Today a Christian church, the Pantheon is the best preserved of all ancient Roman buildings and has been in near-continuous use since Hadrian’s reconstruction. From a distance the Pantheon is not as awe-inspiring as other ancient monuments — the dome appears low, not much higher than surrounding buildings. Inside, the Pantheon is among the most impressive in existence. Its inscription, M·AGRIPPA·L·F·COS·TERTIUM·FECIT, means: Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, consul for the third time, built this.
The Pantheon has been called a “perfect” space because the diameter of the rotunda is equal to that of its height (43m, 142ft). The purpose of this space was to suggest geometrical perfection and symmetry in the context of a perfect universe. The interior space could fit perfectly either in a cube or in a sphere. The massive interior room is designed to symbolize the heavens; the oculus or Great Eye in the room is designed to symbolize the light- and life-giving sun.
How the dome has been able to bear its own weight has been a matter of great debate — if such a structure were built today with unreinforced concrete, it would quickly collapse. The Pantheon, though, has stood for centuries. No agreed-upon answers to this mystery exist, but speculation includes both an unknown formulation for the concrete as well as spending a lot of time tamping the wet concrete to eliminate air bubbles.
The original Pantheon of Rome was built between 27 & 25 BCE, under the consulship of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. It was dedicated to 12 gods of heaven and focused on Augustus’ cult and Romans believed that Romulus ascended to heaven from this spot. Agrippa’s structure, which was rectangular, was destroyed in 80 CE and what we see today is a reconstruction done in 118 CE under the leadership of emperor Hadrian, who even restored the original inscription on the facade.
from Visual Arts
Roman architecture, even more than the rest of Roman art, reflected the practical character, restless energy and organizational mindset of its creators. As the Roman Empire expanded to engulf not only the Mediterranean region but also large areas of Western Europe, Roman architects struggled to achieve two overriding aims: to demonstrate the grandeur and power of Rome, while also improving the life of their fellow citizens. To this end, they mastered a number of important architectural techniques, including the arch, the dome and the vault, as well as the use of concrete. Using these methods, Roman engineers designed and built some of the greatest public buildings in the history of architecture, including temples, basilicas, amphitheatres, triumphal arches, monuments, and public baths. In addition, to further reinforce the ideals of the Pax Romana and, above all, maintain efficiency and order, Roman architects designed numerous aqueducts, drainage systems, and bridges, as well as a vast network of roads, while planners developed a series of urban blueprints, based on army camps, to help create new towns from scratch. Roman architects absorbed a great deal from Etruscan art and design, and had huge respect for both Greek architecture and Greek sculpture. They also learned from Egyptian pyramid architecture and stonework. Architecture is Ancient Rome's unique contribution to the history of art and to the culture of Europe. It is far more influential than the various forms of Roman sculpture, most of which were derived from the Greeks. Among the greatest buildings erected by the Romans, were: Maison Carree, Nimes, France (19 BCE); Pont Du Gard Aqueduct, Nimes, France (19 BCE); The Colosseum, Rome (72-80 CE); Arch of Titus, Rome (81 CE); Aqueduct, Segovia, Spain (100 CE); the Baths of Trajan (104-109); Trajan's Bridge, Alcantara, Spain (105 CE); Library of Celsus, Ephesus, Turkey (120 CE); Hadrian's Wall, Northern England (121 CE); The Pantheon, Rome (128 CE); Palace of Diocletian, Split (300 CE); Baths of Diocletian (306 CE); Arch of Constantine, Rome (312 CE); and the Cloaca Maxima (600-200 BCE), one of the world's earliest sewage systems, constructed in Ancient Rome in order to drain local marshes and transport the city's waste to the River Tiber. Many aspects of Roman building design were examined by the architect Marcus Vitruvius (active, late 1st century BCE) in his architectural treatise De architectura (c.27 BCE), although it appeared before the most creative phase of Roman construction.