Athough from two entirely different cultures and entirely different times, the Pantheon and the Parthenon share similarities, along with a world of differences, in form, function, themes, ideology, and messages about their respective civilizations. By comparing these two structures, it is easy to see why knowledge of context and culture is important to understanding and interpreting art.
The Pantheon was built between 118-125 AD in ancient Rome as a temple to the seven gods of the seven planets. It was first built by Emperor Agrippa, but was destroyed in a giant fire in 80 AD. Later, Emperor Hadrian, who had a strong interest in Greek culture, began to design a new Pantheon, one which was reminiscent of Greek temples. It was built in the middle of the city, surrounded by other buildings and the citizens of Rome. In the 7th century, the Pope converted the Pantheon into a Christian church. After the Renaissance, it was used as a tomb, and is a burial ground for some of the best known artists of the time, such as Raphael. Today, it also holds the bodies of two of Italy's kings. It still remains a Catholic church and mass is often celebrated inside.
The Parthenon was built in the 5th century BC as a temple for the Greek goddess Athena. It, too, replaced an earlier version, called the Pre- or Older Parthenon, which was destroyed by the Persians. Like the Pantheon, it was also converted into a Christian church, in the 6th century AD. During the 1460s, it was used as a Muslim mosque. It was constructed away from the center of population, on the Acropolis. Today it is a spot of high tourism, attracting millions of visitors every year.
The Pantheon is a circular building with a portico, a porch leading to the entrance, with giant granite columns. The columns are Corinthian in style, characterized by a thin column and an ornately decorated top,