The Pantheon: The Roman Monument


The Pantheon (or “pantheum” in Latin) is perhaps one of the best known buildings in the world, and certainly one of the best known buildings in Italy. It is one of the most widely recognized examples of ancient Roman architecture besides, for example, the colosseum. For anyone that has seen the Pantheon in person, it may be difficult to imagine how an ancient civilization could have ever built such as impressive feat of architecture, and beyond that, how such a civilization could have constructed this structure so well that today it remains one of the best preserved examples of Roman architecture (Cartwright, 2018). By exploring the Pantheon, one is able to have the closest experience to traveling 2000 years back in time and experiencing what wandering Rome as a Roman might have been like: certainly a much different environment than today’s pizza-hungry tourist-stuffed Rome.

The Pantheon was finished in 125 C.E. during the rule of Emperor Hadrian, an emperor who seemed to have a penchant for architecture based on all the buildings he had commissioned such as the Baths of Hadrian and Hadrian’s Wall. We are not sure what the purpose of the Pantheon was, but it is speculated that it may have functioned as a temple for worship or as a place for the emperor to appear to the public, the extravagant architecture able to remind the public of the emperor’s divine status (Cartwright, 2018).

the pantheon

The most notable feature of the Pantheon is perhaps its concrete dome, concrete being an unusual material to be used for such monumental architecture at the time, but the Romans had mastered it as an art. However, the dome is not solid concrete. Ingeniously, as the Romans built the dome higher and higher, they mixed the concrete with increasingly lighter materials, the very top of the dome in fact being mostly made of pumice, a light and porous volcanic rock (Craven, 2019). Measuring 43.3 meters in diameter, the Pantheon’s dome remains the world’s largest concrete dome. On the inside, several rows of coffers (square indentations) can be seen on the dome which are both decorative and structural in that they lessen the dome’s weight. Of course, the focal point of the dome is the oculous at the very top that allows sunlight to flood into the Pantheon’s interior.

The Pantheon

The dome was a structure quite unique to Romans during their time, but the Romans certainly were not entirely original when it came to their architecture. There was significant influence from the ancient Greeks when it came to Roman architecture which can even be seen in the Pantheon. Both the inside and the outside of the structure show off beautiful columns of the Corinthian order, one of three architectural orders from ancient Greece which included the rather simple Doric design, slightly more complex Ionic design, and finally the lavish Corinthian design.

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Corinthian pillar design.

The front of the Pantheon, also known as the porch, is also very Greek in its highly symmetrical and linear design, contrasted against the Roman dome beyond. The front of the Pantheon is covered in white marble stucco, but it is easily noticed that the remainder of the building that supports the dome is primarily brick and concrete. Originally, the entire building was covered in marble stucco, but the test of time had stripped away the white exterior from large portions of the building (Craven, 2019). Another part that had been stripped away was the outer shell of the dome which used to be a coat of shiny bronze.

Many people are sure to wonder what the inscription at the front of the Pantheon means. The inscription was Emperor Hadrian’s idea, its purpose to dedicate the building to Marcus Agrippa who was a Roman general and an important figure in the administration of Rome. The inscription reads in Latin, “M. AGRIPPA L.F. COS TERTIUM FECIT,” which in English translates to “Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, three-time consul, made this.” Harder to see due to its small size is a secondary inscription beneath the first which documents restorations of the Pantheon by Caracalla and Septimius Severus in 202 C.E. which reads, “pantheum vetustate corruptum cum omni cultu restituerunt,” meaning, “with every refinement they restored the Pantheum, worn by age,” (Cartwright, 2018).

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Though the original purpose of the Pantheon remains unknown, in more modern history the building has been serving as a tomb for important figures of the Italian monarchy as well as for the famous Renaissance painter, Rafael.


Cartwright, Mark. (2018). “Pantheon.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Craven, Jackie. (2019). “The Influential Architecture of the Pantheon in Rome.” Thoughtco. Retrieved from

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