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We now proceed to notice the translation, and the illustrations of the text of the original. Here we are compelled to acknowledge that we experience considerable difficulty. Of the excellence of a translation from a work of science, abounding in technical expressions, many of which are become almost obsolete, it is impossible for any but those well skilled in that science to speak with decision. Having, however, augmented our little store by turning over the valuable works on Grecian architecture published by Stuart and the Society of Dilettanti, we enter upou our task with somewhat more confidence; but even thus we must found our criticism almost exclusively upon the illustrations given at the end of the several sections.
The books which the translator has selected for remark are four. They severally relate, 1st. To the order of architecture termed Ionic, and to the various kinds of temples in which this order, and occasionally the Corinthian, were employed. 2d. To the Doric order, and the edifices in which it might be with propriety adopted. To the Corinthian order, where it differs from the Ionic, and those edifices in which its use is indispensable; namely, circular buildings. 3d. To the public buildings of the ancients, such as basilicae, theatres and gymnasia. 4th. To the private dwellings of the Greeks and Romans.
In the first section we meet with several instances of that theoretical refinement which Vitruvius thought necessary to the perfection of Grecian architecture. One of them proceeds upon the principle, that the apparent magnitude of objects is measured by the angles which the objects subtend at the eye of the spectator, a doctrine inadmissible in the present stage of optical knowledge. Another has drawn all the commentators, from Jocundus to the present time, into long and unprofitable discussions. Baldus has made it the subject of a separate essay. We allude to the scamilti impares, which were rendered necessary from the adoption of an expedient our author thought essential in correcting a supposed error of sight or vision. What they were, has, we think, been satisfactorily explained in the present work, although perhaps the principle, or mode of reasoning used by Vitruvius may not be correctly stated. The question has been clothed with unmerited importance, and the solution held out as a matter of insuperable difficulty; so that we were not prepared for so simple an explanation as is here offered.
The parallel between the Grecian example of the Ionic order and structures reared from the instructions of Vitruvius exhibits a remarkable coincidence, and proves the necessity, if other arguments were wanting, of restoring the text, which editors and translators have altered to accommodate their own notions.
In the second section we were pleased to find that the Doric order, according to the rules laid down by Vitruvius, is not of that description which has goue forth in modern times under the sanction of his name. The wretched imitations of Italian architecture, which to the present time have prevailed in this country, are as unworthy the genius of the Greeks as'they are unlike the objects Vitruvius intended to describe. The dissipation of the errors on this subject, hitherto prevailing, has been effected by the same means— the restoration of the original text. The principle of a modulus for the Doric order different from that of the Ionic is perfectly new; and is as consistent with reason as it is true in the architectural productions of the best ages. Strip the Doric order of the supposed refinements which had their origin in the conceit of Vitruvius, and his buildings will resemble those which, unluckily for the art, are only to be found, in the words of the Introduction, where, « . on the jEgean shore,
A city stands, built nobly.'
This is by far the most important of the explanations offered in the present work, and will induce, we hope, the students of architecture to pursue the recommendation of Vitruvius, although he in some measure disregarded it himself, and cultivate those authors, who, by extending the sphere of architectural knowledge, appear' reliquisse fontes unde posteri possunt haurire disciplinarum rationes.'
The restoration of the text, relating to the mode of proportioning the door-ways of temples, does not afford us much assistance in explaining a question of some difficulty, namely, the method of giving light to such temples as were not hypsethral, or open; for although no doubt can now exist that a space was generally left open above the doors, it would not afford sufficient light to distinguish with clearness the statue and other objects contained within the cella. It would seem that this expedient was more calculated to afford air than light; for temples of this description must have been illuminated by lamps suspended near the statues: the relics of this custom are still discernible in the Roman Catholic churches of the continent.
