This image of the Pantheon in Rome was printed in 1731. Although it is rather crude in many ways it is still relatively accurate in describing the temple’s features. The architecture of the Pantheon is a landmark of world architecture and has provided the prototype for many projects which followed it right through to modern times. The Pantheon we see today and which is shown in the image above, dates back to the time of Emperor Hadrian who had it rebuilt following a fire.
Hadrian was a great lover of architecture and it is quite likely he would have had some involvement in the innovative solution of building the principal hall around a perfect sphere, probably in representation of the sphere of the heavens.
The previous building had a more traditional rectangular plan. It was built by Agrippa, emperor Augustus‘ right hand man and it is interesting to note that Hadrian maintained the original inscription. The site, in the Campus Martius, is said to be the exact spot where Romulus the founder of Rome was reputed to have died and ascended to the heavens in the form of an eagle. This entire area was subject to urban development during the reign of Augustus.
The history of the Pantheon in ancient Rome has many facets of great interest as the building’s purpose and use isn’t entirely understood to this day. It is extremely likely that the dome and the oculus (hole) in the centre of it not only provided light into the building but also acted as a sort of sun-dial and planetarium. The statues of the planetary gods would quite likely have stood in the niches around the walls. The name itself: “Pantheon” is taken from the Greek language and means “all the gods”. It is believed that the temple was initially intended to be dedicated to the Emperor Augustus himself as a tool of propaganda and that Augustus refused it (probably) fearing a negative reaction from the people.