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THE CLASSICAL TEMPLE ARCHITECTURE AND PAGAN STATUARY OF WASHINGTON, DC
Research and Writing by James Veverka
In 1792, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Johnson placed of an advertisement announcing a Capitol architectural contest in a Philadelphia newspaper. The ad contained rules and requirements for the sizes and numbers of rooms and such. The judges of the competition were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Commissioners of the District of Colombia. The philosopher Jefferson, a classically educated man like most of the founders, saw in temple designs like the Temple of the Sun, the Parthenon and the Roman Pantheon a symbolism of democracy science, and philosophy resurrected. Jefferson, Washington and the committee thought that the new capitol building should symbolize a Temple of Liberty in a secular sense. Entries were mostly Renaissance Palladian, a classical revival style of the that period. But the truly classical entrees from classical antiquity were the most liked by all. The committee took the symbolic nature of the Capitol seriously. For them, the design must symbolize the functions and themes of the capitol.
According to the Library of Congress' online exhibit regarding the conception and building of the Capitol Building, titled The Temple of Liberty, Thomas Jefferson was inspired by classical temple architecture for the pattern of the Capitol. A source of this was a print of the Pantheon in Claude-Antoine Jombert, 1779 book called "Les edifices antiques de Rome". The print, called Elevation de la face du Pantheon, a Rome was done by Antoine DesGodetz. Being classically educated and a son of the Enlightenment, this is not surprising. Jefferson was well read regarding classical philosophers and cited them many times in his letters. A print in Robert Wood's 1753 book, The Ruins of Palmyra impressed Jefferson for the Capitol's new east portico design. (See also prints from Manhattan Rare Books site.) The print was Wood's conception of the Temple of the Sun (small image below), which is also the temple of Bel, or Ba'al, the God of the Sky and the Sun; the Father in the divine 'Trinity of the Sun God'. Iarbibol, with crown of sun, was the Messenger of the Sun, and Agribol was of the Moon. Woods made his print based on the archeological evidence suggesting what it looked like before it fell to ruins. Another source of inspiration to the people involved in planning the Capitol was a picture (Plate 22) in Volume I of the 1715 Vitruvius Britannicus. The print by Colen Campbell is called The First Design of the West Front of Wansted. This image is interesting because the drawing has Goddesses on the corners and peak of the roof, a common element of classical temples.
Robert Wood's Temple of the Sun at Palmyra, Elevation de la face du Pantheon, The First Design of the West Front of Wansted,
- The Roman Pantheon, with it's classical columns, portico and pediment, was the model for the Capitol's original dome and rotunda. Classical temples served as archetypical models for the buildings of Washington. Statues and sculpted friezes of mythological deities and allegorical figures became the models for Washington's national symbolism. Symbols of democracy and learning, strength and endurance; classical pagan figures were best suited for the symbolism of the American Enlightenment. Classically educated, the founders in America saw themselves as re-lighting and carrying the torch of knowledge and wisdom that was extinguished in late antiquity. Rather than see the world as Moses, David, Solomon, Paul, Augustine, or John Chrysostom did, they strove to interpret the world through the eyes of Cicero, Tacitus, Polybius, Gaius, Ulpinian, Cincinnatus, Plutarch and many more. The heroes and villains of the founders were almost exclusively from classical antiquity, not Christian history. Mixed government with its separation of powers has classical, not Christian, foundations. In the minds of most of the founding fathers, the Roman Pantheon was considered one of the major classical models to work from. Jefferson, Washington and the committee thought that the new capitol building should symbolize a Temple of Liberty in a secular sense. Entries were mostly Palladian, a classical revival style of the renaissance period.
Front and Aerial Views: The Temple of the Roman Pantheon
Jefferson had a vision of education, science, and the quest for liberty that was expressed in classical writings, the neo-classical revival of the renaissance and best ideas of the enlightenment. America's capitol city was to be the new Rome and Athens because America was reviving the democratic and intellectual philosophies born in the classical age. This aerial view of the Pantheon give us additional perspective regarding the classical origins of the Capitol's architecture.
Democratic ideas have their origins in ancient Greece. Both Solon and Lycurgus, ancient Greek lawgivers are represented in the medallions exhibit of the House chamber. Solon, father of democratic Athens, is also with Moses and Confucius on the east pediment (over back entrance) of the Supreme Court. Both are also on the frieze in the courtroom. In the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress, there are sixteen Bronze statues representing Philosophy, Art, History, Commerce, Religion, Science, Law, and Poetry. One of the chosen figures representing Law in the Library of Congress is not Moses; it is Solon of early Democratic Athens. Following Solon in further democratizing Athens were Cleisthenes and Pericles, who is known for the golden "Age of Pericles". In this golden age, the western tradition of trial by jury was born. It was Cleisthenes and Pericles who built the Parthenon on the Athenian Acropolis. Most of our national buildings have the architectural orders of classical Temples, not buildings that bring Christianity or its history to mind. Neither do the scores of statues and friezes of pagan deities and classical mythic symbolism all over Washington, DC. Although there are representations of western legal currents, Judaism and Christianity are only a part of these representations.
