National Geographic : 1938 Oct
AUGUSTUS-EMPEROR AND ARCHITECT Photograph by Branson De Cou THE "MASTER OF ALL THINGS," SCEPTER IN HAND, FACES THE ROAD OF THE EMPIRE By keeping his empire strong and united, Octavius Caesar Augustus preserved comparative peace for more than a half century. Virtually an emblem of the Roman state, the initials S.P.Q .R. (Senatus Populusque Romanus-the Senate and People of Rome) are still inscribed on monuments and buildings. Trajan's Column towers in the background above ruins of the Forum of Trajan. Trajan's figure originally was on top of the column, but long ago was replaced by that of St. Peter. have been pragmatism; he was a realist of the first order. He would satisfy the natu ral longing for something higher and holier by honoring the ancient religion of Rome. He restored dilapidated shrines and tem ples and revived rites and ceremonies and festivals almost forgotten in a century of civil and military strife. He made worship a public duty and in all the great civic functions the gods of Rome were held in highest honor. While the present structure of the Pan theon is due to its rebuilding by Emperor Hadrian, it is regarded as following the original plan of Marcus Agrippa, Augustus' most intimate friend and most valuable counselor, who in B. C. 27 reared it as a memorial to Augustus' victory over Mark Antony at Actium (page 544). It was dedi cated to Jupiter the Avenger, to Mars and Venus, who were the tutelary deities of the Julian gens. Theodosius the Great, toward the end of the fourth century, ordered the Pantheon closed as a pagan temple and in the year 609 Pope Boniface IV consecrated it as a Christian church. It is a triumph of archi tectural genius, with a majestic pillared portico 109 feet long and 43 feet deep; there are 16 monolith columns each 41 feet high. The diameter of the interior rotunda is 142 feet, crowned by an enor mous dome of equal height. The pavement of granite and porphyry is particularly beautiful. A single round aperture in the ceiling, 28 feet in diameter, admits light and air, as there are no windows. EMPIRE MAPPED IN MARBLE Since 1878 the Pantheon has been used as a mausoleum of the kings of the House of Savoy. It is regarded as the most nearly perfect monument preserved from ancient Rome.