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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Roman Masterpiece to All Gods

The Classic of Rome; The Pantheon

Like the misfortune that befell the first attempt at the Parthenon, the Pantheon, though constructed in Rome's prime around 17 BCE and free from any threats from invaders, didn't last.  There is a myth that friends of Romulus had constructed the first Parthenon in his honor after his death, building the structure on the site where the king had "ascended to heaven".  However, this is a myth, and very few historians credit this mythology as a viable source. 
  The story of this magnificent temple built for all the gods is still told by the building itself.  While the temple which stands now in Campus Martius is very different in structure, the final sponsor, Hadrian, preserved the legend of the construction, allowing for the inscription on the entrance to read "M-Agrippa-F-Cos-Terum-Fecit".  This is a shortened version of the sentence "Marcus Agrippa Filius Lucii consul tertium fecit", with an implied "id".  This gives credit to the first emperor behind such a magnificent building, saying that "Marcus Agrippa, Servius, son of Lucius, third consul, made (this)".  Agrippa's original temple, while from the name, for all gods, was constructed especially for the gods Mars and Venus, the gods of the Julian family.  While this temple could be called simple in comparison to the structure we see today, Agrippa began the idea of a T-shaped temple, which would be continued on in the following two structures   Quick to be lost, the temple of this cousin of Augustus was burned down in the great fire of 80 CE.  Emperor Domitian then attempted to reconstruct the building soon after, but that temple soon found its end in 110 CE, when it was taken down by lightning.  Finally, the grandiose Emperor Hadrian decided to construct the final version of the Parthenon in 118 CE, still in tact to this day, dedicated to all the gods of Ancient Rome, in the Corinthian style (see glossary).
Red Porphyry Floor of the current Pantheon
   As one can see, the interior of the building is circular.  Filled with the most expensive marbles, even red porphyry, "the quintessential Imperial stone", used in every form of art, including "columns, paving, veneer, basins, sarcophagi, (and) statuary", found only in the Mons Porphyrites in Egypt.  The porphyry was then placed throughout the structure: in statues, along the floors, etc.  Unfortunately for this and many other Roman structures, during the Renaissance, many of these structures with priceless materials were destroyed or smelted down.  The artists would usually put the porphyry into the floors of the most famous Renaissance buildings and the bronze which once covered a great deal of the building was melted down to then cover new structures, put into new works of art.  While we can't see the magnificence of the statues and structures on the walls and buildings, it proved to be to difficult for people of the time to remove materials from the tiled floor, so upon visiting, one can still witness the beauty and intricacy of the tiled marble patterns.
The Oculus
    Hadrian had dreamed to make a temple like no other in Rome; strongly based off of that of the Greeks but incredibly original.  Set into three sections, one would walk through a pronaos, or "an entrance portico" (, then go past a sort of connecting archway, and finally enter the circular, magnificent belly of the beast.  Immediately after entering the temple, one almost feels forced to look up into the famous oculus.  Latin for eye, this is a completely open hole in the center of the concrete ceiling, while now covered by transparent glass for the safety of the marble underneath.  Concrete was moderately modern for the time.  Very convenient and well patterned, this demonstrates the changing of the times, as construction of such magnificent temples become much simpler.  On top of being a beautiful sight, as light will go through and ray down on various parts of the temple throughout the day, this both illuminates the temple and the thought of the gods on a higher dimension than us simple mortals.  Meant to demonstrate both grander and piety, this temple is the cornerstone of classical art history.

Works Cited:*/Pantheon.html

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