Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/206

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THE natural conditions that are essential for successful building have never been better set forth than in a letter written by the consul Pliny to his friend Gallus in the early part of the first century of our era, in which he describes his newly-finished villa of Laurentinum.

"You are surprised" he writes, "that I am so fond of my Laurentinum, or (if you like the appellation better) my Laurens; but you will cease to wonder when I acquaint you with the beauty of the villa, the advantages of its situation, and the extensive prospect of the sea-coast. It is but seventeen miles from Rome; so that, having finished my affairs in town, I can pass my evenings here, without breaking in upon the business of the day. There are two different roads to it: if you go by that of Laurentum, you must turn off at the fourteenth mile-stone; if by Ostia, at the eleventh. Both of them are, in some parts, sandy, which makes it somewhat heavy and tedious, if you travel in a carriage, but easy and pleasant to those who ride on horseback.

"The landscape on all sides is extremely diversified; the prospect in some places being confined by woods, in others extending over large and beautiful meadows, where numberless flocks of sheep and herds of cattle, which the severity of the winter has driven from the mountains, fatten in the vernal warmth of this rich pasturage. My villa is large enough to afford all desirable accommodations, without being extensive. The porch before it is plain, but not mean, through which you enter into a portico in the form of the letter D, which includes a small but agreeable area.

"This affords a very commodious retreat in bad weather, not only as it is inclosed with windows, but particularly as it is sheltered by an extraordinary projection of the roof. From the middle of this portico you pass into an inward court, extremely pleasant, and thence into a handsome hall, which runs out toward the sea; so that, when there is a southwest wind, it is gently washed with the waves which spend themselves at the foot of it.

"On every side of this hall there are either folding-doors or windows equally large, by which means you have a view from the front and the two sides, as it were, of three different seas; from the back part you see the middle court, the portico, and the area; and by another view, you look through the portico into the porch, whence the prospect is terminated by the woods and mountains which are seen at a distance. On the left hand of this hall, somewhat farther from the sea, lies a large draw-