The Parthenon atop Athens; the Temple of Athena
Like the temple of the Sun and the Pantheon, we can see in the Parthenon more of the classical inspiration for our national buildings. I am reminded of the Supreme Court building when I look at the Parthenon, the Hephaesteon, and the models of the excavated wonder of the world, the Temple of Artemis. Although the Parthenon has deteriorated over the centuries, there are, based on the archeological finds, many artistic conceptions of the frieze on the east pediment and models of the overall temple. These can give us some idea of it's original appearance.
While ambassador in France, Thomas Jefferson marveled at the classical architecture in the south. What caught his attention most was the classical temple in Nimes; the Maison Carree, built in 4 BCE. Under Jefferson's direction and the assistance of architect Charles-Louie Clerisseau, the Virginia State Capitol building was based on the Temple in Nimes. The Cornerstone was laid in August 18, 1785 and it was finished in October 1792. This was only months after the announcement for an architectural competition for the new national Capitol in Washington, DC. Jefferson knew what he was looking for.
When the Capitol competition was finished, Charles Bulfinch's design won. Here is the oldest known photograph, taken in 1846, showing the east entrance of the Capitol Building. This a larger version of the one below. There is also an 1848 photo of the west side at the Library of Congress exhibits site. Also, as a gift of gratitude, the new American republic presented a watercolor by Charles Burton called the "West Front of the Capitol of the United States" to Lafayette during his visit in 1824. The image to the right of the Memorial below is part of Jefferson's University of Virginia. Once again, classical architecture took the honors.
Here are some models made from some of the plans by Capitol contestants: Latrobe's and Matthew Thornton's entries were the most preferred by the Washington, Jefferson, and the committee. Here are six of the plans and drawings presented in the Library of Congress online exhibits: #1 - #2 - #3 - #4 - #6 - #7
If there is any building in the US that could be truly considered the Pantheon of the American Spirit, it would be the Jefferson Memorial . When the Jefferson Memorial was commissioned in 1938, the winning design was based on Jefferson's own classical and Enlightenment tastes. Those tastes are clearly presented in the rotunda of Thomas Jefferson's University of Virginia,
Here are some excerpts from the National Park Service's article on Jefferson and the Jefferson Memorial:
"The Thomas Jefferson Memorial, modeled after the Pantheon of Rome, is America's foremost memorial to our third president. As an original adaptation of Neoclassical architecture, it is a key landmark in the monumental core of Washington, DC The circular, colonnaded structure in the classic style was introduced to this country by Thomas Jefferson. Architect John Russell Pope used Jefferson's own architectural tastes in the design of the Memorial...His intention was to synthesize Jefferson's contribution as a statesman, architect, President, drafter of the Declaration of Independence, adviser of the Constitution and founder of the University of Virginia...In 1941, Rudolph Evans was commissioned to sculpt the statue of Thomas Jefferson. The statue of Jefferson looks out from the interior of the Memorial toward the White House. It was intended to represent the Age of Enlightenment and Jefferson as a philosopher and statesman."
From the Memorial's welcoming center also comes these statements:
"Thomas Jefferson-political philosopher, architect, musician, book collector, scientist, horticulturist, diplomat, inventor, and third President of the United States-looms large in any discussion of what Americans are as a people. Jefferson left to the future not only ideas but also a great body of practical achievements....With his strong beliefs in the rights of man and a government derived from the people, in freedom of religion and the separation between church and state, and in education available to all."
Jefferson began designing his home in Virginia at the age of 26. As one can see, the dome, portico, pediment and columns of his home at Monticello incorporated some of the architectural orders found in neoclassical buildings. Church-State accommodationists on America's political and religious right make claims regarding the individuals portrayed about the Capitol and the Supreme Court buildings. They point to Christian representations for their proofs. The problem with that is that Both buildings portray a fairly wide array of the legal and philosophical currents that played an important part in the evolution of western law, then our basic American law beginning in 1789. They don't tell you that along with the Moses plaque are the ones of the pagan Roman jurists Papinian and Gaius. In fact, these Ciceronians were contributors centuries later to the Justinian Code's Digest ("Pandects") which formed the backbone of European Law for centuries. There is also a plaque of Emperor Justinian. story Although a despotic Christian emperor who ruled for five decades, he is rightly known for his direction of the jurist, Tribonian,, Tribonian organized the large compilation and reorganization of Roman law. The Digest is mostly based on the works of Gaius, Papinian and Ulpian. The writings of Ulpian, a pioneer in matters of rights, make up 40% of the Digest. The Digest is mostly Ciceronian Roman Law and makes no mention of Christianity. Ulpian is considered one of the most influential jurists of all time. The House chamber also has medallions of Ancient Greece's Lycurgus, Sulieman the Great, Solon of Ancient Athens, Thomas Jefferson, and the greatest lawgiver of ancient Babylon, King Hammurabi,. Other plaques include our very own George Mason, Gregory the Ninth, Hugo Grotius, Innocent the Third, Jean Baptise Colbert, Louis the Ninth, Robert Joseph Pothier, Simon de Montfort, Sir William Blackstone, Napolean, and Maimonides, the Jewish philosopher and lawgiver. To see the rest, take a virtual tour of the House of Representatives' Medallions. All together they present the diverse legal currents and contributions to western intellectual history.
