The Pantheon, a grand architectural landmark, is one worth discussing. This building has survived the test of time, more or less, for a reason. Its enigmatic history and rich design make it a timeless building. Some aspects of the building are still discussed today.
The Pantheon we see today was probably built during the time of Hadrian*, the 14th emperor of the Roman Empire who had ruled from 117-38 A.D. It is not known exactly what the original use of the Pantheon was, but many architectural scholars have argued that it may have been built for the Roman gods. The architect of the Pantheon is unknown, and it is almost certain that the original architect was not Hadrian. There is no doubt, however, that Hadrian had constructed the idea of the Pantheon. “He stands in relation to it as… Louis XIV to Versailles” (MacDonald 12). Hadrian was an accomplished man not only in the administrative and military fields but also in painting, poetry and architecture. And although Hadrian had elements of genius in him, he was, overall, a very humble person. The absence of his name from some of the imperial inscriptions put up on public buildings erected or renovated around the Roman Empire during his reign was very curious on Hadrian’s part. This humbleness, however, effectively confused historical analysts, and here’s why: During the reign of Augustus (27 B.C. to 14 A.D.), Augustus had commissioned a rectangular sanctuary in the location of the where the Pantheon now stands. Agrippa, Augustus’ minister, designed the sanctuary. That building had been burned down twice. The Pantheon entirely replaced the original building, which is where the Pantheon’s mystery begun. As previously stated, Hadrian was a humble emperor. So when the Pantheon was built, he restored Agrippa’s original inscription on his new building: MAGRIPPALFCOSTERTIVMFECIT (Marcus Agrippa the son of Lucius, three times consul, built this.) Since Agrippa and Hadrian come from different time periods, the architectural design of the Pantheon thoroughly confused many. It can be argued that it may have been built during Augustus’ reign because of the inscription in bold bronze letters that spread across the entablature of the great porch that are modern but faithfully reproduce Hadrian’s. Sometimes this rough attachment of the rotunda to the porch is explained by Hadrian’s own amateurishness in architecture. This is all assuming that Hadrian designed and built it all on his own, which is highly unlikely in the first place. Another problem with this theory is that Hadrian is written down as a very skilled man; having a mistake in the Pantheon due to the lack of skills on Hadrian’s part would be crediting him for his talents and then taking that credit back. Yet another theory states that since the “temple-like porch is related to the domed rotunda in such an inept way that the two parts must differ in date” (MacDonald 14). This explanation declares that the porch does belong to Agrippa, since in fact it states on the porch that he had made it, and that Hadrian had seamlessly attached his rotunda to the earlier porch. All the confusion set aside, it is widely accepted that the current Pantheon was built during the first half of Hadrian’s reign. This was backed up by the “Roman brickmakers” who had “methodically stamped a proportion of their large, tile-shaped bricks with the names of their brickyards and of the consuls currently in office, or with similarly datable information… In the body of the Pantheon there is a preponderance of brick-stamps of the early 120s, and it is upon this fact, more than any other, that the dating of the building is based” (MacDonald 13). But the Pantheon presents yet another, far greater mystery. Its puzzling how good of shape it is considering that it’s nearly 2000 years old. It has been widely discussed among many. Some believe the Pantheon is divinely protected. Until the 5th century, it was a temple dedicated to all the Roman...
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