Classics Notes – Mar. 8/12
- Vitruvius is an architect. Architects must know about medicine for the layout of buildings and cities.
They must avoid directions that are unhealthy. He uses an Etruscan method - they would sacrifice an
animal and look at the liver. Vitruvius used this idea for medicine and architecture. If the liver is
sound, then the site is healthy – food and grass that is grown there is safe and healthy. If the liver is
not right, then he would conclude that this site is not healthy or safe and so should not build here.
- Direction of buildings/cities were important. Eastern exposure was better, because in the summer
the sun would shine over the roof and in the winter the sun would shine in the windows and would
heat the building. Also, buildings should not be built near stagnant water.
- Fig 33 – little squares are cities blocks and are called insula. Streets are at an angle to the winds – this
is so the wind would be blocked out. Agitated air can take out the strength of the body and cause
disease. Mild air can restore health and strengthen and cure.
- This passage is written by Vitruvius (1 c. BC) who is an architect. This passage is a description of a
theatre. It was enclosed on all sides but open at the top. Everybody went to the theatre, not just men.
It talks about pores or passages that are open – this reminds us of Methodists and their idea of
corpuscles and passages that can be open or closed. When the body is motionless or at rest, the pores
are open, and if the pores are open, outside things can enter the body and cause disease. There is the
idea that winds are potentially dangerous. From marshes and stagnant water, there are certain
exhalations that are dangerous and can enter the body. A southern exposure is bad because the area
is heated up from earlier in the morning. Air sits in the enclosed area in theatre (no ventilation) and it
heats up. Heat attracts and takes out moisture, it dries up the body. The sun impairs the natural
balance of the fluids in the body. Methodists didn’t believe in fluids, so this is more a dogmatic idea.
Vitruvius takes ideas from different sources – he is an eclectic. Vitruvius was very knowledgeable in
how to position buildings with regard to sun and wind.
- He also says that air can purify the body – this is air that has been rarified. The air can have different
properties – can be harmful when windy, and when hot, but can be helpful if rarified. Vitruvius
recommends that a city should have many parks and green spaces, which help with the rarification
- Fig. 32 – A Roman bath would take the space of one city block or insula. It was surrounded by shops
and had many entrances. Had a swimming pool. Had toilet. These were public toilets, underneath
them were sewers. There were change rooms. Person would then enter the cold room (frigidarium),
then enter the warm room (tepidarium), then enter the hot room (caldarium). The hot room’s floor
was heated with furnaces. The floor was suspended over columns of stone, and the heat would
circulate through the room. The person might then enter a sweat room (laconcium). Then they would
go back. The idea here is that the body would gradually be adjusted to the heat and corpuscles would
be removed through sweating. The cold would narrow the passages and keep the heat inside the
body, which would help when the person goes outside if it’s cold. This idea is from Methodists. This is
described in 225. The size of the bath should be adjusted to the size of the population