The The US Supreme Court Building is a replica of pagan temples. Although built long after the framing years, the architects were keenly aware of the strong classical foundations of the American Enlightenment and the US Constitution. Comparing it with the architectural orders of buildings such as The Parthenon leaves no question as to its inspirational source. The representations of diverse legal and intellectual currents presented in the Capitol are also seen in and on the Supreme Court building. Several Friezes, inside and out, portray an array of lawmakers and lawgivers from history, eastern and western, that contributed to the evolution and formation of western secular law. Over the eastern entrance is a frieze sculpted by Herman MacNeil which depicts three of the world greatest lawgivers, Solon, Moses and Confucius. In the courtroom, on the south wall is a frieze of eighteen famous lawgivers sculpted by Adolf Weinman. On the left of center, representing lawgivers before the current era are Menes, Hammurabi, Moses, Solomon, Lycurgus, Solon, Draco, Confucius, and Augustus. On the right, representing the current era are Justinian, Mohammed, Charlemagne, King John, St. Louis, Hugo Grotius, William Blackstone, John Marshall, and Napoleon.
Much has been made of the tablet behind the Bench, too. Firstly, it is one tablet, not two which has always been the customary portrayal of the ten commandments. For a long time, people also thought that the one tablet represented ancient laws between the two allegorical figures of law and government but it turns out that neither was Weinman's intention. According to the Office of the Curator at the court:
"The East wall frieze is located directly above the Bench and focuses on two male figures that represent the Majesty of Law and the Power of Government. According to a letter from Weinman to Gilbert, the tablet between them symbolizes the first ten amendments to the Constitution, also known as the Bill of Rights. The allegorical figures standing on either side of the central figures symbolize Wisdom, on the left, and Justice, on the right. Weinman described the figures grouped to the right side as the Safeguard of the Liberties and Rights of the People in their pursuit of Happiness and those on the left side as The Defense of Human Rights and Protection of Innocence."
The way the Supreme Court frieze is designed is to represent the many lawgivers as part of our complex legal heritage. Because Suleiman the Great and Islam's founder Muhammad are represented in places doesn't mean the buildings in any way promote Islam any more than the building promotes Judeo-Christianity with representations of Moses. Nor is Paganism promoted by the plethora of pagan goddesses presented. With the pagan founders of classical republicanism, Confucianism and Islam all sharing the stage with Moses, the scenario simply doesn't support the religious conservative claims that the Supreme Court somehow supports the notion of a legally Christian nation.
Europeans knew the legend of a great Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World but when crusaders arrived in the old city of Ephesus around 1100, there was nothing but swamp and not a trace of the harbor. The invaders didn't know that the majestic temple written of by Pliny the Elder had been destroyed by invaders in 262. In 1863 curious British archaeologists started digging in the marsh and they eventually unearthed the base of a very large temple. It measured 500 by 300 feet. According to Pliny, the temple itself measured 425 by 225 feet and had 127 columns standing 60 feet. The Parthenon measures 230 by 100 feet, with 58 columns, and covers roughly one-quarter of the area of the Temple of Artemis. Continuing digs over the years eventually found five temples built around and upon each other, the first dating to 800 BCE. Another Temple of Artemis was also found on the Greek island of Corfu, summer home of the rich and now home to an archeological museum and a bustling tourist industry. This drawing is based on the find on Corfu. Remarkably, most of the figures on the pediment's frieze are intact. The traveler Philon of Byzantium wrote of the temple:
"I have seen the walls and Hanging Gardens of ancient Babylon, the statue of Olympian Zeus, the Colossus of Rhodes, the mighty work of the high Pyramids and the tomb of Mausolus. But when I saw the temple at Ephesus rising to the clouds, all these other wonders were put in the shade."
Immediately below are some artistic conceptions based on archaeological evidence: The Temple of Artemis found near Ephesus and the Temple of Zeus found on on Mount Olympus. Over the centuries, many archaeologists had dreams of excavating Mount Olympia. Not much happened as no team was able to get everything in order for such a monumental task. Reconstructions of Temples at Ephesus and Olympus: The Temples of Artemis and Zeus:
After decades of dreaming and organizing, the German archeologist, Ernst Curtius, funded by the German government began digging in 1875. By 1881, the area had been cleared. They found the ruins of the Temples of Zeus and of Hera. They also unearthed a column and a statue of Nike. Sculptures which had been on the east and west pediments were found, too. On the basis of what the archeological evidence suggests, here is an artistic rendering of the pediments of the temple. Curtius' findings led to the revival of the Olympic games which the Christian Emperor Theodosius the Great had banned by decree in 395. The Olympics were pagan so they had to go. Later, his son, Theodosius the Younger would issue a decree in 426 ordering the mountain's temple to be finally burned to the ground. Over several centuries, thousands of shrines, altars, temples and sacred groves were destroyed by Christians as they sought to wipe out religious diversity and every trace of competition with Christianity. Constantinople itself was built with plundered pagan gold and precious gems ripped from pagan temples and libraries by Constantine's allies. A chronological list of the destructive violence wielded against the Hellenes and their temples, summarized from Vlasis Rassias' book, Demolish Them, published in Greek (1994), can be found Here at the Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes website.
