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Vitruvius and Attic Monuments

  • Antonio Corso (a1)


The aims of this article are to establish the extent of Vitruvius's knowledge of Athens, the other sources of his information on the city, and his preference for Hellenistic rather than Classical monuments. The following passages are analyzed: i, 6, 4, on the Tower of the Winds; ii, 1, 5, on a hut on the Areopagus; ii, 8, 9, on a wall at Athens which looks to Mt. Hymettus and Pentelicus, to be identified perhaps with the Long Walls between Athens and the Piraeus; iii, 2, 8, on the Olympieion; iv, 8, 4, on the Erechtheion and the temple of Athena Sounias; v, 9, 1, on the Colonnades of Eumenes II, on the shrine of Dionysos Eleuthereus, and on the Odeion of Perikles; vii, praef., 12, on the Parthenon and on the harbour of the Piraeus; vii, praef., 15, on the architects of the Olympieion; vii, praef., 16–17, on the telesterion of Eleusis and on the Olympieion. The conclusions are that, after having followed Caesar through Asia Minor in 47 BC, Vitruvius came back to Italy via the coast of Attica and probably stayed at Athens, and that his preference for Hellenistic monuments must be explained in terms of his education in the Hellenistic taste of Asia, and in particular of Hermogenes.



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1 Previous versions of this article were given as lectures at Aix-en-Provence on 17 Nov. 1995, and at Athens, in the British School at Athens, in the series of Upper House seminars, on 11 Mar. 1996. I thank Professors Pierre Gros and Claude Vatin and Dr Marcus Kohl for their suggestions in Aix-en-Provence, Professors Richard Tomlinson, Judith Binder, Konstantina Peppas-Delmouzou, and David Jordan, Dr Pavlos Lephas, and Dr Hara Thliveri for their advice in Athens, Professor Geoffrey Waywell and Karim Arafat for suggestions made in London.

The passages of Vitruvius are taken from the Loeb edition of Granger (London and Cambridge, Mass., 1931–4), but I have kept the readings exisona, of the best manuscript tradition, in iv. 8. 4, interpreting it as an adaptation of the Greek expression ἐξ ἴσων into Latin, and Eumenicae in v. 9. 1, and I have accepted the correction of quadrigentis in vii. praef. 15. The translations into English presented here are Granger's as well, but I have changed them in a few cases, when they were too vague from an architectural point of view. The quoted passage of Varro is taken from the Loeb edition of Hooper (London and Cambridge, Mass., 1934), as well as its translation into English.

2 Tower of the Winds: Freeden, J. von, Οἰϰία Κυρρήστου (Rome, 1983), with all previous fundamental bibliography. On the related passage of Varro, see also Corso, A., ‘I cenacula della villa urbana nel de re rustica di Vairone’, Atti Venezia, 139 (19801981), 301–24.

3 Areopagus: Wallace, R.W., The Areopagus Council (Baltimore, 1989), 215–19, with all previous important bibliography.

4 The related testimonia have been collected by Romano, E., Dalla capanna al tempio (Palermo, 1987), 108–22.

5 Long Walls: see Conwell, D. H., The Athenian Long Walls (Ann Arbor, 1994), with previous bibliography. However, the testimonies of Vitruvius and Pliny are ignored in this book.

6 Olympieion: Wycherley, R. E., The Stones of Athens (Princeton, 1978), 155–74; Tosi, G., ‘Architettura e astronomia nel “de architectura” di Vitruvio’, RdA, Suppl. 9 (1991), 7482; Tölle-Kastenbein, R., Das Olympieion in Athen (Cologne, 1994), with previous bibliography. The idea that Vitruvius wrongly considered as hypaethral a temple which was simply unfinished and in part destroyed has been suggested especially by Gros, P., Vitruve, de l'architecture, livre III (Paris, 1990), 96–8 and by Knell, H., Vitruvs Architekturtheorie (Darmstadt, 1991), 2, 17, and 70–4.

7 On the temples of Rome and Latium mentioned: Gros, P., Vitruve, de l'architecture, livre IV (Paris, 1992), lii–lx and 205–10, with detailed bibliography. Temple of Castor in circo Flaminio: see de' Spagnolis, M. Conticello, Il tempio dei Dioscuri nel circo Flaminio (Rome, 1984). Temple of Veiovis: see Colini, A. M., ‘Aedes Veiovis inter arcem et Capitolium’, Bull Comm, 70 (1942), 556. Shrine of Diana Nemorensis: see Coarelli, F., Dintorni di Roma (Bari, 1981), 98103. On Philon of Eleusis, see Guerrini, L., ‘Philon 2’, EAA 6 (1965), 125–6. On the Peripatetic world of Demetrius Phalereus, see Chiron, P., Dámétrios, du style (Paris, 1993), pp. xiii–cvii. Late Republican aemulatio of classic Greek examples: see Rocca, E. La, L'auriga dell'Esquilino (Rome, 1987), 3753. ‘Erechtheion’: the cella of Athena has been located in the western part of this building by Travlos, J., Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Athens (London, 1971), 213–27, and by Wycherley (n. 5), 142–54. Contra, the cella has been identified with the east cella of the building by Paton, J. M., The Erechtheum (Cambridge Mass., 1927), 423–92.

8 Temple of Athena Sounias: Travlos, J., Bildlexikon zur Topographie des antiken Attika (Tübingen, 1988), 404 29.

9 Porticus Pompeianae: Nünnerich-Asmus, A., Basilika und Portikus (Cologne, 1994), 99106; Stoa of Eumenes II: Schaaf, H., Untersuchungen zu Gebäudestiftungen in hellenistischer Zeit (Cologne, 1992), 8493.

10 Odeion: Izenour, G. C., Roofed Theatres of Classical Antiquity (New Haven, 1992), 30–5, with previous bibliography.

11 Stoai of the area of Pergamon: Seddon, L. R., The Agora Stoas of Assos, Aigai and Termessos (Ann Arbor, 1988).

12 On this treatise on the Parthenon, see Corso, A., Monumenti periclei (Venice, 1986), 3150.

13 On the arsenal of the Piraeus, see de Waele, J. A. K. E., ‘Das Schiffsarsenal des Philon im Piräus (IG, II (2), 1668)’, BaBesch, 68 (1993), 107–20.

14 Telesterion of Eleusis: see Corso, A., ‘Gli architetti del telesterion di Eleusi nell'età di Pericle’, Atti Venezia, 140 (19811982), 199215.

15 On this probability, see Jeppesen, C., ‘Did Vitruvius ever visit Halikarnassos?’, Anatolia, 22 (1981–3), 85–98; ‘Vitruvius in Africa’, Munus non ingratum (Leiden, 1989), 31–3.

Vitruvius and Attic Monuments

  • Antonio Corso (a1)


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