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Compare the Parthenon in Athens with the Pantheon in Rome

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The word Pantheon from Greek means “Temple of all Gods”. This is a famous building in Rome, which was initially built in 27 BCE-25 BCE to praise the ancient Gods of the seven planets, but after the 7th century it was already known as Christian Church. The Parthenon in its turn is the most famous ancient building of Greece, it is called a symbol of democracy in ancient Greece; it was built to show gratitude to Athena – the patron goddess of the city between 447 and 438 B.

C. The name of the building comes from the Greek word – parthenos, which means a virgin. At the beginning the building was used as a temple and then as a treasury. Mostly Parthenon was built of Pentelic marble.

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Certainly both buildings had their history. The architect of the Pantheon was said to be Apollodorus of Damascus. Then Pantheon was destroyed because of a fire and rebuilt during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian. In 609 other emperor Phocas passed Pantheon to Pope  Boniface IV  and it became a Christian Church.

During the Renaissance period the building was used as a tomb: the painters Raphael and Annibale Caracci, the architect Baldassare Peruzzi,  two kings of Italy: Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I were buried there. (Leland, 3). Modern Pantheon remained a church and masses still take place there. The Parthenon was used mostly for religious matters, it was a Latin Church, a Byzantine church and even a Muslim mosque.

In appearance Parthenon and Pantheon have some features in common like a number of columns for example, but in fact they differ a lot. Pantheon is circular with three ranks of granite Corinthian columns. (Leland , 29).The dome is coffered and has an opening in the center  – the Great Eye, which is the source of light and the symbol of the sun. This dome was the largest in the world until 1781. It is very hard to define its real composition; researchers state that it was “a mixture of pozzolan, lime and a small amount of water” (Leland, 128).  At the backside of portico remained niches; presumably they were for statues of gods. The doors to the cella were made of bronze with gold, now there is no gold any more. The holes of the pediment are the places where the bronze sculpture of the Battle of the Titans was attached. The inside coffers were originally decorated by bronze start ornaments, but their main function was to reduce the weight of the roof. (Leland, 128). Marbles are the main adorning of the lower part of interior.

Contrary to Pantheon, Parthenon is a square building, surrounded by columns from all sides, they look also solid as the columns of Pantheon. In the center of the temple – cella  – there is a statue of Athena. The inner Parthenon is decorated with the Doric metopes and triglyphs and the Ionic frieze. (Woodford, 11). On the frieze, as the most vivid architectural characteristic of the temple, we could see the Pananthenaia – the annual festival in honor of Athena and all the gods of the Pantheon. Overlapping marble was used in the building for the roof; it was called imbrices and tegulae.

Overall, the two buildings Parthenon and Pantheon reflect the ancient cultural tradition, have very rich history, they were ruined and reconstructed, they served as churches, tomb and even treasure. They are different in form, but as the Roman and Creek cultures were really closely related, there were a lot of similar materials used for them.

Works cited:

  1. Leland M. . Understanding Architecture: Its Elements, History and Meaning. First, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993. 1-30, 128, 224
  2. Woodford, S. The Parthenon. Cambridge University: 1981

The interior features sunken panels (coffers), which originally contained bronze star ornaments. This coffering was not only decorative, but also reduced the weight of the roof, as did the elimination of the apex by means of the Great Eye. The top of the rotunda wall features a series of brick-relieving arches, visible on the outside and built into the mass of the brickwork. The Pantheon is full of such devices – for example, there are relieving arches over the recesses inside – but all these arches were, of course, originally hidden by marble facing. Some changes have been made in the interior decoration.

It may be noted that the proportions of the building are in discord with the classical ideal. Most evident is the rather large pediment, which appears far too “heavy” for the columns supporting it. The reason for this was the expectation that the building would be much taller than it actually is, which would affect larger columns. However, by the time the pediment was built, it was realised that the supply of imported stone for the columns was not enough to build to its anticipated height, and thus the builders had to settle with a building that is somewhat out of proportion.[citation needed]

The lower parts of the interior of the Pantheon are richly decorated in coloured marbles; the coffered upper parts are unadorned concrete.

The exact composition of the Roman concrete used in the dome remains a mystery. An unreinforced dome in these proportions made of modern concrete would hardly stand the load of its own weight, since concrete has very low tensile strength, yet the Pantheon has stood for centuries. It is known from Roman sources that their concrete is made up of a pasty hydrate of lime, with pozzolanic ash and lightweight pumice from a nearby volcano, and fist-sized pieces of rock. In this, it is very similar to modern concrete.[2] The high tensile strength appears to come from the way the concrete was applied in very small amounts and then was tamped down to remove excess water at all stages. This appears to have prevented the air bubbles that normally form in concrete as the material dries, thus increasing its strength enormously.

As the best-preserved example of monumental Roman architecture, the Pantheon was enormously influential on European and American architects from the Renaissance, starting with Brunelleschi’s 42 meter dome of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, completed in 1436 – the first sizeable dome to be constructed in Europe after Antiquity. The dome of the Pantheon can be detected in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: numerous city halls, universities and public libraries echo its portico-and-dome structure. Examples of notable buildings influenced by the Pantheon include British Museum Reading Room, Manchester Central Library, Thomas Jefferson’s Rotunda at the University of Virginia, the Rotunda of Mosta, Low Library at Columbia University, New York, The Marble Hall of the Sanssouci palace in Potsdam, Germany, and the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia.

Concrete – The Pantheon’s concrete was a mixture of pozzolan, lime and a small amount of water. That mixture was tamped – not poured – into place. Today, we have portland cement, which is easily ten times stronger and much easier to work with.

Rebar – All concrete is weak in tension. We strengthen our concrete with reinforcing steel (rebar). The Romans did not have that option. They used ropes of vitreous china for reinforcement. To further compensate for the weakness and weight of the concrete, the Romans built extremely thick footing and drum walls. Otherwise, the weight of the dome would have spread the vertical walls of the drum and the Pantheon would not have lasted.


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Compare the Parthenon in Athens with the Pantheon in Rome. (2016, Sep 07). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/compare-the-parthenon-in-athens-with-the-pantheon-in-rome/

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