Truly monumental is another Athenian Temple built thanks to the directives of the Athenian leader and patron Pericles in the fifth century BCE. Temple of Hephaestus. Hephaestus, known in Rome as Vulcanus, was the fiery deity and master of volcanoes, metal smiths, and craftsmen who forged everything from kitchen utensils to the finest battle swords and armor. The Temple of Hephaestus in the Athenian Agora was a center for commerce because of his relationship with the creators and movers of goods. Another example of our nation's architectural inspirational foundations is the Temple of Ceres, the Goddess of peace and agricultural plenty. Well preserved and also notable is the 2450 year old Temple of Hera, Queen of the Olympian Goddesses and Wife of Zeus. Although built in Italy, Paestum was an ancient Greek town settled as "Poseidonia".
Bunker Hill Monument in Boston, the Theodosian Obelisk, the obelisk in Karnak, Egypt, and the Washington Monument in DC
Another ancient building design in Washington is the Egyptian Obelisk, a monumental style that debuted about 4400 years ago. Many have been moved from their original places. The Washington Monument is an Egyptian obelisk. Like the Bunker Hill Monument in Boston, Massachusetts, it is based on this ancient Egyptian design. Obelisks were usually built in pairs and placed in front of temples on the left and right. One example of an ancient obelisk is one of the Karnak Obelisks in Egypt near the Valley of the Kings. Another was in Alexandria. Around 3200 years ago, King Thutmose placed two obelisks in front of the Temple of Sun deity Helios in Alexandria. Although misnamed Cleopatra's Needle, one of these was given to New York City by Egypt in 1881. It is now in Central Park. Another famous Obelisk is the Theodosian Obelisk. Built around 3450 years ago, it was removed from Egypt by Emperor Theodosius the Great in 390 and then placed in the Court of the Hippodrome Stadium in Constantinople, now Istanbul. The Hippodrome was the race track stadium that held tens of thousands of very rowdy people. The Hiipodrome is home to many an event and many a riot. One of those riots claimed the lives of 30,000 sports fans who became so unruly and violent, Theodosius shut the gates and had his army slaughter them all. And you thought English football fans were bad!
More of our National Architecture: Constitutional Hall, National Archives Building, National Gallery of Art, The White House, Lincoln Memorial, US Treasury Building
THE US CONSTITUTION:
THE RETURN OF THE SATURNIAN AGE
In July of 1788, the City Gazette of Charleston, SC ran an article called The Tenth Pillar which announced the ratification of the Constitution and the return of the golden age of Saturn. In the article we can see ten pillars of classical orders holding up a roof. On the roof is Fame trumpeting the announcement. That's Pheme, Greek Goddess of fame and report, daughter to Earth Goddess Gaia. At this point, there were still three states that hadn't ratified the Constitution but the two-thirds majority had been reached. Fame has a job to do!
The Tenth Pillar & Redeunt Saturnia Regna
On August 2, 1789, the Massachusetts Centinel published an article titled Redeunt Saturnia Regna which heralded the "return again" of the Saturnian Age as the eleventh pillar was raised. The article's illustration showed each state as a raised classical pillar that supported the "great National DOME" of the Constitution. There is a poem below it which speaks of eleven stars, eleven columns under a dome, the house that the Goddess Columbia built for Freedom, and Wisdom, Religion, Justice, Law and Peace in the return of the Saturnian Age. (Check out David J Bederman's book, The Classical Foundations of the American Constitution.
In 1788, James Trenchard published an engraving in Philadelphia's Columbian Magazine entitled Temple of Liberty. The engraving pictures a classical temple building with statues of Libertas, Justitia, and Ceres on the roof. Libertas is at the peak and the others are on the corners. In the background is a radiating and rising sun with a beam of light that reaches up to Libertas with her staff and freedom cap. Approaching from afar appears to be a Libertas-Minerva figure as America's "Columbia" with an Eagle head dress on. Though a bit fuzzy, the figure resembles the statue that would eventually top the Capitol building in 1863. Standing below is Concordia with horn of plenty, a genius holding a scroll called CONSTITUTION and Clio, the Muse of History, writing the world's story. Across the front of the classical temple are the words: "SACRED TO LIBERTY, JUSTICE AND PEACE".
Behold! a Fabric now to Freedom heard,
Approved by friends, and ev'n by Foes rever'd,
Where Justice, too, and Peace, by us ador'd,
shall heal each Wrong, and keep ensheathed the Sword
Approach then, Concord, fair Columbia's Son;
And, faithful Clio, write that 'WE ARE ONE'
Just a year later in London, E. Newberry's "History of North America" was published. On the page opposite the title page was a print of Minerva as Civic Virtue being associated with Washington and Franklin. The print by W.D. Cooper is called America Trampling on Oppression. The title of the Library of Congress Exhibit is "Minerva, or Civic Virtue, Associated with Franklin and Washington". Notice the Horn of Plenty usually associated with Ceres, the Goddess of Peace and plenty.
