Showing posts with label Pantheon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pantheon. Show all posts

10 July 2017

The death of Hadrian

Legacy of emperor famous for wall across Britain


A bust of Hadrian from the Farnese Collection in Naples
A bust of Hadrian from the Farnese
Collection in Naples
The Roman emperor Hadrian, famous for ordering the construction of a wall to keep barbarians from entering Roman Britain, died on this day in 138 AD.

Aged about 62, he is thought to have been suffering from heart failure and passed away at his villa at Baiae – now Baia – on the northern shore of the Bay of Naples.

Hadrian was regarded as the third of the five so-called "Good Emperors", a term coined by the political philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli, who noted that while most emperors to succeed to the throne by birth were “bad” in his view, there was a run of five - Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius – who all succeeded by adoption, who enjoyed the reputation as benevolent dictators. They governed by earning the good will of their subjects.

It is accepted that Hadrian came from a family with its roots in Hispania. His birthplace is thought to have been the city of Italica Hispania – on the site of what is now Seville.

His predecessor, Trajan, a maternal cousin of Hadrian's father, did not designate an heir officially and it is thought that his wife, Plotina, signed the papers of succession, claiming that Trajan had named Hadrian emperor immediately before his death.

Hadrian’s rule was just and largely peaceful. Immediately on his succession he withdrew from Trajan's conquests in Mesopotamia, Assyria and Armenia. Paradoxically, he spent a lot of time with his soldiers, usually dressed in military attire and ordered rigorous military training.

Although much of Hadrian's Wall has been dismantled over the years, some sections remain
Although much of Hadrian's Wall has been dismantled
over the years, some sections remain.
During his reign, Hadrian travelled to almost every corner of the empire but was a particular admirer of Greece. He wanted Athens to be the cultural capital of the empire and constructed many opulent temples in the city.

In 138, shortly before his death, Hadrian adopted Antoninus Pius and named him as his heir on the condition that he in turn adopt Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus as his own heirs.

Hadrian’s building projects are perhaps his most enduring legacy. He established cities throughout the Balkan Peninsula, Egypt, Asia Minor, and Greece.  The city of Antinopolis in Egypt was founded in memory of Hadrian’s gay lover, a young Greek man called Antinous, who drowned in the River Nile.

In Rome he rebuilt the Pantheon, which had been destroyed in a fire, and Trajan’s Forum as well as funding the construction of other buildings, baths, and villas. He commissioned the construction of Hadrian’s Wall in 122 AD following a major rebellion against Roman occupation that lasted two years.

The ruins of the imperial complex at Baia, where Hadrian was probably living at the time of his death
The ruins of the imperial complex at Baia, where Hadrian
was probably living at the time of his death
The wall was originally three metres (10 feet) wide and 6m (20 ft) high, stretching 120km (73 miles) from east to west, from Wallsend in Newcastle to Bowness-on-Solway, just west of Carlisle. Linking 14 forts, it formed a barrier between the northern limits of Britannia and the barbarian lands of Scotland. The Roman legions stationed in Britain took six years to build it and it became the most famous Roman defensive fortification in the world.

Hadrian’s foreign policy was “peace through strength” and the wall, alongside which was a ditch 6m wide and 3m deep, symbolised the might of the Roman Empire.

After his death, Hadrian was buried first at Puteoli, near Baiae, on an estate that had once belonged to Cicero. Not long afterwards, his remains were transferred to Rome and buried in the Gardens of Domitia. On completion of the Tomb of Hadrian by his successor Antoninus Pius, his body was cremated, and his ashes were placed there together with those of his wife Vibia Sabina and his first adopted son, Lucius Aelius, who also died in 138.

A submerged Roman statue at Baia
A submerged Roman statue at Baia 
Travel tip:

For many years, Baiae – now Baia – was something of a party capital for the rich and powerful Roman elite. It was famous for its healing medicinal hot springs and the emperors Nero, Cicero, and Caesar had holiday villas there.  Sacked by the Saracens in the eighth century it fell into disrepair and the abandoned remains were gradually submerged as water rose through the volcanic vents that were the source of its springs. Today, those ancient remains can be visited in one of the world’s few underwater archeological parks. Visitors can view the crumbled structures and statuary of the city through glass-bottomed boats and scuba divers can actually swim among the ruins.

