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On the Tuscan style,|
Vitruvius, Book IV, chapter VII
1. Locus, in quo aedis constituetur, cum habuerit in longitudine sex partes, una adempta reliquum quod erit, latitudini detur. Longitudo autem dividatur bipertito, et quae pars erit interior, cellarum spatiis designetur, quae erit in proxima fronti, columnarum dispositione relinquatur.
2. Item latitudo dividatur in partes X. Ex his ternae partes dextra ac sinistra cellis minoribus, sive ibi alae futurae sunt, dentur; reliquae quattuor mediae aedi attribuantur. Spatium, quod erit ante cellas in pronao, ita columnis designetur, ut angulares contra antas, parietum extremorum regione, conlocentur; duae mediae e regione parietum, qui inter antas et mediam aedem fuerint, ita distribuantur; et inter antas et columnas priores per medium isdem regionibus alterae disponantur. Eaeque sint ima crassitudine altitudinis parte VII; altitudo tertia parte latitudinis templi; summaque columna quarta parte crassitudinis imae contrahatur.
2. Further let the width be divided into 10 parts. Of these let three parts each on the right and left be given to the lesser sanctuaries, or alternately to the wings; the remaining four parts are to be given to the central shrine. Let the space which is before the sanctuaries in the forecourt be planned for the columns, in such a way that the corner columns are put opposite the pilasters, in line with the ends of the walls. The two middle columns are to be in line with the walls which are between the wings and the middle shrine. Between the pilasters and the columns in front, additional columns are to be put half way in line with them. At the bottom these are to have a diameter of 1/7 of the height. The height is to be one third of the width of the temple. The top of the column is to be diminished ¼ of the diameter at the bottom.
3. The bases are to be made half the diameter high. Let the bases have their plinths circular and half the height of the base, with a torus and apophysis as deep as the plinth. The height of the capital is to be half a diameter. The width of the abacus is as great as the diameter of the columns at the base. The height of the capital is to be divided into three parts, of which one is to be given to the plinth or abacus, one to the echinus or ovolo, the third to the hypotrachelium with the apophysis.
4. Above the columns, beams are to be placed bolted together, of such proportionate depth as shall be demanded by the magnitude of the work. And these coupled beams are to have a thickness equal to the hypotrachelium at the top of the column, and they are to be so coupled with dowels and mortices that the coupling allows an interval of two inches between the joists. For when they touch one another and do not admit a breathing space and passage of air, they are heated and quickly decay.
5. Supra trabes et supra parietes traiecturae mutulorum parte IIII altitudinis columnae proiciantur; item in eorum frontibus antepagmenta figantur. Supraque id tympanum fastigii structura seu de materia conlocetur. Supraque eum fastigium, columen, cantherii, templa ita sunt conlocanda, ut stilicidium tecti absoluti tertiario respondeat.
5. Above the beams and walls the mutules are to project ¼ of the height of the column. On the front of these, casings are to be fixed and above them the tympanum of the gable either of stone or wood. Above this the ridge-piece, rafters, and purlins, are to be so placed that the pitch of the roof is one in three.
The figures in the text are borrowed from the edition by Barbaro (1567)
In this chapter Vitruvius describes the Etruscan temple architecture as
it was applied in his days. First of all it is remarkable that he gives
this order as the last order in this treatise, and only with a short
notice. First he described the ‘Greek’ orders: Doric (IV,3), Ionic
(III,5), and Corinthian (IV,1). Only when this is done he comes back to
traditional Italic architecture. Why did he do so, while in his preface of
the first book he pretends to give the rules of architecture seen from an
Augustean point of view “Back to the roots and glory to the greatness of
Rome, its arts and culture”? Nevertheless Roman culture was overwhelmed by
Hellenistic influences, in literature, sculpture and – of course – also in
architecture. Maybe this is the reason why Vitruvius described first the
Hellenistic tendencies – greatly influenced by Hermogenes – and that he,
only after this, comes back to the original Italic traditions.
His description is not the description of ‘THE’ Etruscan temple. There are several variations of this highly characteristic type. Vitruvius describes two of them but does not claim that they were archetypes: he just wished to re-establish an ideal arrangement and proportion, and therefore choses two types which were most in vogue in his day, because they were used for Roman Capitolia. He omits variations, though they may have been as old and typical as the two kinds which he has chosen: great temples with large open pronai, on a quadrangular plan, with either three cellas against the closed rear wall or open wings (alae).