Called "The Goddess of Liberty with a Portrait of Thomas Jefferson", this painting below was done in 1807 during Jefferson's second Presidential term. Here is the Goddess Libertas, with customary sunshine about her head and a freedom cap. To her right is the Eagle so much seen with the Goddess on Roman and future American coins. A portrait of Washington is on the bottom of an pyramidal Egyptian obelisk. Once again, Minerva appears. She is at the lower right corner with her shield down as she pets a lion. In the upper left hand corner there appears to be Ceres with her Horn of Plenty. In the upper right is fame once again trumpeting the good news of liberty in the land. The cupids are the genii of Peace and of Gratitude. The same Genii are represented in a Frieze in the House of Representatives. According to the Library of Congress exhibit, Jefferson is "Liberty's Genius".
Another interesting engraving, gleefully entitled America Triumphant and Britannica in Distress was published in 1782 in Boston. In it, America is represented as Minerva. She is sitting on a quarter of the globe. Minerva has made a land claim. In one hand is an Olive branch inviting the ships of nations to partake in American commerce and in the other she is sporting the cap of Liberty. Above the harbor is Fame blowing his horn and "proclaiming the joyful news to the world". The Explanation below goes into more detail. Britannica's Genius of Evil is the classicism to balance Americas power, the ever-wise warrior and protector Minerva.
Another beautiful image portraying America as being guided by Minerva is the one shown below, titled, "AMERICA GUIDED BY WISDOM: An Allegorical Representation of the United States, Denoting Their Independence and Prosperity".
Description: "On the fore ground Minerva, the goddess of Wisdom, is pointing to a Shield, supported by the Genius of America, bearing the Arms of the United States, with the motto UNION AND INDEPENDENCE, by which the country enjoys the prosperity signaled by the horn of plenty at the feet of America. The second ground is occupied by an Equestrian Statue of WASHINGTON placed in front, indicating the progress of the liberal arts. Commerce is represented by the figure of Mercury, with one foot resting on bales of American manufactures, pointing out the advantages of encouraging and protecting Navigation, signified by an armed vessel under sail, to Ceres, who is seated with implements of Agriculture near her. The Bee Hive is emblematic of industry, and the female spinning at the cottage door, shows the first and most useful of domestic manufactures."
The Enlightenment in the United States was not only associated with classical architecture and the ancient ideas such as mixed government, but with the mythical symbolism of antiquity. The Goddesses, Gods, muses and genii are in abundance in Washington. It is the Genius of Liberty as America that stands over the East Central entrance of the Capitol with Justitia and Hope; Justice and Peace. justice, with her scales, holds a parchment that says CONSTITUTION and below that "17 SEPTEMBER 1787". In the center is the Genius of Liberty as America with her Eagle and Spear. On her shield are the letters USA which sit upon a pedestal which is dated July 4, 1776. Both look to Hope, who stands with and embraces a ship's anchor.
The United States, in it's revolutionary period, represented itself with many of the classical symbols associated with liberty, classical heroes and civic virtue. The most prominent Goddesses were Libertas, Minerva, Justitia, Victoria, Ceres, and Clio. Libertas was the Roman Goddess of Liberty. Minerva of War was a Goddess of war and victory while Minerva of Peace represented plenty, learning, arts and science. Minerva is Athena in the older Greek pantheon. Justitia and her sword and her scales of justice was the Roman version of Themis, the Greek Goddess of Justice Ceres stood for Peace. Clio was the Muse of History and recorded it. Colombia, The Americanization of Lady Liberty seems to blend much of Libertas, Minerva and at times Victory and Ceres.
Gracing the old Supreme Court until it got its own building, the image below places Justice as being central to the message. With sword and scales, accompanied by an Eagle guarding the Laws of the land. In the Lunette's descriptions of the youthful and winged figure, it states it is "presumably typifying the Young Nation, crowned by the rising sun, is pointing to the Constitution of the United States". -
Even Hercules was suggested. According to the LOC article, "Benjamin Franklin was responsible for suggesting the country's first emblem -- a native rattlesnake -- and its first personification -- Hercules". In 1784, Marquis de Barbi-Marbois painted this watercolor to suggest Hercules as a symbol for America. Hercules was the son of Zeus, Father of the Gods. He called his painting Allegory of the American Union. In the image one can see the thirteen states represented as plaques on the bridge on which Hercules is standing.
Liberty, as Columbia, the Eagle and the Snake Overlook the
Floor of the National Statuary Gallery in the Capitol Building.
Formerly behind Speaker of the House
+ ` One of the first designs for the Great Seal is part of the Jefferson papers. It is based on Eugene du Simitiere's "Design for the Great Seal of the United States", 1776. Looking at the seal, on the left is Libertas and on =the right is a soldier with gear. The plaques are the thirteen colonies. Above the plaques is the "Great Eye", which is in the shape of top of a Pyramid. The seal design presented in the first committee replaced the soldier with Goddess Justitia holding a sword and the scales of justice. The eye of Providence hovered over a plaque which represented six major nations of Europe from which immigrants came from. Underneath is the classical Stoic philosopher Horace's "E PLURIBIS UNUM" meaning "One from many". On the obverse had Pharaoh and the Israelites. The design was not accepted. Four years later, a second committee was formed. The seal presented to the second committee, designed by Francis Hopkinson showed, on the front, a large shield with thirteen diagonal red and white stripes. On the sides of the shield was a warrior representing War and a classically attired figure representing Peace, holding an Olive Branch. This is typical of Goddess Ceres representations. On the reverse side was seated Libertas with staff and liberty cap much like an old Roman or American coin such one you will see below. Eventually, all that would remain of the original designs was the great eye over the Pyramid on the reverse side. The Eagle, like the ubiquitous Eagle symbol of Rome, was placed on the front.
