Giangiacomo MartinesSoprintendenza
Archeologica di RomaPiazza Santa Maria Nova, 53 00186 Rome, Italy Fax: +39-06-67 87 689
In 1986 Godfrey and Hemsoll [6] put forward a new theory on
the original function of the monument: "an imperial audience
chamber". Subsequently, Hemsoll, Davies and Wilson Jones
[8] published a plausible hypothesis on the size of the pronaos
in the original design. In his book, Gert Sperling has carried on from where Herman Geertman left off in his celebrated 1980 study "AEDIFICIVM CELEBERRIMVM, studio sulla geometria del Pantheon" [5]. Sperling's conclusions also make use of previous works by Jacobson, 1986 [9]; Alvegard, 1987 [1]; Haselberger, 1995 [7]; Williams, 1997 [15]. It is as if Sperling is taking a "peripatetic stroll" inside the monument in the company of all these writers, with me tagging along behind, a little boy led by the hand, with the work I wrote in 1989 [12]. Sperling's book has several merits which I wish to underline: - Almost all the mathematical relationships among the lines and points of the monument are visible to the naked eye.
- The floor on which we walk is a mathematical abacus, which we measure with our steps and, again with our eyes, appreciate its shapes and proportions, this time with a little help from Kim Williams.
- The monument is an allegory of the cosmos, but it must be
seen in relation to another building in Rome: the Mausoleum of
Augustus in the Campus Martius. Here we are indebted to Edmund
Buchner, who excavated the
*Horologium Solarium Augusti*under the block of houses between Piazza del Parlamento and Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina. - The
*analemma*, which is used in constructing sun dials, is applied by Sperling on the section of the Pantheon and, thus pinpoints some architectonic lines that look as though they have been arranged according to the declination of the sun at the solstice and the equinox. We know of gnomonics applied to architecture in another geometrical monument, Castel del Monte, from the studies of Aldo Tavolaro published in 1981.
I do not wish to list all those who have written on the Pantheon after De Fine Licht. I will mention only Howard Saalman [13] and William Loerke [10]. In effect a rational bibliography on the Pantheon would be a very useful publication. It would certainly include Rodolfo Lanciani and especially Antonio Michetti and Fabrizio Esposito [3], respectively professor and disciple in the science of construction, for breaking new ground in their study on the reconstruction of the proportionment of the dome structure by means of classical geometry, 1995-1996; unfortunately literary sources are silent on this subject. We know from Hero of Alexandria about the statics of columns and architraves, but there is nothing from that period on vaults. Many studies on the Pantheon are carried out far from Rome and so ideas on the monument cannot be checked easily or frequently. For this reason, together with a group of architects and archaeologists working in Rome , I thought it might be a good idea to try and resolve some seemingly banal but still unanswered questions:
In charge of this programme is Riccardo Migliari, professor of the Department of Representations and Reliefs at Rome University "La Sapienza" (Fax 06 49 91 88 84). Working in collaboration with him are Mark Wilson Jones of Bath University, Matthias Bruno of Rome University "La Sapienza", Cinzia Conti of the Rome Archaeological Office and Giovanni Belardi, Director of the Pantheon. There will be a web site for the data so that it may be utilized also by those far from Rome. I hope Prof. Migliari will be able to present these results here, at Nexus IV, next year. Gert Sperling has given his full backing to the project, and has suggested taking weekly readings of the sun at the same time on the Rome meridian. All suggestions are welcome and this is why I have included in the text the fax numbers of the Office and the Department. A question that is often asked is: Could the inside of the
Pantheon have been an astronomical observatory? The Golden House
of Nero was another building which was architecturally inspired
by the sun and, according to Suetonius, "the main hall,
a rotunda, went round according to the motion of the earth, with
perpetual motion day and night"; but it was definitely not
an astronomical observatory. This aspect has been discussed by
Cesare D'Onofrio in a chapter of the new edition of - Mathematics can be used to describe any physical experience, but often the equation is not a law, like the laws of Galileo on the Pendulum and falling bodies, but only a mathematical representation of a reality that escapes us. In our field this is true of proportions in plan and elevation.
- Proportions and numbers should be verified on the monument itself, not on scale drawings. Autoptic inspection, that is, personal observation with the naked eye, is indispensable for evaluating the state of measurement points, instrumental errors and construction material.
- Studies which are applied to historical facts must make use of sources as documentary proof of an intention.
- When there are no direct sources we must refer to treatises and scientific knowledge concerning the architecture we are observing.
- In ancient architecture proportions and numbers must b e evident and easily perceived by the eye. I must mention here the work of Maria Teresa Bartoli [2] on the drawing of the lacunaria of the Pantheon, 1995, and Mark Wilson Jones on the Arch of Constantine, 1995. Both Wilson Jones and I are indebted to Heinrich Bauer for the importance of this criteria of visibility of proportions in ancient architecture. Our culture, in this respect, is still that of the Renaissance, as if we were all pupils of Luca Pacioli: it is a seed of the Renaissance that lives in our humanistic civilisation and we must be aware of this when we study ancient architecture, which, precisely because of this, is Classical but not Renaissance.
After having formulated these criteria I feel like Lucian's
Menippus, the cynic-philosopher, who, in the Lucian, who was in Rome at the time of Hadrian, wrote famous
descriptions of works of art; in fact he is considered the founder
of art criticism and a particular literary genre, the ekfrasis ( The exceptional flowering of mathematical studies on the Pantheon
is due to its eminent architecture and the shapes of its interior
space: it is the greatest example in the world, peri sfairas kai kulindrou ( The boom in mathematical studies on the Pantheon is also due to a quality of mathematics: an important theorem generates numerous corollaries, not always known to the mathematician who advanced that theorem. Most modern critics attribute the design of the Pantheon to one of the world's greatest architects, Appollodorus of Damascus, who was also a famous mechanical engineer: this is thanks to the work of Wolf Dieter Heilmeyer, and the great archaeologists before him.
The
Pantheon Metrological System - a consistent, anthropometrical,
time-calendar system based on golden section approximation ratios,
Billdal, Chalmers University of Technology,1987.[2] Maria Teresa Bartoli, "Scaenographia
vitruviana: il disegno delle volte a lacunari tra rappresentazione
e costruzione" in [3] Fabrizio Esposito and Antonio Michetti,
"Il Pantheon: Teoria e tecnica della [4] Kjeld De Fine Licht, [5] Herman Geertman, "AEDIFICIVM CELEBERRIMVM,
studio sulla geometria del Pantheon", in [6] P. Godfrey and D. Hemsoll, "The Pantheon:
Temple or Rotunda?" in M. Henig and A. King, eds., [7] L. Haselberger, "Ein Leibelriss der
Vorhalle des Pantheon. Die Werkrisse von dem Augustusmausoleum",
[8] D. Hemsoll, P. Davies and M.Wilson Jones,
"The Pantheon: Triumph of Rome or Triumph of Compromise",
[9] D.M. Jacobson, "Hadrianic Architecture
and Geometry", in [10] William C. Loerke, "A Rereading
of the Interior Elevation of Hadrian's Rotunda" in [11] William L. MacDonald, [12] Giangiacomo Martines, "Argomenti
di Geometria Antica a proposito della cupola del Pantheon"
in [13] Howard Saalman, "The Pantheon Coffers:
Pattern and Number", in [14] Gert Sperling, [15] Kim Williams, "Il Panteon e la creazione
dell'universo,
A Topological Dictionary
of Ancient RomeGreat Buildings Online: The Pantheon The Pantheon by Darlene Bishop and Diana Eggers The Architecture of Hadrian
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