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THE PANTHEON/Agrippa & Hadrian Biographies

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Author Topic: THE PANTHEON/Agrippa & Hadrian Biographies  (Read 4383 times)
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« Reply #15 on: July 26, 2007, 01:52:42 pm »


Crossing a large threshold -the world's largest known piece of Lucullan black and red marble- the visitor

entered the sanctuary itself. The interior of the Pantheon must have been more surprising than it is today. 

In the first place, the Pantheon was constructed between other buildings, and the visitor can not have   

known that he was about to enter a spacious vaulted room; in the second place, the contrast between the   

dark hall and the bright cult space,  which is striking even today- must have been even more impressive  

in Antiquity, because the inner side of the dome was covered with gilded bronze. Since the conquests of       

Trajan in Dacia, this precious metal was in abundant supply. The gold must have reminded those  who

 knew something about philosophy of the highest part of the earth's atmosphere, which was  believed

to consist of pure fire.

 So the visitor entered the circular sanctuary which the emperor Hadrian had rededicated to the all-

divine, i.e., heaven. Inside the rotunda were seven apses in which - as was once proposed by Theodor

Mommsen - have stood statues of the seven planets that, according to the ancients, moved around   

the earth; there was also a statue of Julius Caesar, who had, after his death, been recognized  as 

 a celestial god.  It is not recorded how the statues were arranged, but since the days of the Sicilian 

scientist Archimedes (287 - 212), it was customary to use a sequence based on revolution:   

Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn.

If this sequence was also applied in the Pantheon, the statue of the Sun must have stood in the central


 On one side, the Sun had the three male planets: son Mars, father Jupiter, and grandfather Saturn; on the 

other side were Lady Venus, the androgynous Mercury, and Mrs. Moon. Saturn and the Moon were as far   

from the Sun as possible, in accordance with the ancient theory that they were the coldest planets. The

favorable planets (Moon Jupiter, Venus) and the unfavorable ones (Saturn, Mercury, Mars) constituted   

two equilateral triangles. In this way, the seven apses were a copy of the universe. The most striking     

aspect of the vaulted space, however, was the big "eye" (oculus) in the top of the vault.   
Its function in the cosmological design is described  by the Athenian

philosopher Plato, whose philosophical ideas were rapidly gaining popularity in the second century.


 The gods see many blessed sights in the inner heaven, and there are many ways to and fro, along which the

blessed gods are passing, every one doing his own work; he may follow who will and can, for jealousy has no 

place in the celestial choir. But when they go to banquet and festival, then they move up to the top of 

of the  vault of heaven:

"For the immortals, when they are at the end of their course, go forth and stand upon the outside of

heaven, and the revolution of the spheres carries them round, and they behold the things beyond. 

But of the heaven which is above the heavens, what earthly poet ever did or ever will sing worthily?"

[Plato, Phaedrus, 247a-c;
tr. B. Jowett]


  The point is that the gods do not only belong to our universe, but are also transcendental: they are beyond this
world. This idea, which can for the first time be documented in the cult of Amun in ancient Egypt, was often

combined with monotheism: the gods venerated by the Greeks and Romans were manifestations of the one,

supreme being, the all-divine or Pantheon. 


The floor of the Rotunda is  covered by white and Numidian yellow marble, purple porphyry and grey granite

from Egypt.

 The movement of one the seven planets could be seen in the Pantheon as it was described by Plato: 

the projection of the Sun on the gilded ceiling, "moving up to the top of the vault of heaven" in winter, 

when theSun  is low... 

 ... and down in summer, when the Sun is high. In a sense, the Pantheon is a large planetarium. This is a

special photo, taken on the longest day of the year, 21 June, at astronomical noon. As you see, the light 

falls exactly in front of the entrance. If you would have entered the temple in Antiquity, you would have 

been absolutely blinded by the light, which appeared to come from the statue of the Sun.


 This photo shows one of the apses in which the statues of the planets were standing. It is known from the

Natural History (9.121) by Pliny the Elder that the statue of Venus was decorated with earrings containing  

pearls that had belonged to Queen Cleopatra.

The building was reckoned among Rome's greatest wonders (Ammianus Marcellinus, 16.10.14: "a self-contained

district under a high and lovely dome"), but is not often mentioned in our sources. We know that Hadrian held

court in this temple (Cassius Dio, Roman History, 69.7.1) and that the emperor Constantius II visited it in 357.

Between the granite Corinthian columns, seven sculptures stand. These Roman gods corresponded to each   

of the seven planets (at the time) and remain in their original spots, despite the building being consecrated   

as a Christian church by Pope Boniface IV in 609. 


But the ROMANS' PANTHEON seems to exist independent of religious rule - more of a tribute to the

past than any specific spiritual figures.
« Last Edit: July 26, 2007, 07:32:08 pm by Bianca2001 » Report Spam   Logged

Your mind understands what you have been taught; your heart what is true.
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