Olden beauty: ancient Rome and the Pantheon

For romance, there’s Paris; for all-night partying and cavorting there’s Berlin; and for the ultimate bright light, big city vibe, New York is probably up there with the best of them.

Likewise, those with a penchant for all things old could do a lot worse than head to Rome, which is the capital city and ancient jewel in Italy’s crown.

From the Coliseum and Roman Forum, to the Sistine Chapel and countless other sites of historical Interest, Rome transports visitors back to another time and place. What’s more, the pristine condition of many of the ancient edifices means that little imagination is required as to what it would have felt like to have lived in the heart of one of the greatest empires ever.

This is perhaps best exemplified in the fantastic Pantheon, which is an ancient, domed temple dating back to the second century AD and is the most complete, in-tact ancient building in the whole of Rome. Moreover, it’s perhaps one of the best preserved buildings of its age in the world and at almost 2000 years old, what is most remarkable is that it’s still used as a church to hold masses on important Catholic days of obligation and weddings.

Indeed, it is certainly one of the city’s most alluring attractions and until the twentieth century, the Pantheon was among the largest concrete structures on Earth. Michelangelo even studied the dome structure before commencing work on the dome at St. Peter’s Basilica, which is also to be found in Rome.

The original Pantheon actually dates all the way back to the first century BC, commissioned by the magistrate Marcus Agrippa, in celebration of the victory of Actium over Antony and Cleopatra. It burnt down over a century later and Hadrian had the temple reconstructed in 125 AD.

The Pantheon has survived countless rulers, battles and natural disasters and it has influenced the design of many other buildings around the world, such as the British Museum’s Reading Room (London), Thomas Jefferson’s Rotunda at the University of Virginia, and libraries from as far afield as Columbia University to Melbourne.

Rome’s historic centre was designated a World Heritage Site in 1980, with the Pantheon singled out as being largely responsible for it achieving such special status. Today, the Pantheon and the city’s other mesmerising ancient edifices bring tourists in their millions throughout the year. Of course, this means that hotels in Rome are always in great demand, so it’s always wise to book as far ahead as possible to get a prime spot in the heart of this timeless city.

The Pantheon is a work of art and testament to the fine craftsmanship of the ancient Roman Empire. After two centuries standing, it’s probably safe to say that they don’t build them like they used to.

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