Vitruvius: Writing the Body of Architecture

Review of Metaphysics 58 (2):458-460 (2004)


This extended, provocative, and extensively documented meditation addresses Vitruvius’ intention in producing the first treatise on architecture, the only one surviving from antiquity, which was dedicated to Caesar Augustus. McEwen argues that in assembling various preexisting fragments into a coherent whole and putting that whole into words to produce “the whole body of architecture,” Vitruvius is producing the counterpart to Augustus’ program, that of making a coherent unity from the spatial fragments of the world under Roman rule and from their scattered peoples. Vitruvius explains how this architecture would serve, embody, and make visible the imperial program in the new and renewed cities and the fora, temples, and theaters prominent in them.

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