Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, also known simply as Vitruvius, is an ancient roman engineer and architect. He was the first Roman architect to write surviving records of his studies and works.

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About His Life.

All that we know about Vitruvius’ life is gathered from some autobiographical notes in his writings, which are obscure on the subject. Of Roman origins Vitruvius was born in a prominent family and, as a military engineer, he served the Roman army in Gaul, Spain and North Africa. He was also active during the time of Julius Caesar and received a generous pension in his last year by Augustus. The date of his death is unknown.

A deciption of Vitruvius presenting De Architectura to Augustus. Sebastian Le Clerc, 1684.

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What are his major works?

Vitruvius wrote De Architectura, probably around 15 BC and dedicated it to the emperor Augustus. This treatise is structured in 10 books in which the concept of what exactly is ‘architecture’ is defined and it describes topics that include scientific disciplines as mathematics, geometry, science, astrology, astronomy, medicine, meteorology, philosophy, and how the aesthetic and practical effects of architecture affect the daily life of citizens. The treatise combines the knowledge of Greek and Roman writers, but there are some shortcomings about what are considered the greatest Roman buildings, which are treated briefly.

De Architectura (Daniele Barbaro edition). Vitruvius, 1557.

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The only building that we know Vitruvius worked on is the one he tells us about – a basilica built in 19 BC in Fanum Fortune (Fano). Today there is nothing left of it.

Greek house plan. Vitruvius.

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What is 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 Vitruvius’ view of architecture, nature is an ideal model, and he makes it an object of philosophical research. His goal was to present architecture as a worthy part of an encyclopedic program.

The ionic order compared with order of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. The Ten Books on Architecture, Vitruvius.

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Who was influenced by Vitruvius?

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 Vitruvius to be his master and guide.

Vitruvian Man, Vitruvius; illustrated edition by Cesare Cesariano, 1521

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