Vitruvius (80BC – 15BC)

Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, is an engineer and architect, who was the first Ancient Roman to write records of his studies and works, which survived.

Bildnis des Marcus Vitruvius Roman: Pencil drawing portrait. He is placed in a circle and depicted with a beard and flowy hair.
Drawing of Vitriuvius

Image source: by ubleipzig

About His Life

All we know about Vitruvius’s life is from his autobiographical notes in his writings, which are mostly obscure. Of Roman origins, he had a prominent family and, as a military engineer, he served the Roman army in Gaul, Spain and North Africa. Also, he lived during the time of Julius Caesar and received a generous pension in his last year by Augustus. However, the date of his death is unknown.

Vitruvius, Loggia del Consiglio, Piazza dei Signori, Verona: Statue of Vitruvius
Vitruvius, Verona

Image source: by Dimitris Graffin

De Architecture book cover, simple and old.
Vitruvius(De Architectura )-1557

Image source: by Creator:Fra Giovanni Giocondo da VeronaCreator:Fra Giovanni Giocondo da VeronaCreator:Giovanni TaccuinoCreator:Marcus Pollio Vitruvius

What are his major works?

His Major Works

Vitruvius wrote De Architectura, around 15 BC and dedicated it to the emperor Augustus. The work, composed of 10 books, explains the concept of what ‘architecture’ is and describes topics such as mathematics, geometry, science, astrology, astronomy, medicine, meteorology and philosophy. The treatise combines the knowledge of Greek and Roman writers, but there are some shortcomings in regard to some great Roman buildings, which are discussed briefly.

A drawing of a roman-achitectural structure on the right of the page.
Recto- Temple Types- Amphiprostyle (Vitruvius, Book 3, Chapter 2)

Image source: by Creator:Sangallo familyCreator:Marcus Pollio

The only building that we know Vitruvius worked on is a basilica built in 19 BC in Fanum Fortune (Fano), which he talks about in his work. However, there is nothing left of the structure today.

Vitruvius 'De architectura...': perspective diagram: A drawing of a perspective diagram, which showcases the math present in his works.
‘De architectura…’ perspective diagram

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What was His Vision?

The Vitruvian picture of architecture is rooted in an empirical knowledge of creation, manufacture and craft. Vitruvius’ main concern was to write a useful manual. In his view of architecture, nature is an ideal model, and he makes it an object of philosophical research. Additionally, he wanted to present architecture as a worthy part of an encyclopedic program.

A drawing of Vitruvius which is a diagram for one of his works.
Roman house plan after Vitruvius

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Who did Vitruvius Influence?

From the Renaissance period onwards, the work of Vitruvius had an extraordinary impact on many creators, including Niccoli, Brunelleschi and Leon Battista Alberti. Leonardo da Vinci‘s most famous drawing, The Vitruvian Man, is based on the concept of proportions developed by Vitruvius. 16th century architect Palladio considered him to be his master and guide.

Vitruvius inspired drawing by Leonardo da Vinci
“Vitruvian Man”, illustration in the edition of De architectura (1521)

Image source: by Ralph Buckley

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