The description of the Greek and Roman theatre occupies a very considerable portion of the succeeding book. Vitruvius has here availed himself of an opportunity for introducing what little he knew of music. In this part of his work he likewise describes the only public building which he appears to have superintended. Of this he is sufficiently vain; he speaks of it as the best of its kind for beauty and convenience. The building has been selected as an object for illustration by the translator, who thus gives us the opportunity of forming some opinion of the taste of the Roman architect in the art of design. From this it appears that he profited
C 3 something something by his acquaintance with the works of the Greek architects; having produced a more classical composition than the generality of the buildings of that age exhibit. It was chiefly intended for internal effect; and considering what was required by the nature of the building, he appears to have nearly surmounted the difficulties it offered to a correct design.
Upon the establishment of the Christian religion at Rome, the ancient basilica? were converted into churches; the preference given to such buildings for the celebration of the rites of a pure worship originated in a desire to avoid all associations with heathenism, inseparable from the application of temples to this purpose. As its votaries increased, new places of public worship became necessary, and these were built in imitation of those which were first converted to this purpose; the name still continues to be applied to the principal churches of Rome. The early churches, and our Norman cathedrals, built upon a plan nearly similar, had semicircular ends, in imitation of the hemicycli of the Roman basilica?, where the magistrates were accustomed to dispense justice to the people. From a similar custom at Athens, in the o~roa fiacriXixri, where the archon, (3ao-iAsyf, presided, the whole building derived its name. The circular tribunal is as old as the days of Homer, who describes the elders sitting in judgment on polished benches, Upw Ivi xuxAra.
The chapter on harmony in the Latin of Vitruvius is little more than a translation from the Greek of Aristoxenus, which has been handed down to us. The subject is abstruse and difficult, although not for the reasons assigned by Vitruvius, who seems to think a knowledge of the Greek language necessary to an understanding of the doctrine, even when communicated through the medium of another language. Here again we have some speculations on subjects connected with medicine, music, and physics. We have already observed, that a strong inclination to reduce every thing to mathematical principle has frequently led him astray; in the present book it has suggested a proposition for the introduction of brazen vessels below the seats of the audience, for the purpose of assisting the dilation of sound. This idea, which he would lead us to believe was borrowed from the Greeks, seems to have originated with himself; at least we may safely say, that in no one of the many theatres of Greece and Asia Minor, which the travellers of modern times have described, is there any indication of the receptacles which he says were constructed for them. This subject has been treated at some length by the translator, who had opportunities of examining several, and is held by him to be, like many of the propositions of the author, a refinement suggested by the speculative imagination of the Roman architect.
The sixth book of Vitruvius treats of the dwellings of the Greeks and Romans; and, as a prelude, we have, in the first chapter, some observations on the propriety of adapting dwellings to the nature of the climate, which are sufficiently trite and puerile. These are followed by a dissertation on the influence of climate upon the intellectual and physical powers of the different races on the surface of the globe, which, although hors de propos, we shall extract as a specimen of the style of the writer, and of his mode of adapting the writings of the Greek philosophers to his own notions:—
'Item propter tenuitatem coeli, meridians; nationes ex acuto fervore roente expeditiuscelerinsque moventurad concilium cogitationes. Septentrionales autem gentes int'usie crassitudine coeli propter obstantiam
aeris humore refrigeratae, stupentes habent mentes Cum sinl autem
