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Apollodorus of Damascus

Okay, this long-dead architect is not actually a friend or collaborator, and we don’t conduct seances to get in contact with his spirit. But he is one of our greatest inspirations. Apollodorus designed Trajan’s Forum and Trajan’s Baths in Rome, the staggering bridge over the Danube (with its 19 spans of 150 ft or 44m) that is represented on Trajan’s Column, which was almost certainly designed by Apollodorus as part of the Forum. 

Apollodorus – who may or not have been from Damascus (this is only mentioned in one source) was probably also responsible for the Pantheon, the favourite buildings of so many architects past and present. The building of the project, however, evidently ran into problems over the supply of the sixteen 50 ft, 100 tonne, monoliths from two quarries in Egypt that were intended for the portico. The image here shows a reconstruction of what Apollodorus had in mind – so in that sense I have 'collaborated' with Apollodorus (along with my old friends David Hemsoll and Paul Davies).

 

We cannot really know what happened, but the actual building features 40 footers, which may have been diverted from another project by the emperor Hadrian, who had succeeded Trajan. Naturally Apollodorus wasn’t keen and a big argument ensued, as we can intuit from a passage written around 100 years later by Dio Cassius (69.4) which told how an incensed Hadrian, jealous too of Apollodorus’s talents, had him put to death. This warns of us of the dangers of being too objectionable to our patrons...

Heilmeyer, W.D. 1975 “Apollodorus von Damaskus – der Architekt des Pantheon,” Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts 90, 316–347.

Korres, M. 2015. The Odeion roof of Herodes Atticus and other giant spans.

Leon, C. 1961. Apollodorus von Damaskus und die trajanische Architecktur.

Festa Farina, F., G. Calcani, C. Meucci, and M. Conforto, eds. 2001, Tra Damasco e Roma: l’architettura di Apollodoro nella cultura classica. 

La Regina, A. ed. 1999. L’arte dell’assedio di Apollodoro di Damasco.

Wilson Jones, M. 1987. 'The Pantheon: a triumph of Rome or a triumph of compromise?' (with Paul Davies & David Hemsoll), Art History 10, 133-153.  

  • 2000. Principles of Roman Architecture, Yale UP, pp. 21–24 and ch. 10.

  • 2015. The Pantheon in Rome from Antiquity to the Present, edited with Tod A. Marder), ch. 7.

  • 2019.  ‘La Colonna Traiana e il progetto architettonico di Apollodoro’, in L’arte di costruire un capolavoro: la Colonna Traiana, 55-67.

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