The Meaning of the Inscription on the Pantheon

Walking through Rome and suddenly stepping onto Piazza della Rotonda to see the Pantheon in all its ancient glory is an unforgettable experience. First, you will note the domed ceiling, then the columns, and near the top of the Pantheon you will see some old writing. There is some complex history around the Latin words on the monument but they are simple to translate. The inscription on the Pantheon says “Marcus Agrippa, the son of Lucius, three times consul, built this.”

Latin on the Pantheon

In Latin, the writing on the Pantheon says “M.AGRIPPA.L.F.COS.TERTIUM.FECIT.”

The Latin is succinct but it translates to mean that Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, built this when he was consul for the third time. (Consuls were the chief diplomats in Rome – comparable to a Prime Minister or a President).

pantheon inscription

The inscription on the Pantheon is true because Marcus Agrippa DID build the first Pantheon. However, he did NOT build the Pantheon as we know it now. The first building here was commissioned by Marcus Agrippa in or around 27 AD. The temple was dedicated to the victory of the emperor Augustus over Antony and Cleopatra. Augustus was Marcus Agrippa’s father-in-law.

This original building was completely destroyed by a fire. Domitian restored the Pantheon in 80 AD, but ut was struck by lightning in 110 AD and burned to the ground once more. The building was dedicated to the gods (pan being the Greek word for “all” and theon meaning “gods), but the back-to-back destruction of the temple suggested that the gods were NOT happy with it. 

pantheon columns

The Emperor Really Behind the Pantheon Inscription

It wasn’t until Hadrian became emperor that the Patheon was completely redesigned and rebuilt. A great lover of Greek influences, Hadrian likely wanted to recreate the building to honor the emperor Augustus – for whom the first Pantheon was built. 

Historians aren’t sure why Hadrian put Agrippa’s name back on the facade of the building. He may have added the inscription to the Pantheon as a sign of humility. On the other hand, it could simply be there to reinforce the connection between the building and the emperor Augustus.

In any case, the Latin writing confused academics for years because it didn’t seem like a building Agrippa could have made himself. However, the inscription adds to the ancient allure of the Pantheon – and now you know exactly what it means. 

Note: As of July 2023, the Pantheon is no longer free! Adults pay €5 if pre-booking on the official site or waiting in line in person. More information on Pantheon Tickets here.


11 thoughts on “The Meaning of the Inscription on the Pantheon

    • Barry says:

      Tyvm, The pantheon is probably my famous building in the world, and in all the times I went I never really got the definition of the inscription well written thank you very much again

  1. Preston Ward says:

    A lot of the TV shows I see show the Pantheon and I always wondered what the inscription translated to and the history behind it. Thanks for posting this.

  2. Ian says:

    Hi Natalie,
    Previously when in Rome I have also noticed there is a ghostly outline of another inscription (between the main inscription and the top of the columns), Appears as if the bronze letters that must have originally sat here have been removed and now there is just a faint outline in the stone (two rows of text if I remember correctly). I have tried previously to find an explanation for this other inscription but have not been able to find anything – just wondering if you know its origin?

  3. Ron says:

    Thank you, Madam ! Pantheon Pride of Rome !

    “Simple, erect, severe, austere, sublime
    ⁠Shrine of all saints and temple of all Gods,
    ⁠From Jove to Jesus—spared and blest by Time
    ⁠Looking tranquillity, while falls or nods
    ⁠Arch—empire—each thing round thee—and Man plods
    ⁠His way through thorns to ashes—glorious Dome!
    ⁠Shalt thou not last? Time’s scythe and Tyrants’ rods
    ⁠Shiver upon thee—sanctuary and home
    Of Art and Piety—Pantheon!—pride of Rome!

    Relic of nobler days, and noblest arts!
    ⁠Despoiled yet perfect! with thy circle spreads
    ⁠A holiness appealing to all hearts;
    ⁠To Art a model—and to him who treads
    ⁠Rome for the sake of ages. Glory sheds
    ⁠Her light through thy sole aperture; to those
    ⁠Who worship, here are altars for their beads
    ⁠And they who feel for Genius may repose
    Their eyes on honoured forms, whose busts around them close.”

  4. miki says:

    Once I had my eyes on Pantheon, Parthenon and Hagia Sophia in a month time, just as a city dweller, not a tourist (I lived in Athens then), and I still walk the Earth charged with that beauty of old, left for us to marvel, and it was 15 years ago! Pantheon was always my favorite building in Rome, and Italy in general, it’s simplicity is magical.

  5. Robert says:

    If you look near the top of the pediment, you will see two separate, parallel lines for where the pediment roof joins the front of the Pantheon. These two lines have the exact same angle, with the upper line about 10 to 12 feet taller. The top line appears finished, as if the builders were expecting a taller roofed structure in front.
    Given that this masterpiece burned down twice before, it is understandable that this could occur. I have heard that the front columns arrived too short, so that the third generation of builders lowered the current pediment. Is this true?
    It is a fabulous building! My favorite of all the ancient Roman structures!

  6. Robert says:

    I’ve looked through some drone videos on YouTube regarding the Pantheon, and it is amazing how this jewel stands amongst the later, ordinary buildings that surround it! Can you imagine waking up in the morning, looking across the way, and seeing the Pantheon?!

  7. Jon says:

    Not to be a Nazi, but when you said the first one was commissioned in 27 AD, I think you actually meant to say 27 BC. Both Marcus Agrippa & Caesar Augustus were long dead by 27 AD. Just trying to help make sure people have the correct info.

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