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How Did Rome’s Vitruvius, Become The World’s First Subject Matter Expert (SME) on Architecture?

2 Aug
An example of a variety of architectural styles influenced by Vitruvius. Florence, Tuscany Region, Italy. Photo by: David A. Johanson ©

An example of a variety of architectural styles influenced by Vitruvius. Florence, Tuscany Region, Italy. Photo by: David A. Johanson © All Rights Reserved

Multimedia eLearning essay by: David Anthony Johanson © All Rights

To see an alternative graphic view of this essay please visit: www.BigPictureOne.wordpress.com  

If you would like to experience some ancient Roman music while viewing this essay, open one more browser and click on the  Roman music link provided below (Synaulia III, has Latin signing and soothing melodies)

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 4All 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.

Rome_Soldier_BPP_eg100_0129

Vitruvius’ date of birth is recorded around 90 B.C. and apparently the recipient of a broad-minded education —

The floor plans from a Greek House - Vitruvius. Peterlewis - wikipedia project - image free to use with no copyright restriction

The floor plans from a Greek House – Vitruvius. Peterlewiswikipedia project – image free to use with no copyright restriction

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.

Vitruvian Man by Leonardo de Vinci was named after & inspired by Vitruvius.   —This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.

Vitruvian Man by Leonardo de Vinci was named after & inspired by Vitruvius. —This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.

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.

Contrary to popular belief, the Romans liberally used color & brick instead of marble.  -Herculaneum, Campania Region, Italy.

Contrary to popular belief, the Romans liberally used color & brick instead of marble. -Herculaneum, Campania Region, Italy.

Hercu_laneum_BPP_g140

         

Julius Caesar's father-in-law residence - Villa of Papyri is located at Herculanieum, which was buried along with the city of Pompei, by the volcano Vesuvius, seen in the upper top frame.

Julius Caesar’s father-in-law residence – Villa of Papyri is located at Herculanieum, which was buried along with the neighboring city of Pompeii in 79 A.D., by the volcano Vesuvius, seen in the upper top frame.

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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.”)                                 Rome_Archt_BPP_et1113       

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.’

An example of Roman ingenuity is in using brick for most of a building's construction, then a facade of marble or limestone is applied and finally followed by vibrant color applications.

An example of Roman ingenuity is in using brick for most of a building’s construction, then a facade of marble or limestone is applied and finally followed by vibrant color applications.

 

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.

The white outline of the architectural structure show where the colors were applied — from inside a residence at Herulaneum site, Italy.

The white outline of the architectural structure show where the colors were applied — from inside a residence at Herulaneum site, Italy.

Interior of residence in Herculaneum. Mosaics were used to bring the outside world indoors.

Interior of residence in Herculaneum. Mosaics were used to bring the outside world indoors.

Mosaic tile in the ancient port city of Ostia Antica, Lazio Region, Italy.

Mosaic tile in the ancient port city of Ostia Antica, Lazio Region, Italy.

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.  

Statue in the ancient port city of Ostia Antica, next to the Tevere River, Italy.

Statue in the ancient port city of Ostia Antica, next to the Tevere River, Italy.

Cross section of Rome's Coliseum - The World's first 'super dome.'

Cross section of Rome’s Coliseum – The World’s first ‘super dome.’ This two-thousand year old stadium remains in use with major music concert & various public events.

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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.

Ruins at Ostia Antica, near Rome, Italy.

Ruins at Ostia Antica, near Rome, Italy.

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.

Ionic style capital on top of column

Ionic style capital on top of column

Ancient Rome's Forum 3D, computer generated image  Image Created by: Lasha Tskhondia - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 - Some Rights Reserved.

Ancient Rome’s Forum
3D, computer generated image
Image Created by: Lasha Tskhondia – Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 – Some Rights Reserved.

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.  

Rome Forum

Rome Forum

Cross section of Forum

Cross section of Forum

Remains of Rome's Forum

Remains of Rome’s Forum

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

http://blogs.nd.edu/classicalarch/2012/09/28/many-canons-many-conversions/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitruvian_Man

http://www.bostonleadershipbuilders.com/vitruvius/

How about some ancient Roman music to enlighten your day? Click on the link below ↓

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X83IYWmcEFg&list=RD020MwBCorqBW0

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