The Pantheon is one of the main and most famous ancient monuments in the world. Every year, millions of people queue up, getting longer and longer, to be able to enter quickly to see the circular temple.
In the pediment it still bears the attribution of it to its builder Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, a friend of the emperor Octavian Augustus: it has been studied for centuries, but still no one has been able to understand what it was for and why it had this strange circular shape. Nor has the meaning of the dome with its hole in the center been understood.
In this article we will try to give an explanation.
To do this, we will take off our modern glasses and try to see the world as the ancients did.
We first see a Star symbol inside the temple.
Contemporary sources such as Dio Cassius and Ammianus Marcellinus spoke of resemblance to the sky.
We assume, therefore, that it may have served purposes related in some way to the Stars.
On the other hand, as known, the emperor Octavian was officially declared ascended to the Stars with a resolution of the Senate of 17 September of the year 767 Ab Urbe Còndita (14 after Christ).
Here the photo of an Augustan coin that portrays the constellation of Capricorn, as a symbol of Saturn\’s aurea aetas, scholars say. In our opinion it represented instead the door of the gods for the stellar ascent, located in the sign of Capricorn and first narrated by Omèro in the Odyssey, and then by Porfirio in the Cave of the Nymphs.
Was the emperor\’s accession, therefore, only political propaganda? We\’ll find out shortly. Let\’s Start by asking ourselves, what was the World for the ancients?
Here we see the ancient vision of the Sumerians. The world consists of a sphere, composed of the dome of the Sky (Sn), the Earth (Ki), and the terrestrial Ocean (Abzu) in the center along the sphere\’s equator. Under the Underworld (Kur). The sphere was in turn surrounded by the primordial sea (Nammu).
The firmament that surrounded the sphere was adorned along its entire circumference by constellations, as visible in the Roman era globe kept in Mainz in Germany).
Even the famous statue of Atlas holding up the world sphere shows that the constellations are visible on its circumference.
Similarly, in the painting by Annibale Carracci, Atlas supports the world with the constellations portrayed above it, in the firmament.
We note, therefore, a fundamental difference: the earth did not follow the circumference of the sphere becoming spherical in turn, but was stationary flat on the equator of the sphere. the painting The Garden of Terrestrial Delights by Bosch helps to better understand the concept.
The sky, consisting of a hemispherical dome above and below was divided into 12 constellations that revolved around the earth together with the seven Stars, or Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Venus, Sun and Moon as visible in this lunar astrological calendar Roman or in this Roman mosaic of the zodiac.
We were saying that in the Sumerian conception the sphere was in turn surrounded by the primordial sea called Nammu. We see the waters of the ocean above the firmament and the clouds in the depiction ASketch of Cosmas A model of the universe .
The earth was flat at the equator of the world, we said, as visible in this Arab map of the Earth created by the geographer Idrisi in the eleventh century.
It was divided into various southern climatic divisions, as visible in the Ymago mundi et tractatus alii and in the Sacrobosco\’s map.
To better understand the difference between the world and the earth and the division between the areas of the sky, it will be useful to refer to the vast medieval Christian iconography before the so-called Copernican revolution, which for the most part created those glasses that prevent us from understanding the ancient world.
In the church of the Dormition of the Theotokos in Askilipio, Rhodes, Greece we find wall frescoes from the ninth century which can lead us well.
The first concerns the creation of the world with the seven heavens by Christ, the second deals with the creation of the Earth, where the creation of the Earth is distinct from that of the world.
Finally, the creation of the sun and the moon and then of the animals, after the creation of the world and the Earth.
In the mosaic on creation in the cathedral of Monreale in Palermo, a twelfth-century church, you can see the Stars, the Sun and the Moon inside the sphere of the world.
other creation of the world in mosaic, from the thirteenth century in Venice, Basilica of San Marco, you can see the sphere of the world with Stars, sun and moon inside.
Even more useful is the painting by Giovanni di Paolo, Creation of the World and Expulsion from Paradise, where you can see, around the earth placed in the center, the seven heavens following the sphere of fire and, lastly, the eighth Starry sphere (with the symbols of the constellations) closed by the firmament with the darkest circle.
