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Like it was built by Gods

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.


22 comments

  1. Robert REYNOLDS

    Thanks for that article, Joseph. It was most interesting.

  2. Steve Flora

    Have always been most impressed by the Pantheon … It would be even more impressive if it still had its bronze ceiling (now missing from under the front portico). I understand that in the 14th to 16th century at some point that bronze that had been therre for more than a thousand years was taken to the Vatican and melted down to make the canopy which is over the Pope’s throne. Sad …..

  3. Joseph Carli

    The Italians had a saying : “What the barbarians didn’t destroy, the Barbarini did!”..(The Barbarini being a family line of Popes).

  4. Harquebus

    Just from memory, I believe that it was slaves that built the Pantheon as they did the Greek and Roman civilizations. Because of this, the ancients weren’t that great and nor were their achievements. In my opinion.
    Please correct me if I am wrong.

  5. Joseph Carli

    You’re wrong.

    That’s not to say that slave labour wasn’t used for the “hard yards”, but the dome of The Pantheon was a continuous pour of concrete..the formwork for that procedure in itself would take sophisticated engineering and skilled trades to erect and hold the weight..The stonemasons may have some input with skilled slave labour, but logically not in an overseer position.
    The logistics of keeping materials supplied to build The Colosseum, including the number of oxen and carts on the road at any one day is mind boggling..There are online sites that can give accurate primary source details of the statistics .

  6. diannaart

    The logistics of keeping materials supplied to build The Colosseum, including the number of oxen and carts on the road at any one day is mind boggling.

    With not a single Ipad in sight.

    We will never know for sure just how much involvement women have had in shaping technology – although if we manage to survive peak oil/climate warming and the trend for equal representation continues, we can make educated guesses.

    Meanwhile, a valiant few will attempt to redress the obfuscation of history by the ‘winners’. And more power to them – the “valiant few” not the winners.

    Growing up there were so few role models for women – Madame Curie and…

    I recall on another blog-site, having an argument with an ardent male supremacist. He opined I should not use anything that was invented by men as I (my entire gender) had not made any contributions. An example he gave to me was that I shouldn’t even walk in a park as parks are designed by men. I simply could not be arsed pointing out to him that I studied Landscape Architecture for 3 years (didn’t make it to final year due to health issues)… yet, here I am now, years later mentioning this silly argument.

    Being marginalised cuts deep, just ask refugees, non-white people and, sadly, 50% of the world’s population. We may forgive, but we do not forget.

  7. Harquebus

    Joseph Carli
    I have only done a preliminary and searched a few articles for “slave”. It appears at first glance that the Pantheon was built using slave labour. The ancient Romans could not have achieved what they did without them.
    In other words, built on the backs of slaves and nothing great about it. In my opinion.

  8. Joseph Carli

    It is one of the most ludicrous suggestions of world history to say that males did it all on their own…as if!!…as if now and as if ever..Tha distortion of history to fit a confected ideal of a class / gender / ethnic supremacy is one of the first hurdles humanity has to overcome..the indigenous Australians demand of a re-writing of our local histories is a good start and an imperative.

  9. Joseph Carli

    You’re a tenacious little bugger Harq’…sure..it could very well have been built in any one of its evolutions by slave labour..I believe it was designed by Appolodorus of Damascus ..a Syrian / Greek in the rebuild in the time of Hadrian..But who’s arguing the nuts and bolts of who mixed the mortar?..Architecture in those times was a beg, borrow, steal from all corners of the known world…and if you go into the engineering of the building, it is a marvel..and not a piece of steel reinforcing in sight……FFS.

  10. diannaart

    Slavery never went away…

    http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/06/05/federal-labor-pushes-anti-slavery-laws

    Australian companies would be required to report on measures they’re taking to reduce slavery in their overseas supply chains, or risk being fined, under legislation proposed by the federal opposition.

    Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten on Monday outlined how a Modern Slavery Act could work, including the role of a new independent anti-slavery commissioner.

    Australia’s top 1000 companies would be held to account by the legislation with monetary penalties for those that don’t comply. They could also be named and shamed in parliament.

    Building wondrous architecture is a little too obvious these days to use slave labour (although there are countries where, I’m sure, this still occurs).

    Arguing about the use of slave labour in past constructions, yet not raising concern about the continued slavery of men, women and children to this day, is contentious.

  11. helvityni

    Maria Mies, a feminist and an author, has written many books amongst them Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale…

    Googling her I found that she was born in Germany, I was intrigued by her surname; the most important word in many a language after ‘god’ is ‘man’ …her surname ‘mies’ means ‘man’ in Finnish…. 🙂 Is this name an omen…

  12. Joseph Carli

    That was the premise of the article..

  13. diannaart

    Joseph

    My comment was more for Harqeubus’ edification.

    🙂

  14. Joseph Carli

    diannaart…good luck with that!..he’d argue the point about boiled water!

  15. Michael Taylor

    I believe it is the oldest building in Rome (still standing).

  16. Harquebus

    Joseph Carli
    My opinion applies to the Roman Empire as a whole and to all others that built upon the backs of slaves. They weren’t that great. Bloodthirsty and brutal.

    Something I read recently that you might be interested in.

    “Why modern mortar crumbles, but Roman concrete lasts millennia”
    http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/07/why-modern-mortar-crumbles-roman-concrete-lasts-millennia

    diannaart
    A few women that I admire.
    Rosalind Franklin, Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper and of course, Madame Curie.

    There are more but, Rosalind Franklin tops the list. For all of her efforts, she died a painful death and has received next to no recognition let alone a Nobel Prize that, in my opinion, she thoroughly deserves. A woman who persisted despite the obstacles presented to her by her male dominated profession.

    The man that I admire most is John von Neumann. It was his pioneering work in computing that has brought us to where we are today; directly affecting billions and yet, again, largely unheard of.

    Most of the names that I have mentioned were involved in the computer sciences in one way or another. Considering my background, this should not come as a surprise.

  17. Joseph Carli

    H’..What about ; A. B. Bacus?

  18. Michael Taylor

    Bacchus is a fine fellow. Last time I saw him he was sneaking off into some cellar not far from here. My money’s on the chances of him still being there.

  19. Harquebus

    Joseph Carli
    What did you call me? “a tenacious little bugger”
    You are a very calculating man.
    Thanks for the laugh.

  20. diannaart

    Harquebus

    Reeling off a few names means diddly.

    Although, I feel compelled to note my one of my favourite humans, she is up there because, she appeared to be just ordinary, yet proved extraordinary enough to move a nation with ripple effects across the planet. She did not require any tools at all, yet her legacy is monumental.

    Her name; Rosa Parks.

  21. Harquebus

    diannaart
    Yes. I agree. One doesn’t need to command an army to change the world.

    Rosa Parks is recognized for her achievement and rightly so. Rosalind Franklin was not. Her achievement was stolen from her by men who received the Nobel Prize that was rightfully hers and her story of being relegated to the basement, where the glass ceiling was back then, is hardly told.
    Considering your stance in regards to the rights of and the injustices directed against women, I thought that you might be interested. That is all.

    “It was critical evidence in identifying the structure of DNA.
    James Watson was shown the photo by Maurice Wilkins without Rosalind Franklin’s approval or knowledge”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photo_51

    Search criteria: franklin photograph 51

    Inspiration is gender neutral and non racial. I’ll take it from whomever can provide it. Parks and Franklin are just two of many that can.

    Might be a story for someone here at theAIMN comparing these two women.

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