Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.
There are some buildings that are cool. And there are some that are super awesome! The Pantheon is the latter.
The Pantheon is an ancient Roman temple famous for the architectural ingenuity required to create it. It's dome remains the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world to this day. It is both one of the best preserved surviving Roman temples and one of the most important buildings in the world.
The original name of the Pantheon has been lost to time. However, we do know that the term 'pantheon' means a place that is relevant to all of the gods, or a place to worship all of the gods. Rome had a polytheistic religion, meaning that it worshiped multiple deities. The original building was commissioned by Roman architect, general and politician named Marcus Agrippa to celebrate a naval victory in 29 BCE. The Pantheon was a part of the building complex sponsored by Agrippa, built on his own property, that also included a temple to the god of the sea, Neptune, and a public bath. Temple-building was a very political thing to do in ancient Rome; temples were very important, sacred spaces, and building one indicated wealth and power and was often a way to gain the favor of the people.
It's believed that Agrippa's original temple may have burned down in a huge fire around 80 CE and rebuilt a few times, possibly changing the style and dedication. Archaeologists do know that Emperor Hadrian had the temple completely rebuilt around 126 CE. Hadrian almost never put his own name on temples and probably decided to keep the Pantheon associated with Marcus Agrippa, which is why Agrippa's name is still on it today. It's unknown if Hadrian stuck to the original design of the temple.
Design and Construction
The Pantheon is a Roman temple with the typically-large portico, the open structure of columns in front of the main entrance. The triangular roof of the portico, called the pediment, was originally filled with bronze sculptures that were probably gilded. Archaeologists think the original statue may have been an eagle within a wreath of victory. The portico has eight Corinthian columns in front, each roughly forty feet tall, and two groups of four columns behind those. At the back of the portico, near the main entrance, are several niches that probably held statues of Julius Caesar, Augustus Caesar, and Marcus Agrippa. The Pantheon took 3 years to construct and employed 732 builders.
The cella, the enclosed worship area, is shaped like a cylinder, which was not the normal style of a Roman temple but not entirely uncommon either. Covering the cella is a domed roof, which is one of the greatest engineering marvels of the ancient world. The Romans were the first to perfect the art of building domes, which requires a lot of architectural ingenuity to construct without the weight collapsing in on itself. The secret was concrete.
Other cultures were aware of concrete before the Romans, but they were the first to perfect the recipe and use it as a building material. Concrete was not only lighter than stone while retaining full strength, but it could be poured into specific shapes. The concrete for the Pantheon was poured into various squares with shallow centers, called coffers, that reduced weight in the middle but kept the strength of the edges. These squares were assembled together on scaffolding and dried into place. They were probably covered in bronze to reflect light and create a magnificent feel of grandeur. At the center of the dome is an oculus, which is a circular hole from which the force of the weight pushes down and outwards. The oculus allowed natural light into the temple as well.
As if this structure wasn't cool enough, it was designed so perfectly that the distance from the floor to the oculus and the diameter of the round floor inside the temple are the same: 142 feet. This means that the Pantheon could fit a perfect sphere inside of it, or fit perfectly inside of a cube. Ancients Romans were obsessed with geometric harmony and perfection. The roof of the Pantheon was the largest dome Rome ever constructed, and after nearly 2000 years is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. The Pantheon itself is still standing, almost 2000 years later.
The Pantheon is an ancient Roman temple found in Rome, Italy. It was one of many temples built by the Romans who were polytheistic, meaning they worshiped many gods. Although originally commissioned by Marcus Agrippa, it was rebuilt by Emperor Hadrian and given its current shape. Like most Roman temples, it has a large open porch with columns outside the main entrance, called a portico. The most amazing feature of the Pantheon, however, is the domed roof, the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. At the center of this dome is an oculus, a circular hole that lets in natural light. The Pantheon is an incredible structure, and thanks to the skill of ancient Roman architects, it's still around for us to see.
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