Week 3: Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Vitruvius Comes to Florence

Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (80 BC to 15 BC) was a Roman architect, engineer and author. His greatest work was his book On Architecture. Below you see a 17th Century engraving of Vitruvius presenting his book on architecture to Emperor Augustus. De architectura is a treatise on architecture written by the Roman architect Vitruvius and dedicated to his patron, the emperor Caesar Augustus, as a guide for building projects. Vitruvius’ book is our only surviving work on Roman art. It includes not only architecture but comments on other visual arts as well. Probably written around 15 BC, it is the only contemporary source on classical architecture to have survived, except for the loss of all original illustrations. Divided into ten sections or “books”, it covers almost every aspect of Roman architecture. The books break down as:

De architectura – Ten Books on Architecture

  1. Town planning, architecture or civil engineering in general, and the qualifications required of an architect or more modernly the civil engineer
  2. Building materials
  3. Temples and the orders of architecture
  4. ‘continuation of book IV’
  5. Civil buildings
  6. Domestic buildings
  7. Pavements and decorative plasterwork
  8. Water supplies and aqueducts
  9. Sciences influencing architecture – geometry, measurement, astronomy, sundial
  10. Use and construction of machines – Roman siege engines, water mills, drainage machines, Roman technology, hoisting, pneumatics

Vitruvius’ book was rediscovered in a Swiss monastery of the Abbey of Saint Gallen by Florentine scholar Poggio Bracciolini, and a copy of the book was brought to Florence in 1414. Brunelleschi used Vitruvius to develop his new idea of linear perspective.


J. H. Plumb,

The Italian Renaissance,

Mariner Books; Revised edition (June 19, 2001),

ISBN 0618127380


John Hale,

The Civilization of Europe in the Renaissance,

Scribner, Reprint edition (June 1, 1995),

ISBN 0684803526

Ferdinand Schevill,

Medieval and Renaissance Florence,

Harper Torchbook paperback, 1963, 2 volumes,


Vtruvius presents his book to Augustus