One must also realize that this seal was conceived of when the states still had religious tests and the constitution did not yet exist. Religious tests and government support of religion were banned in the new federal Constitution as the Enlightenment prevailed and the religious commandments of the decalogue were placed in the dust pile of failed political ideas. Only when the states caught on would the new order really commence. BY 1833 all the original states had ended government establishments and financial support of any particular Christian creed. With some states old battles have to be fought again. The North-South war have turned into a petty religious debate. What a waste of resources.
Minerva and Victory are also represented in the high relief frieze on the pedestal of the 1883 statue of Justice John Marshall on the Capitol grounds. On the left hand side is Minerva Dictating the Constitution. Not Abraham, not Moses, and not Jesus. Not any Christian representation is used to portray the deliverance of the Constitution to America. Why? Because these human attributes predate Christianity in religious art and symbolism and remain the core mythology of the west. Art, science, classical liberal education with advanced mathematics were the fruits of classical Greece. Who was the Father of Western Science? Thales, who, six centuries before the Christian era, correctly predicted an eclipse. Thales was the first great western western cosmologist because he refused to accept any supernatural or mythical explanation for the existence of the universe. His cosmology was pure natural philosophy before the phrase was invented 2000 years later. His student Anaximander was the first of many who claimed all matter was made from one substance. It was the Greek Leucippus and his student Democritus who developed the first primitive atomic theories that stated all matter was built from the same fundamental particles called atoms. Who was the first known father of Western Math? Thales! Many consider Thales of Meletus to be the father of the deductive organization of mathematics!
A time of literature and a revolution in architecture also took hold when Minerva lived as Athena, protector and goddess of Athens; architecture, open debate It is the victorious and wise pagan Goddess Minerva representing the spirit and symbolism of the new nation. It is the historical revisionists of the religious right that have lost touch with the American symbols that meant to portray America returning to what they considered at the time - the Saturnian Age. That age lies in Classical antiquity. On the right hand side of the frieze is the Goddess Victory leading America.
Minerva Dictating the Constitution
The original ink and watercolor of Clio and the Car of History is part of the Library of Congress exhibit and was done by Benjamin Henry Latrobe in 1815. Latrobe was one of the architects in the Capitol competition. Jefferson's letters include many to Latrobe. The Architect of the Capital site states, "Clio, the Muse of History, stands in a winged chariot representing the passage of time and records events as they occur. The car rests on a marble globe on which signs of the Zodiac are carved in relief. The chariot wheel is the face of the clock".
Clio and the Car of History
With regularity we see America portrayed as the Roman Goddess Minerva. She is victorious in war and she represents wisdom and intellectual pursuits in peacetime. There are scores of pagan Gods and Goddesses in government buildings but not one representation of Jesus. That would be odd for any nation supposedly founded on the Christian religion. In the revolutionary days of America, which coincided with the Enlightenment and a neoclassical revival, Christian themes or figures were not used much in allegorical fashion to represent liberty or America.
Neptune, Brother of Minerva, Welcomes you to the Library of Congress
Minerva is all over the Library of Congress. At the entrance there are three large double doors made of Bronze, with allegorical reliefs, Tradition, Writing and Printing. According to the LOC site, they "represent how history, religion, literature and science have been preserved and disseminated by man". They were crafted by Frederick MacMonnies, Olin L. Warner and Herbert Adams.
At the outset of a tour of the Library, Minerva is represented. On the lunette above the door representing the Art of Printing, Minerva, Goddess of learning and wisdom is pictured in "Minerva Diffusing the Products of Typographical Art". On the that lunette is an Egyptian, a Jew, a Christian and a Greek, representing those who have influenced the world with writing. On the door representing Tradition are representatives of ancient tribal cultures who preserved their culture and history with rich and continuous oral traditions and myths.
In the Vestibule, which is the west corridor leading to the Great Hall, one sees eight pairs of the Goddess Minerva atop the piers. Each pair consists of a Minerva of Peace and a Minerva of War. The Minerva of Peace carries a Globe and a scroll, symbolizing the universality of knowledge. The Minerva of War carries a Falchion (the short Roman close combat sword) and the Torch of Learning. Here is a closer look at one of the Minervas.
On the east side of the Great Hall is Elihu Vedder's Marble mosaic of the Minerva of Peace with her shield and helmet set down on the ground. She has put down her arms. On the bottom right, one can see a Winged Nike statue. On her left is one of her symbols, the Owl, signifying wisdom. Behind her is a beaming Sun, so often associated with Libertas and the Sun God Helios, known as Sol in Rome. In her left hand is a scroll that lists disciplines in science, education and art. Minerva is standing guard before the Main Reading Room. According to the Library of Congress, Minerva and her Owl are repeated throughout the Great Hall. In her right is a spear.
