gilded properly without it. And when gold has been woven into a garment, and the garment becomes worn out with age so that it is no longer respectable to use, the pieces of cloth are put into earthen pots, and burned up over a fire. The ashes are then thrown into water and quicksilver added thereto. This attracts all the bits of gold, and makes them combine with itself. The water is then poured off, and the rest emptied into a cloth and squeezed in the hands, whereupon the quicksilver, being a liquid, escapes through the loose texture of the cloth, but the gold, which has been brought together by the squeezing, is found inside in a pure state.


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Chapter IX

Cinnabar (continued)

1. I will now return to the preparation of vermilion. When the lumps of ore are dry, they are crushed in iron mortars, and repeatedly washed and heated until the impurities are gone, and the colors come. When the cinnabar has given up its quicksilver, and thus lost the natural virtues that it previously had, it becomes soft in quality and its powers are feeble.

2. Hence, though it keeps its color perfectly when applied in the polished stucco finish of closed apartments, yet in open apartments, such as peristyles or exedrae or other places of the sort, where the bright rays of the sun and moon can penetrate, it is spoiled by contact with them, loses the strength of its color, and turns black. Among many others, the secretary Faberius, who wished to have his house on the Aventine finished in elegant style, applied vermilion to all the walls of the peristyle; but after thirty days they turned to an ugly and mottled color. He therefore made a contract to have other colors applied instead of vermilion.

3. But anybody who is more particular, and who wants a polished finish of vermilion that will keep its proper color, should, after the wall has been polished and is dry, apply with a brush Pontic wax melted over a fire and mixed with a little oil; then after this he should bring the wax to a sweat by warming it and the wall at close quarters with charcoal enclosed in an iron vessel; and finally he should smooth it all off by rubbing it down with a wax candle and clean linen cloths, just as naked marble statues are treated.

4. The protecting coat of Pontic wax prevents the light of the moon and the rays of the sun from licking up and drawing the color out of such polished finishing.

The manufactories which were once at the mines of the Ephesians have now been transferred to Rome, because this kind of ore was later discovered in Spain. The clods are brought from the mines there, and treated in Rome by public contractors. These manufactories are between the temples of Flora and Quirinus.

5. Cinnabar is adulterated by mixing lime with it. Hence, one will have to proceed as follows, if one wishes to prove that it is unadulterated. Take an iron plate, put the cinnabar upon it, and lay it on the fire until the plate gets red hot. When the glowing heat makes the color change and turn black, remove the plate from the fire, and if the cinnabar when cooled returns to its former color, it will be proved to be unadulterated; but if it keeps the black color, it will show that it has been adulterated.

6. I have now said all that I could think of about cinnabar. Malachite green is brought from Macedonia, and is dug up in the neighborhood of copper mines. The names Armenian blue and India ink show in what places these substances are found.


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Chapter X

Artificial Colors Black

1. I shall now pass to those substances which by artificial treatment are made to change their composition, and to take on the properties of colors; and first I shall treat of black, the use of which is indispensable in many works, in order that the fixed technical methods for the preparation of that compound may be known.

2. A place is built like a Laconicum, and nicely finished in marble, smoothly polished. In front of it, a small furnace is constructed with vents into the Laconicum, and with a stoke hole that can be very carefully closed to prevent the flames from escaping and being wasted. Resin is placed in the furnace. The force of the fire in burning it compels it to give out soot into the Laconicum through the vents, and the soot sticks to the walls and the curved vaulting. It is gathered from them, and some of it is mixed and worked with gum for use as writing ink, while the rest is mixed with size, and used on walls by fresco painters.

3. But if these facilities are not at hand, we must meet the exigency as follows, so that the work may not be hindered by tedious delay. Burn shavings and splinters of pitch pine, and when they turn to charcoal, put them out, and pound them in a mortar with size. This will make a pretty black for fresco painting.

4. Again, if the lees of wine are dried and roasted in an oven, and then ground up with size and applied to a wall, the result will be a color even more delightful than ordinary black; and the better the wine of which it is made, the better imitation it will give, not only of the color of ordinary black, but even of that of India ink.


