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AO Meters this book describes his views on many aspects of architecture, including theater design and acoustics. Some of his ideas were quite practical—such as his admonition to locate theaters on a "healthy" site with adequate ventilation (away from swamps and marshes). Seating should not face south, causing the audience to look into the sun. Unrestricted sightlines were considered particularly important, and he recommended that the edge of each row should fall on a straight line from the first to the last seat. His purpose was to assure good speech intelligibility as well as good sightlines.

Vitruvius also added one of the great historical mysteries to the acoustical literature. He wrote that theaters should have large overturned amphora or sounding vases placed at regular intervals around the space to improve the acoustics. These were to be centered in cavities on small, 150 mm (6") high wedges so that the open mouth of the vase was exposed to the stage, as shown in a conjectural restoration by Izenour in Fig. 1.4, based on an excavation of a Roman theater at Beth Shean in Israel. The purpose, and indeed the existence of these vases, remains unclear. Even Vitruvius could not cite an example of their use, though he assures us that they existed in the provinces.

Figure 1.4 Hypothetical Sounding Vases (Izenour, 1977)

A conjectural restoration in section of sounding vases in a cavity faund at a Raman theater at Beth Shean, Israel.

Figure 1.4 Hypothetical Sounding Vases (Izenour, 1977)

A conjectural restoration in section of sounding vases in a cavity faund at a Raman theater at Beth Shean, Israel.

1.2 EARLY CHRISTIAN PERIOD (AD 400-800) Rome and the West

The early Christian period is dated from the Roman emperor Constantine to the coronation of Charlemagne in 800. Following the official sanction of Christianity by Constantine in 326 and his relocation from Rome to Byzantium in 330, later renamed Constantinople, the age was increasingly dominated by the church, which provided the structural framework of everyday life as the Roman and then the Byzantine empires slowly decayed. Incursions by the Huns in 376 were followed by other serious invasions. On the last day of December in the winter of406, the Rhine river froze solid, forming a bridge between Roman-controlled Gaul and the land of the Germanic tribes to the east (Cahill, 1995). Across the ice came hundreds of thousands of hungry Germans, who poured out of the eastern forests onto the fertile plains of Gaul. Within a few years, after various barbarian armies had taken North Africa and large parts of Spain and Gaul, Rome itself was sacked by Alaric in 410.

In these difficult times, monasteries became places of refuge, which housed small self-sustaining communities—repositories of knowledge, where farming, husbandry, and scholarship were developed and preserved. These were generally left unmolested by their rough neighbors, who seemed to hold them in religious awe (Palmer, 1961). In time, the ablest inhabitants of the Empire became servants of the Church rather than the state and "gave their loyalty to their faith rather than their government" (Strayer, 1955). "Religious conviction did not reinforce patriotism and men who would have died rather than renounce Christianity accepted the rule of conquering barbarian kings without protest." Under the new rulers a Romano-Teutonic civilization arose in the west, which eventually led to a division of the land into the states and nationalities that exist today.

After the acceptance of Christianity, church construction began almost immediately in Rome, with the basilican church of St. Peter in 330 initiated by Constantine himself. The style, shown in Fig. 1.5, was an amalgam of the Roman basilica (hall of justice) and the Romanesque style that was to follow. The basic design became quite popular—there were 31 basilican churches in Rome alone. It consisted of a high central nave with two parallel aisles on either side separated by colonnades supporting the upper walls and low-pitched roof, culminating in an apse and preceded by an atrium or forecourt (Fletcher, 1963). The builders generally scavenged columns from older Roman buildings that they could not

Figure 1.5 Basilican Church of St. Peter, Rome, Italy (Fletcher, 1963)

Figure 1.5 Basilican Church of St. Peter, Rome, Italy (Fletcher, 1963)

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