The enigma of Vitruvian resonating vases and the relevance of the concept for today

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The clarity of sound within Greek or Roman theatres (without any form of enhancement) will be impressive to any visitor. The seats arranged in curved rows around the circular orchestra form large horizontal reflecting surfaces. The paths of sound waves travel from the source (the actor or singer) to each of the listeners in a direct path (i.e. without obstruction or reflection). Vitruvius, however, claimed further enhancements could be made. In theatres, also, are copper vases and these are placed in chambers under the rows of seats in accordance with mathematical reckoning. The Greeks call them Echeia. The differences of the sounds which arise are combined into musical symphonies... … it becomes fuller, and reaches the audience with a richer and sweeter note. Vitruvius, on Architecture, Book I, – on training of architects, Loeb This paper explores the notion of intent and purpose behind the Vitruvian concept and also addresses an arguably more complex issue, that of a potential fusion between archaeology, science and art.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America (JASA)
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • Acoustics
  • Roman Theatres
  • Vases
  • Impulse responses


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