Another theme of the great conceptual difference between the geographical conception of the ancient world and the modern one is that of the axis mundi, axis of the world, or the axis around which the firmament revolved. This axis has been called Yggdrasil by the populations of Northern Europe and Scandinavia, in particular. Here we see Yggdrasill in a copy of a rune in Sweden
In another artistic reproduction of the Yggdrasill world tree, the roots are noted, both in Heaven and on Earth. The stellar root system is called the Behenian Stars, or the root Stars of the tree of life, from the Arabic bahman, root, since each of them was considered a source of astrological energy for one or more planets.
The race of the Stars around the axis of the world, i.e. around the pole Star , here in a photo by Ken Christison , was compared in the Roman world to horse racing. Here we see in the circus mosaic of Villa Silin in Libya, in the center the monument of the Sun, on the sides the monuments for the other 6 Stars.
Below is an artist\’s rendering of the ancient view of the movement of the Sun and Moon around the axis mundi. And yet another representation of the ancient vision of the movement of the celestial dome around the Pole Star, placed in the center.
We still deal with the axis mundi and the fates that Plato dealt with in the tenth book of the Republic regarding the myth of Er.
In the drawing we see Ananke holding the board and the fates which move spheres (or spindle whorls as Plato redefined them) around the column of light .
Below Ananke, the fates, Lachesis, Clotho and Atropos around the column. One spins the spindle whorl of the present Clotho, Atropos of the future and Lachesis of the past.
In a bas-relief we can see the fate Lachesis who, on a globe supported by a column, holds a sheet (destiny) in her hand, while Clotho spins and Atropos cuts the thread.
We see once again the fates portrayed in a mosaic.
Said of the axis mundi and the fates, let\’s talk about the eight heavens and about the here hypothesized similarity with the Pantheon.
Here we see a vase reproducing the seven planetary skies (white spaces), with a cross-shaped earth in the center. The vase dates back to the ninth century BC.
Below is a similar medieval reproduction of the skies of the world. After the atmosphere and area of focus, the seven planetary heavens are followed by the eighth stellar sphere.
To have a vision of the conception of the world seen from the side, the reproduction of Fazio degli Uberti, in the Dittamondo, is useful : above the earth, we see water, air, fire, the eight spheres and the empyrean. The lateral vision therefore presents an inverted pyramid or dome.
A similar representation of the eight heavens and the eight Platonic spindle whorls was offered by a mathematician who tried to represent the harmonic and mathematical relationships between the Stars, exposed by Plato in the myth of Er and in the Timaeus. This scholar, Newsome, mathematically reinterprets Plato\’s Stars and also indicates the 3 fates that turn their respective whorls or the spheres of the Stars
As visible after the whorl of the moon, in which the axis mundi was fixed around which the sky revolved, was that of the sun: this abstract disposition was the ancient one, typical of the Egyptians and Plato. Subsequently, in a later period the Chaldean conception prevailed, which instead placed the sun in a central position with respect to the Stars.
If the figure of Newsome is turned upside down, with amazement, we can see that this figure is perfectly and incredibly specular to the upper dome of the Pantheon.
Obviously, for obvious static reasons, the builders chose to turn the whorls upside down, since an upside-down dome or pyramid would hardly have resisted time and earthquakes.
Below is an artistic representation of the spindle whorls inserted in the column of light (axis mundi) of the myth of Platonic Er.
In this photo you can appreciate the eight spindle whorls seen from outside the Pantheon and the axis mundi at the top. The last whorl, or the first band before the steps, is that of the eighth sphere or of the fixed Stars, the first whorl, after that of Saturn, then Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Venus The whorl around the oculus (axis mundi) is that of the Moon.
Now let\’s see how the spindle whorls are rendered architecturally inside.
The eighth spindle whorl, fixed Stars, was on the ground floor and was limited below by the floor and above by the ledge of the shutter. Saturn\’s second spindle whorl was at tax. With Jupiter\’s spindle began the bands of 28 chests of drawers per band (28 are the lunar houses), followed by Mars, Mercury, Venus, the Sun and the Moon, the latter, for obvious reasons, without lunar houses, inside which, as said, stood the axis of the world.
