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According to Vitruvius, the architect should strive to fulfill each of these three attributes as well as possible. Leon Battista Alberti, who elaborates on the ideas of Vitruvius in his treatise, De Re Aedificatoria, saw beauty primarily as a matter of proportion, although ornament also played a part. For Alberti, the rules of proportion were those that governed the idealized human figure, the Golden mean.

The most important aspect of beauty was, therefore, an inherent part of an object, rather than something applied superficially, and was based on universal, recognizable truths. The notion of style in the arts was not developed until the 16th century, with the writing of Vasari by the 18th century, his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects had been translated into Italian, French, Spanish, and English.

"A cube is a body with sides all of equal breadth and their surfaces perfectly square."

an ancient breeze of Byzantine

Roman architects

Roman architects were skilled in engineering, art, and craftsmanship combined. Vitruvius was very much of this type, a fact reflected in De architectura. He covered a wide variety of subjects he saw as touching on architecture. This included many aspects that may seem irrelevant to modern eyes, ranging from mathematics to astronomy, meteorology, and medicine.

Vitruvius, thus, deals with many theoretical issues concerning architecture. For instance, in Book II of De architectura, he advises architects working with bricks to familiarise themselves with pre-Socratic theories of matter so as to understand how their materials will behave.

Vitruvius sought to address the ethos of architecture, declaring that quality depends on the social relevance of the artist's work, not on the form or workmanship of the work itself. Perhaps the most famous declaration from De architectura is one still quoted by architects.