The Pantheon, Rome, 117-125, concrete and granite Anonymous Artist, The Emperor Hadrian, c. 127, marble, Musée du Louvre, Paris. Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.

The Pantheon: Making Connections

The Roman emperors surely did not invent political propaganda, but they were experts at it.

The Emperor Hadrian paid for and may have designed The Pantheon which is a religious temple dedicated to all of the Roman Gods and members of the Imperial Family.  The temple was erected on the spot where the chief assistant to Emperor Augustus, a man named Marcus Agrippa, built the first Pantheon over a century earlier.  After a fire destroyed the first Pantheon, Hadrian rebuilt the temple and retained the dedication to Agrippa, now seen on the front of the temple above the columns.

Hadrian’s re-dedication of the temple to Agrippa may seem to be a pious gesture, but it’s much more political than that. Hadrian was one of the Five Good Emperors who reigned during the peak of Roman expansion and militarization.  Hadrian wanted to compare his reign to the other golden age of Roman Imperialism, the reign of Augustus.  By naming Augustus’ top advisor on a temple he built, Hadrian made the comparison clear.

Behind the traditional porch (or portico) of the Pantheon is an enormous domed structure.  Once inside, a visitor is transformed to a celestial realm.  The dome, which stands 143 feet up from the ground, is pierced with a large hole (oculus) that directs a beam of sunlight within the temple throughout the day.  There are cult statues at eye level and coffers with bronze-covered rosettes (squares with flowers) in the dome overhead.

The overriding impression is the power and victorious rule of the divinely ordained Roman emperor.

Anonymous Artist, The Emperor Hadrian, c. 127, marble, Musée du Louvre, Paris. Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.

 

Sally Coleman | The Art Minute

More images of the Pantheon

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Sally Coleman | The Art Minute

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