The Greek Parthenon vs the Roman Pantheon

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The Greek Parthenon vs the Roman Pantheon

Imagine asking a five-year-old to draw a picture of a house. A native Floridian probably wouldn’t draw the typical split-plan design with a tile roof and a screened-in lanai. The extent of the child’s artistic ability would probably consist of a box with a triangle on top of it. As fundamental as it sounds, the use of this structure has a long history dating back to ancient Greece. The classical Greek temple, the Parthenon, made use of this design and influenced (the still rather different) Roman Pantheon.

These buildings are excellent examples of how architectural style reflects the culture of its creators and studying their relationship highlights how the ancient Mediterranean world affected modern Western architecture.

The remains of the Parthenon, built between 447 and 438 BC, rest on Greece’s southeast peninsula called Attica. At one time, this architectural giant sat on top of the Acropolis in Athens. The thick Doric columns numbered eight on each short side. The furnishings were rather simple and the columns were just thick enough to look awkward. These traits made the building look heavy, yet sturdy. The temple housed the main icons of the wealthiest Greek city-state, a statue of Athena and the city’s treasury. Leading up to the foundation was an enormous set of stairs which, compared to the people who visited it, may have been twice their height. The huge staircase wasn’t just a sign of the Athenian grandeur- when combined with its position on top of the steep acropolis the Parthenon was very well guarded. Around the inner chambers, but still inside the outer Doric columns, was a type of wrap-around porch or breezeway. This kind of open space was evident i...

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...fs this. Domes and arcs are used in many of the surviving Roman structures because their shape makes them very strong. These innovations are so well noted that Volkswagen commercials have compared the strength and space utilization of the New Beetle to these well-known structures. Like the basic design of the Greek Parthenon, Roman architecture also has a great influence over culture two millenniums later.

The Greek Parthenon was a triumph of its time. Its practical function has given shape to buildings ever since. It was used as a bank, civic center, temple and museum. These are the kinds of buildings that line modern streets. Its rustic style gave way to domes and Corinthian columns but its fundamental design continues through the ages. As for the Pantheon, it still stands as a marvelous museum because of its strength in design and awe inspiring shape.

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