With this short enumeration the principal characteristics of Etruscan temple architecture are given.
Typical of all Etruscan temples is the division of the length in two parts: one part is given to the cellae while the other is given to the pronaos.
This division in two is indicated by the word ‘bipertito. There has been a lot of discussion among scholars about the exact meaning of this word. Some have argued that it means ‘divided in two equal parts’ while others think that it means ‘divided in two parts (which are not necesseraly equal)’. If we compare the most important Tuscan temples we find mostly a division of the length in two (nearly) equal parts. Moreover I tend to a translation as ‘two equal parts’ since Vitruvius gives exact rules for the planning of the Tuscan temple: six parts for the length, five parts for the breadth, division of the cellae in three, four and three parts. Why, among these exact proportions, should he give suddenly a vague indication of a division of the length in two (not further defined) unequal parts?
The front of the temple is formed by a roomy colonnaded pronaos in front of the cellae with the entrance only on the front. The temple thus had an innate axial tendency, which was also visible in the early temple areas at Bolsena and Orvieto. In Roman times this was emphasized by altars placed in front of the centre of the entrance. This practice is described by Vitruvius in IV,5 where he says that temples must ‘look towards the western quarter of the sky, so that those who come to the altar to sacrifice may look towards the eastern Heaven and the image in the temple’ and in IV,9 ‘Let the altars look to the east and be always placed lower than the images which shall be in the temple’. These two statements refer to the axiality of the whole temple precinct.
Common to all the various temples with this general arrangement are wide spaces between the columns. The reason for this is simple: according to sentence 2 of this chapter there are only four columns in front and an additional row of four columns is put between the front row and the tripartite cella, or the cella and alae. On the front this gives very wide intercolumniations since the columns are placed in the axes of the walls of the cellae, wich gives a division of 3-4-3 parts; further the length of the temple is divided in two, and one part is given to the pronaos, this can only result in a very wide intercolumniation at the sides.
For these wide intercolumniations only a wooden entablature is possible. Over such a distance every stone architrave would break under its own weight, and under the pressure of the higher parts of the roof. This is the reason why in the Tempio della Pace at Paestum the columns were placed close to each other: this temple had a stone entablature in the Greek manner. Vitruvius points clearly to the use of wood in sentence 4: ‘… And they are to be so coupled with dowels and mortices that the coupling allows an interval of two inches between the joists.’. When stone had been used this notice would have been completely superfluous.
Other features are the use of podia and the presence of flights of stairs or ramps on the front.
Another characteristic is the presence of a back wall whis is always closed, but sometimes with extensions right and left of the cella(s) if the temples had side rooms or alae, with columns outside the walls of the central cella(s).
For the other temple types Vitruvius starts from a ‘modulus’. In
the Tuscan order he gives only a general lay-out of the plan, with an
enumeration of the different ratios. If we read this chapter without any
kwowledge of the metric rules which laid at the base of his architectural
concept it should be impossible to build this temple. When we go back to
book III, 1, 2 it is clear that the foot and its subdivisions is the base
of the metric system used by Vitruvius. Therefore it must be possible to
relate this foot (29,5 cm) to the metrically undefined modulus.
The oldest examples of Etruscan temples have a very simple ground plan.
A quadrangular cella is preceeded by a pronaos only formed by two columns
placed in the axis of the side walls of the cella. We find this type of
temple in many terracotta models from 500 B.C. onwards.
An interesting group of this type are the so called Capitolia.
The oldest example, of course, is the temple of Iupiter Optimus
Capitolinus at Rome, dedicated in 509 B.C. We find the typical Tuscan
features: nearly square ground plan with a ratio of 7:6 (Vitruvius
prescribes 6:5), closed rear wall, columns placed in the axis of the
walls. In addition alae were added, which resulted in a hexastyle front.
The tripartite cella was necessitated by the worship of the capitoline
triad: Jupiter, Juno, Minerva.
This is the second type described by Vitruvius. A single cella is
placed against the rear wall. The rear wall has extensions to the right
and to the left. From this extensions start the alae formed by a
A good example of this kind of temple in Roman context can be seen in
temple C of the Largo Argentina at Rome. This temple was dedicated to the
goddess Feronia and build around the beginning of the third century
This type is not mentioned by Vitruvius. Here the alae are changed to
lateral corridors with closed side walls along the entire length of the
temple. Columns are placed on the front between the ends of these side
walls, which formed elongated antae.
S.P.Platner-T.Ashby, A topographical dictionary of ancient Rome,