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Han Liao

Test Essay Roman Art


Built from the ruins of the Acropolis, Iktinos and Kallikrates created the Parthenon, temple of Athena, in 447-438 BCE. Later in 118-125 BCE, Hadrian began to construct the Pantheon, the temple of all gods. Both these temples use many similarly techniques to achieve their greatness but both differ severely in the product. The shape of the Parthenon was a rectangular building similar to the Greek Doric temples with a size of 228 by 101 ft. and a height of 45 ft. The end result of the size and shape were due to the architects pursuit of the ideal subject, a trait that characterized much of Greek art. To provide the perfect proportions of the Doric temple, the architects relied on mathematical ratios to provide the canon of each structure making the Parthenon. (For example, x=2y+1 was used for the symmetria.) Thus, this and the Greek post and lintel system were the foundation of the Parthenon. Most notably, though, the Greek then deviated from the structure to account for the humans optical error. They had to carve every block to different specification. Perhaps, a justification for the lengths the Greek attained to for correcting the optical illusion was Greeks worshipped the temple from the outside as oppose the Roman temples which were shelters. In contrast, the Pantheon was a spherical building similar to the Vault of the tholos of the Treasury of Atreus with a diameter of 142 feet and a height of 142 feet. Similarly to the Greeks, the Pantheons design was simple but the execution required mathematical ratios. For example, the Parthenon used a limestone foundation and marble while the Roman Pantheon made use of marble and a new material, concrete. The mixing ratios were modified continuously so that the foundation was hard basalt and as the temple height rose the density and weight lessen into light pumice. All of this was to counterbalance the weight of the spherical dome similar to how the Greeks successfully counterbalanced the optical illusion of the eye. The 30 feet oculus was the sole opening in the temple aside from the entrance which let in light and also rain. The Roman

Han Liao planned for this and created an elevation that forced the rainwater to flow down and out of the temple. Again, the Roman temples were more of shelters then worship subjects like the Parthenon. Decoratively, the Parthenon used Doric and Ionic elements. Interiorly, there was an ionic frieze around the top of the cella wall, though the temples exterior frieze was Doric. The Romans, on the other hand, made use of its faade of 8 Corinthian columns. Its exterior reassembles the typical Etruscan temple more than the Parthenon since it has its columns in the front. Interiorly, the Pantheon has coffers which the Parthenon, though the coffers had a more practical function of lessening the weight than a decorative one. They gave to the dome a heavenly feel. Overall, the decorative elements depended more on the practical functions than the decorative for Romans whereas the Greeks had more leeway because of their post and lintel system. Exteriorly, architects of both monuments overcame the handling of space in respect to the shape of the temple. The Romans designed the Pantheon to be based on the intersection of two circles allowing the interior space to appear as the earth and the interior dome as the heavens. The use of an oculus adds to the sense of space. Being in the center of the dome, the oculuss light forms a beam that moves across the dome like a recreation of the sun rising from the east and falling in the west. The viewer is able to feel more heavenly and calm attachment to the place. The Greeks exteriorly accounted to the optical illusion giving the Parthenon a feel of admiration and bigness. Interiorly, the temple architects had well-spaced columns to account for the amount of columns to keep with the sense of balance. Despite their obvious physical differences, the Parthenon and Pantheon were both monuments resulting from the ingenuity of the architects towards space, engineering, and math.

Han Liao