Who Taught Sacred Geometry In Ancient Rome

Geometric Vitruvian Man

The Vitruvian Man, much renowned as Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous drawing, is an icon of geometric proportion. The sketch, based on a description given by the Roman architect Vitruvius in his treatise De Architectura, depicts a man “in a circle and a square,” with his arms and legs spread away from the center of the square and out towards the edges of the circle. While the Vitruvian Man is now closely associated with the artist, its roots are firmly embedded in the ancient Roman mathematic and architecture teachings of Vitruvius.

Vitruvius believed in a fundamental harmony of mathematics and nature, which he observed as the Golden Ratio and more commonly referred to as the Divine Proportion. The ratio, found in various biological systems, plants and in the positioning of many of the Greek and Roman orders of architecture, was believed to represent perfection. Through his architectural treatise, Vitruvius provided a visual representation of the invention of harmony and the principles which guided it.

Sacred Geometry

Sacred Geometry is the practice of interpreting divine geometry in architecture and designing based on fundamental geometric shapes and principles. In Ancient Rome, this involved the identification and application of certain mathematical proportions and placed an emphasis on the use of shapes in architecture and decoration. The belief was that the Divine Proportion was deeply intertwined with the symmetry and harmony of nature, and thus, more perfect and pleasing in design.

Sacred geometry was mostly used in one of two ways; either in the literal sense to adorn the floors and walls of religious establishments with visual messages, or in the symbolic sense for expressing a far greater religious meaning, such as “the harmony of mind and soul with the universe.”

The Banisteriopsis Effect

The Banisteriopsis effect, or mystical geometry, is one of the most important aspects of sacred geometry taught in Ancient Rome. This process involves applying the same mathematical principles used by Vitruvius to complex structures and buildings, such as the Palatine Hill in Rome, where several different geometric shapes and patterns are combined to form a whole. The aim was to create a balance of beauty, mathematically accuracy and religious symbolism in the finished product.

The Banisteriopsis effect was widely used in Ancient Rome for the construction of grand and monumental buildings, temples, tombs and other public spaces. It was believed that it held a greater spiritual meaning, and the incorporation of this kind of geometry was seen as a allegory for the harmony between man and nature, between individuals and the community, and between the physical and spiritual realms.

Sacred Geometry in Arts and Sciences

While Ancient Rome respected and taught the principles of sacred geometry, it is important to note that this kind of mathematical practice was not just confined to Roman architecture. Applied in arts and sciences, it was used to adorn the gardens of the wealthy, decorate homes and used as a teaching aid in ancient schools.

In literature, the mathematical proportions associated with geometry and Divine Proportions were varied and sometimes included elements of conversation, arithmetic and language. In medicine, the principles of sacred geometry were applied to create mathematically symmetrical instruments and tools for treating illnesses and diseases. The mathematics of the Pythagorean’s was also studied, so as to allow doctors to use their instruments with greater precision.


Sacred Geometry played an important role in Ancient Roman engineering and architecture. Vitruvius’ treatise De Architectura established the core geometric principles through which each structure was to be built, with the task of creating a harmonious union between man and nature. This practice was mainly applied to religious establishments and public constructions, but also seen in private architecture, arts and sciences.

Transference of Geometric Principles

Calculations of the geometric principles taught in Ancient Rome have been passed down through time. Although certain symbols and processes are interchangeable, their foundations remain largely unchanged. The most important symbol, the Divine Proportion, is a constant representation of harmony and beauty, and its presence can be seen in both the mathematical and artistic practices of today.

The teachings of Ancient Rome are often seen in modern day architecture, from the selection and positioning of columns to the use of intricate, geometric patterns. Through the mathematical principles of sacred geometry, Ancient Rome pushed the boundaries of design and established rituals and processes for future generations.

The Impact of Sacred Geometry

The incorporation of sacred geometry played an important role in the development of a shared culture in Ancient Rome. Through the teaching of geometric principles, people from all levels of society were able to understand and enjoy the same visual characteristics of the architecture and public spaces around them. This facilitated the emergence of a shared aesthetic, practiced across the Empire and respected by future generations.

At a philosophical level, sacred geometry provided Ancient Rome with a way to rationalize certain parts of their understanding of the world. By attributing certain qualities and patterns to geometry, they were able to extract a greater meaning from the design and find a harmonious connection between the physical and spiritual realms. This understanding of nature, mathematics and beauty was essential to the progression of the Roman culture.

Evolution of Geometric Design

The evolution of geometric design in Ancient Rome was largely influenced by the city’s economic status. As the Empire became increasingly wealthy, the focus on sacred geometry shifted from religious structures to the homes of the wealthy citizens. The luxurious designs of these homes emphasized the principles of the Divine Proportion, and provided an example for future generations.

As the city’s financial status rose, the importance of aesthetics in the design of public and private buildings became more apparent. It was at this point that the practice of geometric design was adopted and seen in a variety of projects throughout the Empire. This ultimately led to an increased appreciation for the role of geometry in architecture, and as a result, it continues to be a fundamental feature of design today.

Knowledge of Sacred Geometry

While the knowledge of geometry has been passed down through the generations, the Ancient Roman practice has been largely modified and adapted to fit the needs of our modern times. While certain techniques and principles remain unchanged, the application of sacred geometry undeniably differs from its past. Despite this, Ancient Rome has left a meaningful legacy for future generations in the form of its geometric structures, and its development of the Vitruvian Man.

It is clear that the understanding and appreciation of geometry has changed greatly since the days of Ancient Rome. But even though the application and understanding of geometry has shifted, its principal purpose – of creating a harmonious union between man and nature – remains intact.

Explore the Power of Geometry

Incorporating the power of geometry into modern day design has become essential to the success of any project. Architects, designers and engineers alike have embraced the principles of the Divine Proportion and have adopted its teachings in their constructions, art and literature. Structures in the present day has become more than just simple physical constructions, and the use of geometrics shapes, lines and patterns has allowed people a glimpse into the power of nature and the harmony it can create.

The incorporation of sacred geometry into the designs of public facilities, statues and monuments has become more than just a mathematical practice. As we explore the origins and development of this practice by Ancient Rome, we gain a greater insight into the power of nature, symmetry and harmony – and the magnitude of their importance in the world today.

Moshe Rideout is a professional writer and historian whose work focuses on the history of Ancient Rome. Moshe is passionate about understanding the complexity of the Roman Empire, from its architecture to its literature, political systems to social structures. He has a Bachelor's degree in classic studies from Rutgers University and is currently pursuing a PhD in classical archaeology at UMass Amherst. When he isn't researching or writing, he enjoys exploring ruins around Europe, drawing inspiration from his travels.

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