In the view from the top of the dome of the Pantheon it is noticeable the eighth whorl (Stars) on the circumference and the first whorl around the oculus (axis mundi) that of the Moon.
We now deal with the religion of the world and the Pantheon.
Plato\’s cosmic religion (from the Greek cosmos ornament or Mundus in Latin) we assume was reproduced in the Pantheon.
What determines this intuition? The fact that, as mentioned, the Pantheon was, due to the aforementioned news of Ammianus Marcellinus and Dio Cassius, depicting the sky, the aforementioned architectural reproduction of the Platonic conception of celestial spindle whorls and, finally, information that we report from an eighteenth-century author, Vasi : This marvelous temple, according to common sentiment, […] was called Pantheon because it was dedicated to all the Gods imagined by the Gentiles. In the upper part […] were placed the statues of the celestial Gods, and in the lower part the terrestrial ones, standing in the middle that of Cybele; and in the lower part, which is now covered by the floor, the statues of the Penates were distributed.
So there were statues under the floor to represent Chtonia.
In the photo, the niches for the planetary gods of Urania in the impost and the ground floor with the niches for the earthly gods of Gaia.
On the impost were instead placed statues of the seven planetary deities of Urania. Gaia (the Earth) was instead represented by the statues of the terrestrial Gods on the ground floor of the Pantheon, with Cybele in the middle.
Here we see the floor of the Pantheon. For each geometric figure, the seven circular bands of the seven chthonic planes are inscribed, portrayed here in a seventeenth – century Indian painting depicting the seven levels of Jain hell.
In correspondence, above the floor, was the internal dome divided into seven circular bands.
After Urania, Gaia and Chtonia, what was missing to complete the celebration of Plato\’s world? The ocean. Where is it? Behind the Pantheon, and was the temple of Neptune also made by Agrippa.
We see here a reconstruction of the Basilica of Neptune (Ocean), behind the pantheon. In the image on the left you can see the Stagnum (which represented the fresh water of lakes and rivers ) and on the right the portico of the Argonauts .
In the photo we see friezes of the Basilica of the god Neptune /Ocean .
In the image we see a summary of the urban plan of Agrippa dedicated to the cult of the world: pantheon, Basilica of Neptune, Argonauts Portico and Stagnum. The Pantheon included the uranic , terrestrial and chthonic deities. The basilica of Neptune the oceanic ones.
Below is a reconstruction of the Basilica of the god Neptune with statues: behind you can see the Pantheon. One can note the correspondence of the statues on the ground floor of the temple of Neptune with those of the Pantheon.
Let\’s talk about the atmosphere.
In the image the layers of the earth\’s atmosphere according to modern science. How did the ancients know about the existence of the mesosphere and thermosphere?
In the following photo, the thin atmospheric band photographed from a height of 35 km by a weather balloon (credits:www.institut-montalembert.fr ethique et politique).
Let\’s briefly mention Nero\’s coenatio rotunda in which the Stars revolved continuously around him, as Suetonius wrote.
The similarity with the temporally previous Pantheon similar to the sky is evident, testifying to the Augustan and non-Hadrian origin of the conception of the structure.
In the photo remains of the alleged coenatio rotunda of Nero .
Below is a coin that should portray the coenatio on which it is written: mac (machina) aug (augusta). Some argue that the floor rotated , but in the view of the time the earth was stationary.
Now let\’s deal with the fundamental point of our research: was the music for the ascent to the Stars studied by the Pythagoreans also used in the Pantheon?
In the Pythagorean doctrine, the rites for the astral ascent of the soul were performed with vocalizations, tones and semitones corresponding to Stars and muses.
The Gnostic Marco thus reproduced in this scheme the correspondence of vowels, Stars, intonations, musical notes and muses.
About the ascent through music: see the pipes of the Pan syringe representing the Stars
In another photo a statue of Syringe (with astral pipes) and Pan .
