To stand up-road a tad from the Pantheon and look at the building, is to see a dun-coloured brutal, beast of a thing; squat and huge, like a monster about to spring!
But when you enter through those massive bronze doors, you enter into air, air and light so vast and ethereal that it can seem like it has its own atmosphere.
The spherical dimensions of the interior are a marvel and a testament to the genius of innovation of an age so long ago as to be almost unimaginable. I went with another person there and as we passed through those wondrous bronze doors, she gasped at the sight in front of us and involuntarily whispered, “It’s like it was built by Gods …”.
But it wasn’t. It was built by skilled workmen under the orders of (if you look under the pediment up front) “Marcus Agrippa, 3 times consul built this” and put there by the Emperor Hadrian after he rebuilt it.
[“M.AGRIPPA.L.F.COS.TERTIUM.FECIT” means: “Marcus Agrippa son of Lucius consul for the 3rd time built this”]
THAT was in the days when we, as humanity, built magnificent things.
THAT was in the days when we, as humanity took pride in civic obligations.
THAT was in the days when those in governance took seriously their civic duty.
It was pure selfish greed and masculine vanity that dragged that world down into the dust, and with it so much ingenuity and capacity – a lesson in how NOT to run a society; truly a slow-motion destruction.
But where, one could ask are the spectacular buildings of antiquity built by women? Oh they are there and have been for many centuries, just not brought into the limelight. I had to look them up … from ancient Egypt:
In order to understand their relatively enlightened attitudes toward sexual equality, it is important to realise that the Egyptians viewed their universe as a complete duality of male and female. Giving balance and order to all things was the female deity Maat, symbol of cosmic harmony by whose rules the pharaoh must govern.
The Egyptians recognised female violence in all its forms, their queens even portrayed crushing their enemies, executing prisoners or firing arrows at male opponents as well as the non-royal women who stab and overpower invading soldiers. Although such scenes are often disregarded as illustrating ‘fictional’ or ritual events, the literary and archaeological evidence is less easy to dismiss. Royal women undertake military campaigns whilst others are decorated for their active role in conflict. Women were regarded as sufficiently threatening to be listed as ‘enemies of the state’, and female graves containing weapons are found throughout the three millennia of Egyptian history. (From Warrior Women to Female Pharaohs: Careers for Women in Ancient Egypt, bbc.co.uk).
Of the many examples in antiquity of temples or palaces designed and built by women, one sees a subtle difference in the “sensitivity“ of design of some of those structures, where the masculine warrior/ruler has a built-in command of sometimes brutal, solid power expressed in the very masonry, a temperament of “holding away”. I can detect a more “inviting” atmosphere in the buildings of women designers, but that may just be a personal prejudice.
By the second century AD, however, women had come into prominence, with the result that by the Antonine period we find public statues, building-inscriptions, and architectural designs all featuring the names and images of women in the towns of Italy and the western provinces. From the mid-second century AD., some women were so integrated into civic life as to be co-opted as patrons of towns and of collegia, or to be named ‘City Mother’, although the holding of municipal magistracies remained barred to them. (Women and the Roman City in the Latin West, warwick.ac.uk).
Interestingly, the statement above of the Egyptians seeing their universe as a duality of Male/Female, for THAT would have to be accepted as the natural balance. This is before a patriarchal masculine warrior class took command and dictated the corrupted idea of gender superiority.
The masculine idea of power and control was brought into Roman architecture most visibly in their copying of the Greek temples, almost identical in every way right down to the supporting columns surrounding the walls. However, the difference was in the entrance. Where the Greek temples allowed entry from all four sides via three steps, the Roman temples had a front entrance only and that via a flight of stairs up to a legionnaire on either side at the top. One was forced by this method to ascend toward the base of power, in a metaphorical act of submission … a contradiction to the “democratic” every person entrance to the Greek temples.
All these bits and pieces of loose ancient recorded history paints a vague picture of gender politics in those ancient times. BUT if we were to “step back” a pace or two and take in the whole panorama of the time-span, we can see that in the era of “Paganism” (a borrowed word from the Latin; “country/rustic” person), there is solid evidence of gender equality in many areas of living/conflict … and the picture changes radically once we enter the “civilised society” stage of masculine legal and religious orders; particularly religion.
It stands to reason that any tribal hunter/gatherer situation would demand gender equality to survive. It also stands to reason that with the commencement of sedentary societies, there came the establishment of councils and authorities which would, with the power that comes with such, mean the likely creation of cabals of confederacy and conspiracy and particularly within masculine groups in the tribe, leading to the gradual oppression of those most vulnerable in the tribe, eg women via children and the aged.
Maria Mies, in her book, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale, has collected much information from women-centred research in anthropology on this question. This evidence leads her to put forward the thesis that it was men’s role as hunter which led to his expertise in simple weapons of aggression and capture. In addition, within nomadic pastoral tribes, men’s work involved breeding the animals with a lessening role of gatherer for women and an increasing pressure on women to breed and be controlled along with the animals by men. Man the hunter was then able to hunt and capture women and young men, both of other agricultural tribes and nomads, when they came into his territory. He was thus able to take the first steps in accumulation of property, surplus and power.
Maria Mies stresses that evidence suggests that it was women who were the early agriculturists, not only making vessels for gathering surplus food but also cultivating crops by means of early tools, such as digging sticks and hoes. At this stage, hunting for meat was a peripheral activity, which only men could afford to experiment in, women being involved in the day-to-day feeding of herself, her milk- producing capacities and her young children. But, of course, societies developed differently in different parts of the globe, depending on vegetation, climate, and animal species. Grasslands were more suited to nomadic life, fertile plains and river valleys to settled agriculture.
The accumulation of surplus and private property, by pillage and force, not only made one section richer and more powerful than another, but was notable in that this powerful section was almost entirely men. (Basis of Women’s Oppression, marxist.org).
Maria Mies, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale. Here is a short review of her book … very interesting.
It just goes to show how long some accepted “orders of social correctness” have been in place, so the problem of changing them to a more reasonable and natural balance may be a long process … unless there is a more revolutionary act.