Friday, June 11, 2010

The Trevi Fountain and The Pantheon

Each day, as I walk to class, I get to gaze upon two incredible sites, the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. Words cannot describe how stunning these sites really are. Both of these monuments exemplify ancient Romans’ control over their environment. The fact that these were built without the aid of modern day machinery and technology is mind-blowing.
The Pantheon is a site that must be seen. Not only does is showcase the ancient Romans brilliant architectural minds, It also demonstrates their understanding of complicated geometrical concepts. The structure of the Pantheon is made up of many geometrical shapes including, triangles, rectangles, cylinders, and of course the dome. When I first was inside the Pantheon, and I looked up, I could not believe my eyes; I could not even begin to comprehend how this unreinforced dome was built in the second century. The dome is perfectly symmetrical with an oculus in the center, which serves as a light source and a view to the heavens. The dome has a diameter of 142 feet, and is 142 feet from the start of the dome to the oculus. It was constructed with such precision that a sphere, with a 142 foot diameter, could be placed inside the Pantheon. Till this day there has been no unreinforced dome that has superseded the size of the Pantheon’s. I find it incredible that, in almost 2000 years, nothing can compare.
Throughout the ages it has served a few purposes. The word Pantheon translates to “all of the gods”, so initially it was a temple that reflected the ancient Romans polytheistic views. In 609 the building was then converted into a Christian church, which was a reflection of how the Romans’ pagan views were pushed away and replaced with Christianity. The church is credited with taking care of the Pantheon, and keeping it in the shape that it is in today; it still serves as a church, and holds services.
The Trevi Fountain is the largest fountain in Rome; I also believe it to be the most beautiful. Although it was built much later than the Pantheon, 1732-1762, it is still a truly awe-inspiring feat. The fountain is positioned at the ending point of Aqua Virgo, which is an aqueduct that was built in 19 BC. In ancient Rome, a fountain of some sort was traditionally built at the ending point of an aqueduct. The Trevi stands 85 feet tall, and is 65 feet wide. When one comes face to face with this fountain it is easy to see why its construction took so long. It is a gigantic work of art, crafted from marble, rock, and cement. At that time there were no power tools, so the material had to be gathered, chiseled, and sculpted by hand. The gigantic size did not stop Nicola Salvi from incorporating a great deal of detail within the fountain, and its statues. In the center of the fountain there is a large statue of Neptune, the god of the sea; he is riding a chariot that is being pulled by two horses. One is mild mannered, while the other is angry and out of control; this is symbolic of how the sea can act in either manner. The other impressive thing about the fountain is that there were no electric pumps in that time, so all the water had to gain pressure solely from gravity and tapered pipes in the aqueduct system.
Today there is great superstition surrounding the fountain. It is said that If you throw a coin into the fountain, facing backwards, that you will return to Rome. It is estimated that around 3000 euros are collected each day. This money is used for a food bank that helps feed needy Romans. So if you pass by the Trevi be sure to stop for a few minutes and think about it. Look at its incredible size and the detail that was put in to it; then remember that it was built without the modern luxuries that many of us take for granted today. When you are leaving, do not forget to toss a euro into the fountain.
I feel very fortunate to have been able to see these sites at such a young age. When I looked at both places I began to think about things much differently. Often time people have the idea that those who came before us are also more primitive; however, the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon have shown me that incredible feats can be done without modern technology. The Romans were masters of architecture, mathematic, and art. What they accomplished many years ago are still considered impressive feats today.

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