We then see the hypogeum of Santa Maria in Stelle, near Verona. No one has yet figured out that those strange tubes, they are actually the cosmic pipes of Pan\’s syrinx as a representation of the musical harmony of the spheres.
Another image shows Pythagoras studying harmony and ratio with various musical instruments .
From Zeugma (in Turkey) comes this beautiful mosaic of the Muses.
Here we have a Pythagorean askos in the shape of a mermaid. The seven-barrel syringe represents the harmony of the seven Stars, the pomegranate the cycle of life and death. The handle depicts the soul of the deceased managed by the Siren of the myth of ER holding the syringe.
In the following image we see the Tetraktys , siren harmony , which depicts the Pythagorean musical universe: the octave (1 in relation to 2), the fifth (2 in relation to 3) and the fourth (3 in relation to 4).
In the Pythagorean tuning fork system and Plato\’s Timaeus , the moon\’s tuning fork resonates double to the sun, triple to Venus, and quadruple to Mercury, etc.
From the Museum of Capua we see a mosaic with a sacred choir from the third century after Christ, while from the Villa of the Cicerone in Pompeii the mosaic of a musician with a tympanum.
In the Great Magic Papyrus of Paris also called apathanatismos (recipe of immortality) and in other similar papyri there are intonations with vowels, made during the logoi (words of passage) corresponding to each Star, during the rite which aimed to clean, polish, soul for the ascent to the Stars, or for immortality.
Here a photo of the Magic Papyrus of Paris and next to it a photo of the honeycomb structure (gold?) of the Sun taken by the Ynouie observatory in the Hawaiian Islands.
Considering that, in the rite, the logos of the Sun come immediately after that of the Moon, there are, in our opinion, no doubts about the attribution of the papyrus to the Hellenistic-Alexandrian era and not to the Mithraic culture, much later.
It follows that the Magic Papyrus for Immortality could probably have been used by the emperor in the rites for his immortality through ascent to the Stars.
We now deal with the shape of the sky and its similarities to the Pantheon.
In this Egyptian stele we see the Goddess Nut, with a blue body arched into a cylinder, which symbolizes the firmament. Any coincidence with the original cylindrical structure of the Pantheon? Or are there Egyptian references, not only in the hermetic rites, but also in the structure?
This papyrus depicts another image of the goddess Nut arching over the Earth, the reclining God Geb (Gaia). Halfway through stands the God Shu who represents the air.
Here we see a biblical representation of the firmament (raqia in Hebrew) also arched like a cylinder.
It follows that the strange shape of the temple of the Pantheon, equal to the cylinder of the sky mentioned by Hermes Trismegistus, would have been influenced by Egyptian cosmological conceptions.
In addition to the reference to Egyptian cosmology, one of the reasons for the cylindrical shape was, in our opinion, the ritual use of the structure to be used for circumambulatory lustrations (or round purification rites).
We think that the circumambulatory lustral rites, which we believe were held internally for the purification of the emperor\’s soul, were performed in the same direction as the stellar motion, i.e. clockwise (verse)
Suppose, then, that in the funeral mausoleum of Augustus circumambulatory rites were held in the opposite direction to the stellar motion, i.e. in an anti-clockwise direction (antistrophe).
In the photo the tabulae iguvinae: they are seven bronze tablets found in the ancient ikuvium (Gubbio). In them the lustratio ceremonies are described.
Here we admire an imperial procession portrayed in the ara pacis in Rome.
An anti-clockwise circumambulation is the one that takes place today around the kaba, in Mecca, in Saudi Arabia : that is, the rite of ṭawaf.
In the photo today\’s circumambulatory dances celebrated in Sweden around the midsommarstong, clockwise circumambulation around the pole, here added with modern symbols.
With regard to the concepts of strophe and antistrophe, let us now deal with the dances of the planets and the lustral labyrinths.
Below is a Ptolemaic representation of the Pythagorean discovery of retrograde motion. It would have been caused by the combination of two circular orbits (epicycle and deferent).
In the image the retrograde motions of Mars (in red), Mercury (in purple) and Venus (in green) seen from the Earth (travel time seven years). It should be noted that a retrograde motion corresponds to each node.
