Skip to comments.Is the Roman Pantheon a colossal sundial?
Posted on 02/05/2009 6:39:00 PM PST by SunkenCiv
The imposing temple in Rome, completed in AD 128, is one of the most impressive buildings that survives from antiquity. It consists of a cylindrical chamber topped by a domed roof with an oculus in the top which lets through a dramatic shaft of sunlight. It boasts a colonnaded courtyard at the front. When Robert Hannah of the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, visited the Pantheon in 2005, researching for a book... he realised that the Pantheon may have been more than just a temple. During the six months of winter, the light of the noon sun traces a path across the inside of the domed roof. During summer, with the sun higher in the sky, the shaft shines onto the lower walls and floor. At the two equinoxes, in March and September, the sunlight coming in through the hole strikes the junction between the roof and wall, above the Pantheon's grand northern doorway. A grille above the door allows a sliver of light through to the front courtyard - the only moment in the year that it sees sunlight if its main doors are closed... While the Pantheon's dome is quite flat on the outside, it forms a perfect hemisphere inside. "This is quite a deliberate design feature," says Hannah.
(Excerpt) Read more at newscientist.com ...
The original Pantheon stood on the same site and burned down in the great fire of Rome during Nero's reign. It was rebuilt by, hmm, one of the Flavians (I think) who also gave us the Colosseum. The exterior appears flatter because of the Romans' method of self-centering. Brunelleschi studied the Pantheon (among other Roman structures) in his pursuit of the design for the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence Italy.
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Not to hijack the thread, but I love how AD and BC have made a comeback. (Over the CE and BCE that were being forced upon us like the metric system) On a recent trip to the Smithsonian, I noticed some new exhibits are also back to AD and BC when giving dates.
It’s not a sundial - it’s a Catholic church! (smile.....)
I teach history at a private school in Australia. ‘Official’ guidance for us now is that we should use AD and BC in discussing western history, but that BCE and CE is still appropriate when discussing other places - particularly Asia.
I’ve noticed the same thing happening on the “educational” channels too. (History, A&E, etc.). I smile (BIG SMILE) everytime I see it.
I am really glad to hear that. I have refused to use those stupid new designations for the years. I refuse to even write them when discussing them.
And that is appropriate for what reason?
This is the quote I meant to respond to. Why is that appropriate?
It’s still silly to use that nomenclature if the demarcation between BCE and CE exactly mirrors BC and AD and is, after all, divided by the pivotal birth of Christ.
They were getting into that when I was at UT. Some of them even threatened to flunk you on papers if you used BC/AD.
I don’t know. I didn’t do it.
Seriously - I think the idea behind it is that the Judaeo-Christian tradition has had such major significance on the western world that dividing dates into the pre-Christian and post-Christian eras makes a great deal of sense.
This is not as true for other areas around the world - but when we look at their histories, we often still find a useful ‘dividing date’ somewhere approximately around AD1 - for example, with China, the Han Dynasty encompasses around -200 to +200 (yet another dating system!), with Japan, the Yayoi period frames -300 to +250, in India, the Middle Kingdoms arise about that time... there’s a decent case to argue that the world in general changed at that time, and so as a convenient dividing date, the Gregorian calendar is still useful - but using BC/AD would put risk ignoring the reasons the changes occurred.
Personally I do use BC/AD in my classes and differentiate where necessary by using references like, “During the Qin period,” but I’m also aware of the discussion that goes on around these issues, and it makes me wonder if the mover back to BC/AD in some US contexts might come from this ‘compromise’ rather than a return to the older principles.
I agree, but there is some thinking behind it - ping to 13 to see some of it. Like I say, I agree with you, but this isn’t just coming out of nowhere.
The original building was built by Agrippa in the period 27-25 B.C.—the inscription on the exterior still has his name: M. AGRIPPA COS. TER FECIT (Marcus Agrippa, consul for the third time, made [this]). But the dome dates from the reign of the Emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-138).
The inscription was reproduced on the current building, the original had been destroyed in the fire.
well you know ... if those clever Roman chaps had just had cell fones to tell them the correct time, they wouldn’t have had to go to all that trouble designing a building where the sun falls certain places at certain times ...
Yes, that is why the terms BC and AD have been used for a very long time. As a historian, perhaps you would know something about the history of calendars and numbering years. When were the terms first used?
This is not as true for other areas around the world - but when we look at their histories, we often still find a useful dividing date somewhere approximately around AD1 - for example, with China, the Han Dynasty encompasses around -200 to +200 (yet another dating system!), with Japan, the Yayoi period frames -300 to +250, in India, the Middle Kingdoms arise about that time... theres a decent case to argue that the world in general changed at that time, and so as a convenient dividing date, the Gregorian calendar is still useful - but using BC/AD would put risk ignoring the reasons the changes occurred.
It seems to me that case is extremely flimsy. When you discuss Chinese history, do you also start lecturing in Chinese? Or when discussing Japanese history, do you speak in Japanese? If you continue to lecture in English, does that not give the wrong impression that the Chinese and Japanese speak English as their native tongue?
Personally I do use BC/AD in my classes and differentiate where necessary by using references like, During the Qin period, but Im also aware of the discussion that goes on around these issues, and it makes me wonder if the mover back to BC/AD in some US contexts might come from this compromise rather than a return to the older principles.
I still don't see a sound principle for the change to BCE and CE in the first place. I think what we see is common sense reasserting itself after some academics in a snit of multicultural fundamentalism decided that would change the traditional designations.
In a small antiquities shop in a side alley in Naples, I recently purchased a Gold Roman Solidus dated 125 BC. The emperor stamped on the head side looked a lot like Obama.
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