On one of my trips to Rome, I arrived 24 hours before my friends so I could have a day to wander around on my own. First thing that first morning, I set out from my hotel, eager and excited to begin exploring. Within minutes, I stumbled around a corner into Piazza della Rotunda and found myself staring up at the Pantheon in complete awe.
At that moment, it hit me with a massive thump. I was in Rome. And Rome is really, really old.
I’ve done a fair bit of wandering around Europe, in countries like England, France, and the Netherlands, and I am always struck by the amount of history. Compared to Canada, there is an awful lot of it in Europe.
But Rome! I know I’m stating the obvious, but Rome is in a category all its own. It’s not just old ― it’s ancient.
The Pantheon was built by Marcus Agrippa in 27 BC as a temple to all the gods of Rome, was rebuilt by Emperor Hadrian about 150 years later, and has been used as a church since the seventh century. It’s awesome inside ― a perfect circle ― and contains the tombs of Victor Emmanuel II, first king of a united Italy, and Raphael, Renaissance artist, among many others. The only daylight to enter the structure is from the oculus at the top of the dome.
The inscription on the pediment reads “M. AGRIPPA. L. F. COS. TERTIUM. FECIT.” Later that same visit, one of my friends, a linguist, translated the Latin for us: “M Agrippa, son of Lucius, consul for the third time, built this.” She burst into laughter when she reached “built this.” Agrippa, mighty Roman general, was no different than the child who writes their name on the schoolwork they take home to Mom or Dad.
Now, every time I return to Rome, the first thing I do is revisit the Pantheon to remind myself of where I am and how awesome a place it is. I don’t ever want to lose that feeling.