04/22/2014 05:03 pm ET | Updated Jun 22, 2014

Living History: Rome's Pantheon

Living History: Rome, Episode No. 1 Pantheon Neighborhood from Living History on Vimeo.

The Pantheon takes everyone by surprise when they come to Rome. The nearly 2,000-year-old monumental temple is in the middle of the busiest neighborhood in the Eternal City, the historic center, and no matter what you are doing -- heading to work, site seeing, grabbing a cup of coffee from Tazza d'Oro -- you're always going to walk past the Pantheon.

A lot of people ask me "what is it?" To be brief, the Pantheon we see today is the final version of three structures that were built on that location, first Augustan (First century BC), followed by Flavian (First century AD), and then present structure inaugurated in 125 AD by Emperor Hadrian. It was a temple to celebrate the deification of the emperor. And for more than 1,800 years, it was the largest free-standing, unsupported concrete dome.

The Pantheon's dimensions are amazing -- approximately 143 feet in height and diameter, you could fit a perfect sphere inside of the central, cylindrical space! In the 21st century, the Pantheon is hemmed in by palazzi, cafes, shops, public offices and schools. It's been a church since 608 AD, and perhaps one of the best spots for a coffee break.

Personally, I like to visit it first thing in the morning, after I've taken my kids to school nearby. I grab a coffee at Tazza d'Oro or S. Eustachio, each cafe literally around the corner from the Pantheon. And when you head down the narrow road leading to the Pantheon, the approach and view are very similar to what you would have had in antiquity.

Living History is a video project at the crossroads between history and travel. Created by Darius Arya and filmed by Martin Wetherill.

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