CHAPTER II: THE ORNAMENTS OF THE ORDERS
1. SINCE the origin and invention of the orders of columns have been described above, I think it not out of place to speak in the same way about their ornaments, showing how these arose and from what original elements they were devised. The upper parts of all buildings contain timber work to which various terms are applied. And not only in its terminology but actually in its uses it exhibits variety. The main beams are those which are laid upon columns, pilasters, and antae; tie-beams and rafters are found in the framing. Under the roof, if the span is pretty large, are the crossbeams and struts; if it is of moderate extent, only the ridgepole, with the principal rafters extending to the outer edge of the eaves. Over the principal rafters are the purlines, and then above these and under the roof-tiles come the common rafters, extending so far that the walls are covered by their projection.
2. Thus each and every detail has a place, origin, and order of its own. In accordance with these details, and starting from carpenter's work, artists in building temples of stone and marble imitated those arrangements in their sculptures, believing that they must follow those inventions. So it was that some ancient carpenters, engaged in building somewhere or other, after laying the tie-beams so that they projected from the inside to the outside of the walls, closed up the space between the beams, and above them ornamented the coronae and gables with carpentry work of beauty greater than usual; then they cut off the projecting ends of the beams, bringing them into line and flush with the face of the walls; next, as this had an ugly look to them, they fastened boards, shaped as triglyphs are now made, on the ends of the beams, where they had been cut off in front, and painted them with blue wax so that the cutting off of the ends of the beams, being concealed, would not offend the eye. Hence it was in imitation of the arrangement of the tie-beams that men began to employ, in Doric buildings, the device of triglyphs and the metopes between the beams.
3. Later, others in other buildings allowed the projecting principal rafters to run out till they were flush with the triglyphs, and then formed their projections into simae. From that practice, like the triglyphs from the arrangement of the tie-beams, the system of mutules under the coronae was devised from the projections of the principal rafters. Hence generally, in buildings of stone and marble, the mutules are carved with a downward slant, in imitation of the principal rafters. For these necessarily have a slanting and projecting position to let the water drip down. The scheme of triglyphs and mutules in Doric buildings was, therefore, the imitative device that I have described.
4. It cannot be that the triglyphs represent windows, as some have erroneously said, since the triglyphs are placed at the corners and over the middle of columns—places where, from the nature of the case, there can be no windows at all. For buildings are wholly disconnected at the corners if openings for windows are left at those points. Again, if we are to suppose that there were open windows where the triglyphs now stand, it will follow, on the same principle, that the dentils of the Ionic order have likewise taken the places of windows. For the term “metope” is used of the intervals between dentils as well as of those between triglyphs. The Greeks call the seats of tie-beams and rafters ὀπαί, while our people call these cavities columbaria (dovecotes). Hence, the space between the tie-beams, being the space between two “opae,” was named by them μετόπη.
5. The system of triglyphs and mutules was invented for the Doric order, and similarly the scheme of dentils belongs to the Ionic, in which there are proper grounds for its use in buildings. Just as mutules represent the projection of the principal rafters, so dentils in the Ionic are an imitation of the projections of the common rafters. And so in Greek works nobody ever put dentils under mutules, as it is impossible that common rafters should be underneath principal rafters. Therefore, if that which in the original must be placed above the principal rafters, is put in the copy below them, the result will be a work constructed on false principles. Neither did the ancients approve of or employ mutules or dentils in pediments, but only plain coronae, for the reason that neither principal nor common rafters tail into the fronts of pediments, nor can they overhang them, but they are laid with a slope towards the eaves. Hence the ancients held that what could not happen in the original would have no valid reason for existence in the copy.
6. For in all their works they proceeded on definite principles of fitness and in ways derived from the truth of Nature. Thus they reached perfection, approving only those things which, if challenged, can be explained on grounds of the truth. Hence, from the sources which have been described they established and left us the rules of symmetry and proportion for each order. Following in their steps, I have spoken above on the Ionic and Corinthian styles, and I shall now briefly explain the theory of the Doric and its general appearance.