meridianae nationes animis acutissimis infinitaque solertia consiliorum, simulac ad forlitudinem ingrediuntur, ibi succumbunt, quod habent exustas ab sole animorum virtutes. Qui vero refrigeratis nascuntur regionibus, ad armorum vehementiam paratiores sunt, magnisque viribus ruunt sine timore, sed tarditate animi sine considerantia irruentes, sine solertia, suis consiliis refragantur. Cum ergo ab natura rerum ha?c ita sint in mundo collocata, ut omnes nationes immoderatis mixtionibus sint disparate, placuit ut inter spatia totius orbis terrarum regionumque medio raundi Populus Romanvs possideret fines. Namque temperatissima? ad utramque partem, et corporum membris animorumque vigoribus, pro fortitudine supt in Italia gentes .... ltaque refringit barbarorum virtutes forti manu, consiliis meridianorurn cogitationes.'*
Ill the illustration of this book the translator has compared the construction of the houses of the early Greeks, collected from the scattered passages of the Odyssey, with the description given by Vitruvius, in which great ingenuity is shown. The notion that Homer formed his ideas of the arrangement of the palace of Ulysses from the actual abode of that prince in Ithaca, first entertained by Sir William Gell, is combated by the translator, and with every appearance of reason; for whatever accidental coinci-i dence may be traced in the ruins of Mount Aito with the locals ties afforded by the poem, we cannot think that the writer would adapt his action to a germs and not to a species. We have already alluded to a description of building called tholus; this title was applied to the shape of the edifice rather than to the purpose for which it was designed. The tholus therefore of the Odyssey may perhaps have been, what the translator conjectures, the threshing
• ra (aei yap Ev Toj; Tov&ic iQvri, xai To. iripi Tjiv 'Eupxmv, Qvfj.nu f*tv ten wXupSf,
Jlavojaf Je Ef&EEff-TEpa xai frlWfip EXEy&pa fAlv o^laTsXEi fxaXKov, airfatTluTa. 5e, xai
vtae-uy apjjsiv h/ia/xiva. T4 Js irtpi TM Ae-iav, tuatmnran /nEv, xa! rijffbut, rm Ilbv/x* it. JloWEp ipyjifxiia. xai SouXEtiSvTa aTEXEi. To Si T»v 'EAAHNJ2N yito; ioTTEp Jue7e?ei xa.ra Tou; Twsuj, Ojt»? £(t1f 0"l pirixti, xai yap Mvper, xa! JiavosTixov Ejtti.— Ariit. Pol. vii. 7.
c 4 floor.
floor. The exterior of the palace certainly resembled a farm-yard, the resort of cattle and incumbered with dunghills; and we know that within its precincts all the operations connected with the pre~ paration of food were carried on. The supposition that circular temples were improvements, of the tholus, is supported by several passages of ancient authors. Varro says, 'Accessus in tholum, qui est ultra rotundus, columnatus ut est in aade Catuli, si pro parietibus feceris colunmas.' (R. R. 3. 5.12.) 'Alii tholum aedium sacrarum dicunt genus fabricae (quale est aedes) Vestae et Pantheon,* (Serv. ad JEneid. ix. 408.)
We have already alluded to some restorations of the original text, which have placed the principles of the science in a new light: the most important occur in the second and third chapters of the first section—and in the third, sixth, and seventh of the second. Others are dispersed throughout the work, which, if they are not of equal importance, tend to the conviction that the architecture of Vitruvius has been totally misrepresented; and that, instead of exhibiting a close affinity with the Greek, from which it is professedly borrowed, it has hitherto been rendered subservient to the introduction of a depraved style of building prevailing at Rome in the decline of the empire. In one or two passages the translator has mistaken the meaning of the author; but they are of trifling importance and need not be pointed out.
Amongst the corrections of corrupt passages are some displaying great ingenuity:—one' relating to hypaethral temples, which has hitherto set every explanation at defiance, is particularly happy. Another, relating to the temple of Minerva Polias upon the acropolis of Athens, is not less successful in giving sense and consistency to the original. We are not quite satisfied with the word caelostrata, as applied to the jambs of a door-way, when contrasted with the words bifera and valvata, although we have nothing to offer as a substitute for it.
The engravings, forty in number, are executed by Loury, and shew the perfection which line engraving has reached in this country: many of them are vastly superior to any of the kind hitherto produced. The work, indeed, in point of engraving, typography, and paper, is as splendid as a book can be made. We regret that it has not been also offered to the public in a less costly shape, in order to bring it more within the reach of artists, and thus ensure it a wider circulation.