Saturday, June 19, 2010

Colosseum and Pantheon

Rome is a busy city with an enormous number of monuments, churches, squares that are famous that it is impossible to make a short list of the absolutely must-see landmarks. I was fortunate enough to go and explore two of the most visited attractions of the eternal city which are the Colosseum and the Pantheon. In this essay I will be describing and comparing these two historical sites. The Colosseum and the Pantheon are two equally important buildings that are the bases in which has developed Italian culture by illustrating how ancient Romans’ controlled their land.

The Colosseum was built during the era of the Roman Empire and as it is well known the Colosseum was used as an entertainment arena. The actual name of the Colosseum is the Flavian Amphitheater, and Emperor Vespasian was the founder that started construction of the Colosseum in 72 AD and it wasn’t till 80 AD when it was completed. Emperors used the Colosseum to entertain the public with games such as deadly fights between exotic animals and gladiators or between gladiators. The fighters were usually slaves, prisoners of war or condemned criminals. Emperors utilized the Colosseum to entertain the public by offering them free admission to watch the games. The games were looked upon as a symbol of prestige and power increasing the popularity of the emperor. I believe the Colosseum was used as a political tactic to manipulate the people in order to gain power over the population to accomplish other plans the emperors had in mind.

The immense elliptical building was reflected to Ancient Romans as human sacrifice at the dead person's funeral would appease the pagan gods and ensure a satisfactory entrance into the afterlife. It affected Italian culture by pleasing the people and bringing everyone together to watch free entertainment and helped emperors show off and gain their power. Today the ruins of the Colosseum are utilized to remind us of the greatest architecture made by the Roman Empire. In the days of ancient Rome, the oval shaped Colosseum was the largest public entertainment arena in the world, seating 50,000 spectators all with numbered tickets. Italian culture would be significantly different if it were not to the construction and the entertainment held at the Colosseum. My favorite part of the Colosseum was being able to stand where the Emperors would sit during the games. I felt honored to be able to stand where such powerful men once sat to enjoy the games at the Colosseum.

Another incredible site I got to visit was the Pantheon. The Pantheon is a magnificent ancient temple that was later converted into the church of Santa Maria ad Martyres. Dating from 125 AD, this is the most complete ancient building in Rome and one of the city's most spectacular and visited sights. Until the 20th century, the Pantheon was the largest concrete structure in the world and was also dedicated to all the gods. When the Pantheon became a church, it was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and all the sacrificial victims. The Pantheon is widely praised for its accomplishment of architecture and concept of space. What impressed me the most about the Pantheon was the huge dome and how it is a perfect circle hemisphere of cast concrete, resting on a solid wall. The Pantheon has no windows and the only light penetrates from above streaming from the dome called the Oculus. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon's dome is still the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome. It is the most imitated buildings of all ancient works. The Pantheon also contains monumental tombs that are set into the walls, including the tomb of the artist Raphael. The Pantheon has not only had an impact on Italian culture but on the rest of the world, many of the engineering techniques that were used in its construction are still used in present day. Roman Pantheon in its current state allows us a glimpse into the marvelous and stunning world of Roman architecture.

 The Colosseum and the Pantheon are two recognized buildings known for their unique engineering techniques. Emperors Vepasian and Hadrian made two of the most prominent buildings of ancient Rome. These two buildings were utilized as inspiration for other buildings based on the imitation of their structure, expanding Italian architecture. The complexity and difficulty it must have been to construct these two buildings is incredible; each building has its own level of unique construction making them fascinating in their own way. Aside from the different forms of architectural design I believe the only difference these two buildings carry is what they were originally used for, the Colosseum was a violent arena while the Pantheon was utilized as a temple/church.

I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to have seen the Colosseum and the Pantheon because they are two of the most influential buildings of all times. The monumental sizes, sophistication, and technological designs make it two of the greatest architectural achievements of the ancient Romans. Even though both of the places had different purposes they are similar in a way that present day still influences Italian culture through its construction and influential purposes either through entertainment or religious purposes.

-Alma Balderrama

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