On the lunette, Minerva as Goddess of learning and wisdom is pictured in Minerva Diffusing the Products of Typographical Art. On the Writing lunette is an Egyptian, a Jew, a Christian and a Greek, representing those who have influenced the world with writing. On the door representing Tradition are representatives of ancient tribal cultures who preserved their culture and history with rich and continuous oral traditions and myths. The statue on the right is an artist's conception based on the archeological evidence on Mount Olympus at the Temple of Zeus and the existing intact statues. It was the Statue of Victory that the alliance of the clergy and the emperor succeed in having removed from the Roman Senate after centuries of tradition.
At the bottom of the staircases at each side of the Great Hall is a Bronze woman in flowing classical wear, holding the Torch of Knowledge as the Minerva of Peace does. Being that Minerva is the Goddess of wisdom and learning, it is safe to say the women are based on the attributes of Minerva. In the center of the Marble floor of the Great Hall, with it's seventy five foot ceiling, is a Sun with compass bearings and the twelve ancient signs of the Zodiak.
Apollo, the son of Zeus, was the guardian of the nine Muses, also daughters of Zeus. In the paintings of the Library of Congress Apollo represents light, literature, and knowledge; enlightenment. His half-sisters are also on hand in the library to represent the different aspects of literature and song, epic and lyric poetry.
Calliope was the head Muse of Epic Poetry among the nine Muses. Her symbols include a writing tablet, stylus, a lyre and a laurel crown. As the patron of epic poetry, she had a beautiful voice and was called "fair voiced". She stood for truth.
Clio was the Muse of History; the recorder and the proclaimer. Clio was the patron of historical and heroic poetry. Some of her symbols include an open scroll, a trumpet, and laurel crown. Erato was a muse of passionate love poetry. Her lyric poetry was all about love and eroticism. Her symbols include a qull, a Lyre and a garland of roses (or other flowers). Erato was also a muse of the arts of mimickry. Euterpe, or "giver of pleasure" was the muse of cheerful lyric poetry and music. She played the flute and the double flute. Polyhymnia was the muse of sacred poetry and hymns. Her name means "many hymns". Her symbols include a scepter, a musical note, long robes, with a pensive look. Like Erato, she is a muse of the arts of mimickry. Melpomene was a songstress and the muse of tragedy. The poetry of sorrow and grief. Her symbols included the tragedy mask of the theater.
Terpsichore was the rejoicing whirler, the muse of dance and fancy. Of choral singing, too. She was the one that danced and whirled about with her Lyre. Calliope, the head muse, was her sister. Urania was the muse of the stars. Of astronomy and astrology. Her symbols include a celestial globe and a compass. Thalia was the muse of comedy; of comic and pastoral poetry. She was the country girl of the muses, seen with a shepherd's crook sometimes. The flower-bringer. She was the festive comic. Her symbols include the comedy mask, the ivy garland and wildflowers. Thalia was also one of The Three Graces. Thalia's good cheer is joined by Euphrosyne's joy and Aglaia's splendor. Graces served Aphrodite and Eros and presided over festivals, dances and social celebrations.
But it is Apollo, Sun God of light, literature and wisdom, who protects the muses of music and poetry. Riding across the skies is Apollo guiding his chariot. Seen with what looks a lot like the Muses is a another painting of Apollo as Literature. Here are more classical figures represented in the Library of Congress:
_Lyric Poetry mural_ _Closer sketch of Lyric Poetry_ _Calliope, The head Muse of Lyric and Epic Poetry_ >_Lyrica_ _Pompeiian panels of Fortitude and Justice_ _The Three Graces_ _Euphrosyne, one of The Three Graces, representing Splendor_ _Statue of Victory_ _Promethius, bringer of the knowledge of fire to humanity, warning of Pandora_ _A Frustrated Hercules Spinning a mess_
Athena, called Minerva in Rome, was the first Statue of American Liberty. In 1791, Giuseppe Ceracchi sculpted the first official Statue of Liberty for the new nation. Here is a larger version from the LOC exhibit. The statue was called Minerva as the Patroness of American Liberty. Minerva as the Statue of Liberty?
MINERVA, ADORNED WITH FREEDOM CAP, AMERICA'S FIRST STATUE OF LIBERTY
Here also is a water color of a giant statue of liberty by the architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe. He was one of the chief competitors in the Capitol competition. This was his proposal in 1811 for a Statue of Minerva as American Liberty to be built in front of the East entrance. Both are LOC exhibits. This was a time towards the end of the Enlightenment so a bared breast was not as offensive as it would be when the second great awakening arrived.
From around the Globe: America's symbols Minerva, Justice, Victory, and Peace
With her Scales of Justice, Themis was the Greek Goddess of Justice; one of the original Titans in their ancient mythology. She was Latinized as Justitia in the Roman pantheon of deities. Greece's Nike was the winged Goddess of Victory; the Romans called her Victoria and we call her Victory. Some representations in more modern times lack her 'wings of victory' and in most cases she still retains her lifted wreath. Victory does so in the Peace Monument in Washington, DC (below). Demeter was the Greek Goddess of Peace and times of Plenty. In Rome, her name was Ceres. It can be said with some degree of accuracy that Rome conquered Greek lands but in important intellectual and artistic ways, Greece's classical culture conquered Rome.
