Multimedia eLearning essay by: David Anthony Johanson © All Rights
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Architecture is the art which so disposes and adorns the edifices raised by man for whatsoever uses, that the sight of them contributes to his mental health, power and pleasure. Aphorism 4. All architecture proposes an effect on the human mind, not merely a service to the human frame. — From John Ruskin’s – The Seven Lamps of Architecture ————————————————————————————————
The first historic footnote of Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, was not as an architect — but of his military engineering service for another overachiever, Julius Caesar.
Vitruvius first job description involved being in charge of a Roman legion’s heavy artillery —the terrifying Ballista or catapult. Ironically, this future architectural genius was responsible for destroying opposing structures that came before his weapons of mass destruction. You could say, Vitruvius, literally had a major impact on architecture throughout the arc of his careers.
Vitruvius’ date of birth is recorded around 90 B.C. and apparently the recipient of a broad-minded education —
science, mathematics, drawing, music, law, rhetoric and history. He is believed to have apprenticed with a Greek architect, which gave Vitruvius the basic foundation and qualifications for becoming a subject matter expert (SME) on architectural principles.
It’s speculated at the time Vitruvius began circulating his writing, wealthy Roman citizen’s private libraries were accessible to him for specialized study in architecture and engineering.
An upheaval caused by the Empire’s civil and foreign wars channeled Vitruvius’ professional direction towards engineering military machinery. It may have seemed like an irony to him that his skills were being used to destroy architecture, rather than create it.
OPPORTUNITY OPENS A DOOR FOR VITRUVIUS’ CAREER IN ARCHITECTURE
Following the assassination of Emperor Julius Caesar in 44 B.C., Vitruvius found employment with Caesar’s nephew and successor —Octavian. Another decade of Roman civil war and the eventual defeat of Marc Anthony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C., led to a Pax Romana (Latin for “Roman peace.”)
With Octavian as the undisputed ruler of the Empire, he was granted a new title — Augustus, the Emperor of Rome. Augustus channeled Rome’s wealth towards cultural, civic and public works development. This reinvestment for Rome’s glory, eventually gave Augustus bragging rights, as he is quoted, ‘I found Rome built of bricks; I leave her clothed in marble.’
Augustus’ civic benevolence finally created an opportunity for Vitruvius’ great engineering and architectural contributions to move forward.
As the saying goes — behind every great man there is a great woman. It’s Augustus’ sister, Octavia, who sponsors Vitruvius to write the architectural treatise. Officially, the Books of Architecture are dedicated to Augustus, who uses them wisely to help create a marvelous metropolis.
Vitruvius, throughout his career keeps a low profile, perhaps due to observing what envy and jealousy could inflict on the Romans who attempted to shine too brightly.
PAST NONCONFORMING STANDARDS IN ARCHITECTURE THREATENS ROME’S RENOVATIONS
In antiquity, Hellenistic Greek architecture sets the standards for beauty, quality and form. The Greeks, inspired by much older civilizations established around the Mediterranean, refined architecture to its classical ideal. However, precious little had been written down regarding the styles and standards of Greek architecture, until Vitruvius ambitious efforts were realized.
As an effect from lack of architectural standards, instructional integrity of buildings could result in disastrous consequences, as well as the aesthetic value of religious, civic and private buildings.
Vitruvius efforts of researching classic Greek architectural techniques and styles developed into a comprehensive series of books on the methods and theories of architecture. These guiding books on style, function and practice, served as a foundation for architects and engineers for over two thousand years and are still observed today.
How Did Rome’s Vitruvius, Become The World’s First Subject Matter Expert (SME) on Architecture? —More to be uploaded on Vitruvius in the coming days.
Links to learning more on Vitruvius
How about some ancient Roman music to enlighten your day? Click on the link below ↓
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