The Pantheon. Pen on paper. The Pantheon as model of the Universe. Pen on paper. Brickstamps in the Pantheon. Pen on paper. Agrippa's Basilica of Neptune. Pen on paper.
The Pantheon
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Dedication: the Universe
Despite being one of the best known buildings in the world, there is a surprising amount of uncertainty as to it's function and construction. Only in the late 1800s was it discovered that the present structure was completely rebuilt during the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian, and there is still much debate about the extent to which one or the other emperor is responsible for it's construction. Excavations in the 1930s and 1990s revealed a pavement a few centimeters beneath the present one which showed that the first Pantheon had a very similar ground plan to the present building, although it is believed that there was a circular open area where the rotunda now stands. The building's function is also open to question. While the name suggests that it was a temple dedicated to all the gods, the closest contemporary writer, Cassius Dio, indicates that it was dedicated to Mars and Venus, and himself seems able only to guess at the meaning of the name 'Pantheon'. Some scholars have hypothesized that it was not a temple at all, rather a circular basilica, or a hall that was connected to Agrippa's nearby baths complex.
The Pantheon is by many considered one of the most sophisticated and technically accomplished feats of architecture ever built. Much of this reputation is due to the structure of the dome, a perfect half-sphere inside reinforced by an exterior dome above. It is still the largest non-reinforced dome in the world. This engineering accomplishment was dictated by the religious function of the building; a temple to all divinity, the entire Universe. As such, the Pantheon replicates what the ancients considered the form of the Universe, an immense sphere encrusted with stars, at the centre of which stood the immobile Earth. The cornice between the dome and the drum recalls the celestial equator, with the drum enclosing the lower hemisphere.
Until the 1890s the inscription on the Pantheon declaring that Marcus Agrippa built it was taken to mean that at least part of the structure dated from the first century ad. This view was overturned when brick stamps dated to the early 2nd century were discovered in all parts of the building. A layer of bricks covers the cement structure of the rotonda and can be seen beneath the travertine slabs and decorations of the rectangular block. Brick manufacturers would place a stamp on a small number of each consignment with the name of the workshop, owner, or supervisor, and in some cases with the names of the consuls for that year. The discovery and interpretation of these brick stamps has often made it possible to date ancient buildings with high precision. In the case of the Pantheon, almost all the stamps discovered could be dated to Trajan's reign or to the early years of Hadrian's, leading to the conclusion that the building was completely rebuilt in the early 2nd century ad.
Behind the pantheon are a series of reliefs decorated with dolphins and tridents which at first glance seem to be part of the Pantheon structure. They in fact belonged to a separate building, known as the basilica of Neptune, which stood back to back with the temple. The area of Campo Marzio, originally an open area, had been developed by Marcus Agrippa with the construction of a series of buildings including these remains and the Pantheon itself. close by were the Baths of Agrippa and a large artificial lake, and it seems that the maritime theme of much of this complex is connected to Agrippa's victories against Sextus Pompeius in Siciliy, which won him the naval crown, and against Mark Anthony at Actium, which sealed and end to the civil wars and brought the entire Empire under the control of Augustus.
Special effects in the Pantheon on the birthday of Rome