Castel Sant'Angelo - the Mausoleaum of Hadrian - viewed from the Ponte Sant'Angelo at night
Castel Sant'Angelo - the Mausoleaum of Hadrian - viewed
from the Ponte Sant'Angelo at night
Travel tip:

The Mausoleum of Hadrian is better known as Castel Sant'Angelo, the towering cylindrical building in Parco Adriano, on the banks of the Tiber. Commissioned by the Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family, the building was later used by the popes as a fortress and castle, and is now a museum. It was once the tallest building in Rome.  Hadrian also built the Pons Aelius – now Ponte Sant’Angelo – which provides a scenic approach to the mausoleum from the centre of Rome across the Tiber. Baroque statues of angels were later added, lining each side of the bridge.





17 June 2017

Giovanni Paolo Panini – artist

Painter who preserved scenes of Rome


Giovanni Paolo Panini, in a portrait by  Louis Gabriel Blanchet
Giovanni Paolo Panini, in a portrait by
Louis Gabriel Blanchet 
Giovanni Paolo Panini, an artist mainly known for his views of Rome, was born on this day in 1691 in Piacenza.

He is particularly remembered for his view of the interior of the Pantheon, commissioned by the Venetian collector, Francesco Algarotti, in around 1734.

The Pantheon was as much a tourist attraction in Panini’s day as it is today and Panini manipulated the proportions and perspective to include more of the interior that is actually visible from any one vantage point.

Indeed, many of his works, especially those of ruins, have slightly unreal embellishment. He sought to meet the needs of visitors for painted postcards depicting scenes of Italy and his clients were often happy with minor distortions of reality if it meant they could show off a unique picture. 

As a young man, Panini trained in his native town of Piacenza. He moved to Rome where he studied drawing. His work was to influence other painters, such as Canaletto, who resolved to do for Venice what Panini had done for Rome and, of course, enjoyed enormous fame and success.

Panini's view of the inside of the Pantheon  typified his use of manipulated perspective
Panini's view of the inside of the Pantheon
typified his use of manipulated perspective 
Much in demand, Panini also became famous as the decorator of Roman palaces. He was hailed for his frescoes at the Villa Patrizi, painted between 1719–1725. He was also noted for his work at the Palazzo de Carolis (1720), and the Seminario Romano (1721–1722).

He also painted some portraits, including one of Pope Benedict XIV.

Panini taught in Rome at the Accademia di San Luca and the Académie de France. From 1754, he served as the principal of the Accademia di San Luca.

His use of perspective was later the inspiration for the Panini projection, which was instrumental in displaying panoramic views.  He was professor of perspective at the Académie de France.

He died in Rome on 21 October 1765 at the age of 74.

Travel tip:

The Pantheon in Piazza della Rotonda in Rome is considered to be Rome’s best preserved ancient building. It was built in AD 118 on the site of a previous building dating back to 27 BC. It was consecrated as a church in the seventh century and many important people are buried there, including Victor Emmanuel II, his son, Umberto I, and his wife, Queen Margherita.

Canaletto's Grande Veduta of the Grand Canal is on display at Ca' Rezzonico
Canaletto's Grande Veduta of the Grand Canal is
on display at Ca' Rezzonico
Travel tip:

Many of Canaletto’s paintings of Venice are in museums and private collections around the world, particularly in England and the United States, A small number are on display in Ca’ Rezzonico in Venice, a palace on the Grand Canal, open to tourists.



9 January 2017

Victor Emmanuel II dies

Christian burial for the King excommunicated by the Pope


Victor Emmanuel II: a portrait from 1860
Victor Emmanuel II: a portrait from 1860 
Victor Emmanuel II, the first King of Italy, died on this day in 1878 in Rome.

He was buried in a tomb in the Pantheon in Rome and was succeeded by his son, who became Umberto I, King of Italy.

Victor Emmanuel II was allowed to be buried in the Pantheon by Pope Pius IX, even though he had previously excommunicated him from the Catholic Church.

Before becoming King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel, as King of Sardinia-Piedmont, had secretly encouraged Garibaldi in the conquest of Sicily and Naples. He had then led his Piedmontese army into papal territory to link up with Garibaldi, despite the threat of excommunication.

