Vitruvius Translator – and the missing source text

Sokratis Georgiadis

MA HCT & PhD Debates: History in Translation. Marina Lathouri and Guest Speakers

Thursday 12 March | 4:00pm | 32 Bedford Square (First Floor Back)

In portraying the architecture of the temples, which make up the contents of Books 3 and 4 of Vitruvius’ “Ten Books on Architecture” and can be considered the core of this work, its author makes no secret of his dependence on Greece. But which were his sources? In the preface to his 7th book, he himself gives the names of more than 20 Greek architects who have written about their art before him; these writings, the oldest of which date back to the 6th century BC, are all lost today. Which of them he knew and used and to what extent we do not know. Nor is it likely that the Roman theorist and author of the “Ten Books” knew first-hand the architecture of which he wrote, not even the Greek architecture of southern Italy and Sicily. The source text Vitruviusʼ, is therefore not secure and this is a problem for his theory, but above all for its reception, i.e. the more than two-thousand-year-old tradition of European Vitruvianism.

Image: Delphi ex-Cnidienne. Photography by Sokratis Georgiadis


Graf, Fritz, “Pompai in Greece – Some Considerations about Space and Ritual in the Greek Polis,” in: Robin Hägg (ed.). The Role of Religion in the Early Greek Polis, Stockholm 1996. 55-65.

Biography: Sokratis Georgiadis, born in 1949 in Thessaloniki (GR), studied architecture at the Technical University of Berlin and received his PhD from the University of Stuttgart. In the years 1987-1994 he held a research and teaching position at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), he also held temporary teaching posts at the Universities of Zurich and Bern. In 1994 he became Professor for Architectural Theory and Design at the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Berlin-Weissensee and, shortly after, Professor of Architecture and Design History at the State Academy of Art and Design Stuttgart where he taught until 2018. He lectured widely in Europe and North America, wrote articles for numerous architectural magazines and organized architectural exhibitions. His research interests include architectural history and theory in the 19th and 20th centuries and, more recently, Greek architecture of the archaic period. His studies on Sigfried Giedion include book publications (An Intellectual Biography 1989 [engl.1993], The Project of a New Tradition [co-editor of the exhibition catalogue, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, 1989 / German], Introduction to Giedions’s “Building in France, Building in Iron, Building in Ferroconcrete” in the Text & Documents Series of the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, Epilogue to the German reprint of the same book [2000]) and numerous articles. He is presently working on the edition of the papers of Giedion’s unfinished book-project “Die Entstehung des heutigen Menschen” (1929-1938, The Growth of Contemporary Man).