We believe that in the labyrinth (in the photo Theseus and Minotaur in Paphos, Cyprus), by imitating the motion of the planets, lustral ceremonies were practiced in strophe (forward) and antistrophe (backward). Here is the labyrinth of Chartres cathedral: note the internal rose.
In the picture the dance of the planets Mercury and Venus over the years. The Mercury dance takes the form of an annulus. The planet Venus takes the form of a cosmic rose (penthalpha) with its retrograde motions in 8 years.
In the photo, the backward dance of the planet Mars and the retrograde motion of the same planet described by Kepler.
The stellar ascent’ conceptions were also Egyptian.
In the photo the Liber de quindecim stellis of Hermes Abhaidimon, a source used for the combination of Stars, plants and stones for the rites of ascent to the Stars.
In the following photo, the Great Magic Papyrus of Paris, also called a manual for immortality, which we believe was used by Octavian due to its Egyptian Alexandrian origins shortly before the Augustan age.
In the images we see a combination of Stars, plants, and stones of the Liber de quindecim stellis.
Here is an Egyptian papyrus from the third century after Christ: the vocalizations at the end sound like this : ae e io oo uoi e ea – e e io oo uoi e e – e iou oo uoi e – iou oo uoi- ou oo uou oo u uuuuu- oo . Note the presence of the Star and the Moon on the sides of the papyrus.
In the photo an Egyptian green jasper amulet: on the forehead, Osiris with two falcons in a boat. On the back , engraving of aeêiouô vocals. Jasper is a stone consecrated to Mars and Jupiter.
In the photo, another Egyptian green jasper amulet. On the forehead: a magical figure with four wings and a tail. On the back, another vocalization: iaô eulamô ieuêêu a ee êêê iiii ooooo uuuuuu ôôôôôôô .
In the photo, a plantain (plantago lanceolata): it is a plant species associated with jasper and the planets Mars and Jupiter.
With reference to the same ritual technique for the ascent to the Stars we see in the photo mithraic symbols for the ascent to the Stars represented in the Mithraeum of Felicissimus in ancient Ostia dating back to the second half of the third century after Christ . In the first segment those of the Moon, in the second those of the Sun, in the third those of Venus, in the fourth those of Mercury.
Other mithraic symbols for the ascent to the Stars in the Mithraeum of Felicissimus are those of Mars in the first segment, those of Jupiter in the second, those of Saturn in the third.
Ritual ascent techniques were, therefore, knowledge codified in detail in ritual procedures expressed in words, sounds, symbols and signs.
Everything was based on the Pythagorean and then Platonic thesis of the consubstantiality between soul and Stars, made up of the same substance, the ether, rotating in the same clockwise direction as the Stars.
In the pictures, we see scenes of souls in the Elysian fields. Below are portraits affixed to mummies from the Roman era.
And finally, the image of a sarcophagus with a young man portrayed above the Moon and among the Stars.
If one wanted to achieve the peculiar quality of the Stars, i.e. perennial immortality, it was necessary to follow the same motion by circumambulating in the same direction, in harmony between body and soul, because the incorporeals are reflected in the bodies and the bodies in the incorporeals, that is to say the sensible world in the intelligible world and the intelligible in the sensible, as Hermes Trismegistus taught.
An emperor who had wanted to consecrate, with his ascensio ad astra, the beginning of the empire founded on a new pact between Rome and the Gods, could not have failed to respect these techniques in detail, to avoid harmful impiety.
So let\’s imagine, for a moment, Octavian during the celebration of the rite of immortality. Here he is, dressed in white, following the circumambulatory procession, led by the Vestals, inside the Pantheon. We hear him shouting imperiously to the Stars: Silence! Silence! I am a Star that proceeds with you and that shines from the abyss, as written in the Magic Papyrus of Paris.
At the end we see him holding in his hand the Orphic gold plate on which it is written: I am a child of the earth and of the Starry sky, I am of celestial race, know it.
(themes drawn from Aurelio Bruno, \”Il Pantheon del Cielo, 2022, ISBN: 9798844154249)