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MODERN DESCRIPTION OF THE PANTHEON.
THIS temple, the most celebrated of those which have escaped the more essential injuries of time, impresses us with a very striking idea of the magnifi cence of the ancients. From its circular form it has acquired the name of the rotunda. The entrance to it is under a grand portico, supported by sixteen immense columns of the Corinthian order, each of them composed of a single piece of red oriental granite. Of these, eight of them are in front, and sustain an entablature and frontispiece of the most beautiful proportion which architecture can boast. The cir cumference of each of these columns is fourteen feet; and the height, independent of the base and capital, which are of white marble, two and forty. The inside of the temple is supplied with light through one circular aperture, the diameter of which is six and twenty feet, and to which there is an ascent by a staircase consisting of an hundred and ninety steps The gallery over the principal altar of a semicircu lar form, is obtained from the thickness of the wall, and supported by pillars of yellow marble. On every side are chapels adorned also with columns of yellow marble, and with pilasters crowned with an entablature of white marble, which extends round the building. The walls and the pavement are cased with marble. The whole presents us with an assemblage of rare beauty; and we cannot but regret the
loss of its statues and some of its other original ornaments; which would still improve the magnificence of its effect.
The bronze ornaments of the dome were removed in the pontificate of Urban VIII. for the purpose of forming the canopy of the great altar in St. Peter's. We know that the bronze gates ornamented with bass-relief, were taken away by Genseric, king of the Vandals, and were lost in the sea of Sicily.
THE APPROACH TO THE PANTHEON. THE ORIGIN OF IDOLATRY.
THE Fabulous Pantheon, is, as its name imports, the Temple of all the Gods, which the superstitious folly of men have feigned through a gross ignorance of the true and only God.
It may be right to give some account of the Pantheon, of which you have a view in the plate that faces the title page. It is uncertain by whom this beautiful edifice was erected: some suppose it to have been built by Agrippa, the son-in-law of Augustus; but others contend that he only enlarged and adorned it, and added to it a magnificent portico. Its body is cylindrical, and its roof or dome spherical; its inner diameter was one hundred and forty-four feet, and the height from the pavement to the grand aperture, on its top, was also one hundred and forty-four feet, Its exterior was built after the Corinthian order of architecture. The inner circumference is divided into seven grand niches, six of which are flat at the top, but the seventh, which is opposite to the entrance, is arched. Before each niche are two columns of antique yellow marble, fluted, and of one entire block, The whole wall of the temple, as high as the grand cornice inclusive, is cased with different kinds of precious marble, in compartments. The frieze is
entirely of porphyry. Above the grand cornice rises an attic, in which are wrought, at equal distances, fourteen oblong square niches, between each of which were four marble pilasters, and between the pillars, marble tables of various kinds. This attic had a complete entablature; but the cornice projected less than that of the grand order below. The spherical roof springs from the cornice, which is divided by bands that cross each other like the meridians and parallels of an artificial terrestrial globe. The spaces between the bands decrease in size as they approach the top of the roof, to which they do not reach, there being a considerable space left plain, between them and the great opening.
The walls below were formerly decorated with works of carved brass or silver, and the roof was covered on the outside with plates of gilded bronze. The portico is composed of sixteen columns of granite, four feet in diameter, eight of which stand in front, with an equal intercolumniation. To these columns is a pediment, whose tympanum, or flat, was ornamented with bass-reliefs in brass: the cross beams, which formed the ceiling of the portico, were covered with the same metal, and so were the doors. Such was the Pantheon, the richness and magnificence of which induced Pliny, and others, to rank it among the wonders of the world. This temple subsisted in all its grandeur, till the incursion of Alaric, who plundered it of its precious metals. The building continues to this day; but it was, in the beginning of the seventh century, converted, by Boniface IV. into a Christian church, and dedicated to the "Virgin Mary, and all the saints."
The causes which have chiefly conduced to the establishment and continuance of idolatry are thus enumerated:
1. The first cause of idolatry was the extreme folly, and vain glory of men, who have denied to Him.
who is the inexhausted fountain of all good, the honours which they have attributed to muddy streams. "Digging," as the prophet Jeremiah complains, "to themselves broken and dirty cisterns, and neglecting and forsaking the most pure fountain of living waters." It ordinarily happened after this manner: if any one excelled in stature of body, if he were endued with greatness of mind, or noted for clearness of wit, he first gained to himself the admiration of the ignorant vulgar; this admiration was by degrees turned into a profound respect, till at length they paid him greater honour than men ought to receive, and ranked the man among the number of gods; while the more prudent were either carried away by the torrent of the vulgar opinion, or were unable or afraid to resist it.
2. The sordid flattery of subjects toward their princes, was a second cause of Idolatry. To gratify their vanity, to flatter their pride, and to soothe them in their self-conceit, they erected altars, and set the images of their princes on them; to which they offered incense, in like manner as to the gods; and not unfrequently, while they were living.
3. A third cause of Idolatry, was an immoderate love of immortality in many; who studied to attain it, by leaving effigies of themselves behind them; imagining that their names would still be preserved from the power of death and time, so long as they lived in brass, or in statues of marble, after their funerals.
4. A desire of perpetuating the memories of excellent and useful men to future ages, was the fourth cause of Idolatry. For to make the memory of such men eternal, and their names immortal, they made them gods, or rather called them so.
The contriver and assertor of false gods was Ninus, the first king of the Assyrians, who, to render the name of his father Belus, or Nimrod immortal,