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Chapter XI

Blue Burnt Ochre

1. Methods of making blue were first discovered in Alexandria, and afterwards Vestorius set up the making of it at Puzzuoli. The method of obtaining it from the substances of which it has been found to consist, is strange enough. Sand and the flowers of natron are brayed together so finely that the product is like meal, and copper is grated by means of coarse files over the mixture, like sawdust, to form a conglomerate. Then it is made into balls by rolling it in the hands and thus bound together for drying. The dry balls are put in an earthen jar, and the jars in an oven. As soon as the copper and the sand grow hot and unite under the intensity of the fire, they mutually receive each other's sweat, relinquishing their peculiar qualities, and having lost their properties through the intensity of the fire, they are reduced to a blue color.

2. Burnt ochre, which is very serviceable in stucco work, is made as follows. A clod of good yellow ochre is heated to a glow on a fire. It is then quenched in vinegar, and the result is a purple color.


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Chapter XII

White Lead, Verdigris and Artificial Sandarach

1. It is now in place to describe the preparation of white lead and of verdigris, which with us is called "aeruca." In Rhodes they put shavings in jars, pour vinegar over them, and lay pieces of lead on the shavings; then they cover the jars with lids to prevent evaporation. After a definite time they open them, and find that the pieces of lead have become white lead. In the same way they put in plates of copper and make verdigris, which is called "aeruca."

2. White lead on being heated in an oven changes its color on the fire, and becomes sandarach. This was discovered as the result of an accidental fire. It is much more serviceable than the natural sandarach dug up in mines.


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Chapter XIII

Purple

1. I shall now begin to speak of purple, which exceeds all the colors that have so far been mentioned both in costliness and in the superiority of its delightful effect. It is obtained from a marine shellfish, from which is made the purple dye, which is as wonderful to the careful observer as anything else in nature; for it has not the same shade in all the places where it is found, but is naturally qualified by the course of the sun.

2. That which is found in Pontus and Gaul is black, because those countries are nearest to the north. As one passes on from north to west, it is found of a bluish shade. Due east and west, what is found is of a violet shade. That which is obtained in southern countries is naturally red in quality, and therefore this is found in the island of Rhodes and in other such countries that are nearest to the course of the sun.

3. After the shellfish have been gathered, they are broken up with iron tools, the blows of which drive out the purple fluid like a flood of tears, and then it is prepared by braying it in mortars. It is called "ostrum" because it is taken from the shells of marine shellfish. On account of its saltness, it soon dries up unless it has honey poured over it.


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Chapter XIV

Substitutes for Purple, Yellow, Ochre, Malachite Green and Indigo

1. Purple colors are also manufactured by dyeing chalk with madder root and with hysginum. Other colors are made from flowers. Thus, when fresco painters wish to imitate Attic yellow ochre, they put dried violets into a vessel of water, and heat them over a fire; then, when the mixture is ready, they pour it onto a linen cloth, and squeeze it out with the hands, catching the water which is now colored by the violets, in a mortar. Into this they pour chalk and bray it, obtaining the color of Attic yellow ochre.

2. They make a fine purple color by treating bilberry in the same way and mixing it with milk. Those who cannot use malachite green on account of its dearness, dye blue with the plant called dyer's weed, and thus obtain a most vivid green. This is called dyer's malachite green. Again, for want of indigo, they dye Selinusian or anularian chalk with wood, and make an imitation of indigo.

3. In this book I have written down, so far as I could recall them, the methods and means of attaining durability in polished finishings, how pictures that are appropriate should be made, and also the natural qualities of all the colors. And so, having prescribed in seven books the suitable principles which should govern the construction of all kinds of buildings, I shall treat in the next of water, showing how it may be found in places where it is wanting, by what method it may be conducted, and by what means its wholesomeness and fitness may be tested.

How To Build Catapults >> Vitruvius Ten Books of  Architecture >> Book 7
 

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