In his quest to become King of a fully united Italy, Victor Emmanuel achieved two notable military triumphs. He managed to acquire the Veneto after linking up with Bismark’s Prussia in a military campaign in 1866. Also, after the withdrawal of the French occupying troops, his soldiers were able to enter Rome through a breach in the walls at Porta Pia and take over the city.

A painting by Sebastiano de Albertis shows Garibaldi hailing Victor Emmanuel II as King of Italy at Teano, near Naples
A painting by Sebastiano de Albertis shows Garibaldi hailing
Victor Emmanuel II as King of Italy at Teano, near Naples 
This had antagonised Pius IX so much that he refused all overtures from the new King, when he attempted a reconciliation.

The first King of Italy had been born Vittorio Emanuele Maria Alberto Eugenio Ferdinando Tommaso in 1820 in Turin.

In 1842 Victor Emmanuel married his cousin, Adelaide of Austria, and was styled as the Duke of Savoy, before becoming King of Sardinia-Piedmont after his father, Charles Albert, abdicated the throne following a humiliating military defeat by the Austrians at the Battle of Novara.

After he was proclaimed King of a united Italy in 1861 by the country’s new Parliament, the monarch styled himself Victor Emmanuel II, perhaps implying that Italy had always been ruled by the House of Savoy. This immediately provoked criticism from some factions.

Pope Pius IX
Pope Pius IX
Victor Emmanuel II could trace his ancestry back to Victor Emmanuel I, who had been King of Sardinia from 1802 until his death in 1824.

Victor Emmanuel II had become King of Sardinia in 1849 after his father’s abdication. His father had succeeded a distant cousin to become King of Sardinia in 1831.

The Kingdom of Sardinia is considered to be the legal predecessor to the Kingdom of Italy.

As King of Sardinia, Victor Emmanuel II had appointed Count Camillo Benso of Cavour as Prime Minister of Sardinia-Piedmont, who had then masterminded a clever campaign to put him on the throne of a united Italy.

Victor Emmanuel II had become the symbol of the Risorgimento, the Italian unification movement in the 19th century.  He had supported Garibaldi’s Expedition of the Thousand in 1860, which resulted in the fall of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, giving him control over the southern part of the country.  But when he ascended the throne there were still two major territories left outside the new Kingdom, the Veneto and Rome.

The scene outside the Quirinale Palace at the start of Victor
Emmanuel II's funeral procession
He acquired the Veneto in 1866 and, in 1870, after the French had withdrawn from Rome, he set up the new Italian capital there and chose as his residence the Palazzo del Quirinale.

The Italian people called him Padre della Patria - Father of the Fatherland.

Travel tip:

Porta Pia is a gate in Rome’s ancient walls, named after Pope Pius lV, who commissioned Michelangelo to design it just before his death in Rome in 1564. You will find it at the end of Via XX Settembre, which goes off Piazza di San Bernardo, not far from the Quirinale Palace, which Victor Emmanuel II had chosen as his residence, and the Trevi fountain. A marble and brass monument, the Monumento al Bersagliere, commemorating the liberation of Rome, was put up near the place where the Italian troops found a way through the walls.

The Pantheon has been standing in the Piazza della Rotonda  since AD118 and is one of Rome's finest ancient buildings
The Pantheon has been standing in the Piazza della Rotonda
 since AD118 and is one of Rome's finest ancient buildings
Travel tip:

Victor Emmanuel II is buried in the Pantheon in Piazza della Rotonda in Rome. Considered to be Rome’s best preserved ancient building, the Pantheon was built in AD 118 on the site of a previous building dating back to 27 BC. It was consecrated as a church in the seventh century and many other important people are buried there, including Victor Emmanuel II’s son, Umberto I, and his wife, Queen Margherita.

More reading:


How the capture of Rome completed Italian unification

First Italian parliament convenes to proclaim Victor Emmanuel II King of Italy

Victor Emmanuel I - King of Sardinia

Also on this day:


1878: Umberto I is proclaimed Italy's new monarch

(Picture credit: Pantheon by Klaus F via Wikimedia Commons)

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