It would be hard to find a courtroom in the United States without some representation of Lady Justice carrying her sword and holding up a set of scales. Sometimes she is blindfolded, too. In both Roman and American coins (especially first 75 years) classical Goddesses are presented regularly. The many combinations and overlapping of attributes was also common in antiquity. A familiar Greek one is Athena holding Nike in her palm which in Rome was Minerva holding the Statue of Victory. A similar representation can be found at the US Supreme Court entrance where there are large statues flanking the top of the wide stairway are. They are the work of James Earle Fraser. On the left is a large neoclassical female statue called Contemplation of Justice. On the right is a male statue, Authority of Law, who is the guardian and protector of the Law.
When walking up the steps into the building there are marble candelabras on both sides. On one base, depicting justice, is carved a traditional depiction of Justitia with her scales and a sword. On the other is carved the Three Fates, weaving the threads of life. There are also two flagpoles flanking the fountains and gardens of the plaza. The bronze flagpole bases are adorned with the sword and scales of Justice, the book, the mask, and a torch. The four elements; Air, Earth, Fire and Water are also represented on the bases.
Decorating the East front portico of the Capitol Building are two statues, War and Peace. The statue to the left of the Columbus Doors is Mars represented by a Roman Soldier. The Minerva of War is very similar to Mars in appearances with shield, battle helmet and the short sword of close combat. On the right of the door is Peace, represented by the Roman Goddess Ceres. Below are some smaller images of War and Peace. Links above go to very large close-up images of War and Peace.
Left and right: Ceres is Peace and Mars is War on the left and right of the Capitol entrance. Like Ceres, the Roman Soldier is repeated in Washington. Center: Guarding the National Archive building is a soldier in full battle dress; falchion, shield, helmet and mail. Behind the Roman Guard is a burning torch, a symbol of knowledge and freedom.
Then there is the beautiful Peace Monument on the Capitol grounds. At the top of the Peace Monument are figures of Grief and History. History is represented by Clio again. With her is Grief who is likely based on Melpomene, the Muse of Tragedy. Below we find Ceres as Peace again. On the other side is Goddess Victory. At Victory's feet are the infants Mars and Neptune, the God of the sea. The monument was erected in 1877-1878 to commemorate naval deaths during the Civil War.
THE PEACE MONUMENT
THE APOTHEOSIS OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
This magnificent Fresco was done by Constantino Brumidi when the Capitol was being expanded. This is when the new cast iron dome and the Statue of Freedom would be put atop the Dome. Washington is seen here rising to heaven to become glorified (that is what apotheosis means) with the Goddesses Liberty and Fame. Although the architect of the capitol says it is Victory/Fame I have never seen the Goddess Victory with a trumpet. It is always the Goddess 'Pheme' with her trumpet as the Goddess we know as Fame. I am guessing Brumadi was painting Fame. Washington is surrounded by thirteen maidens representing the original states. Again we see a powerful expression of the female deities found in pagan religions. Christianity is patriarchal to the extreme. We see more classical and pagan imagery; nothing Judeo-Christian is used to represent Washington's apotheosis. We are the New Rome; the New Athens; not the New Jerusalem as the religious right claims. We are symbolized by what the Christians sought to wipe off the face of the Earth. Ironic. Thousands of monks dedicated themselves to destroying pagan architecture and statuary
Surrounding Washington, the Goddesses and the maidens are six groups representing different aspects of the nation. All are represented with pagan Gods and Goddesses. WAR is an armed Goddess Freedom with her Eagle. SCIENCE is our Goddess Minerva teaching invention to Benjamin Franklin, Robert Fulton, and Samuel morse. MARINE is Neptune with Venus holding the Transatlantic Cable. COMMERCE is Mercury (Hermes) handing a bag of money to Robert Morris, a major financier of the American Revolution. MECHANICS is the fiery God Vulcan, working at the anvil, making a cannon and a steam engine. AGRICULTURE is our beautiful friend the Goddess Ceres, who also represents Peace throughout Washington. With her is America in red Liberty Cap, the Roman Pileus which freed slaves wore to mark them as free. Flora is picking flowers.
Below are Minerva as Science and Neptune as Marine. If you want to see the rest, go to the Apotheosis page at the website of the Architect of the Capitol. You can see large images of the Apotheosis there.
Created in 1840 by Horatio Greenough, Washington appears as Zeus, complete with pose, classical robes and a battle sword, the falchion. On the pedestal are two reliefs of Zeus's favorite sons. On the right side is the baby Hercules, in his crib wih his twin, killing the snake that Zeus' wife Hera put in his crib. Most of Zeus' children were not Hera's (Roman Juno) On the left side of the statue's pedestal is Apollo, God of light and literature, guiding his chariots across the sky in the manner that the Sun God Helios does. To see a much larger image of Washington as Zeus, click hereThis picture is from Vanderbilt University's site on 'America's Classical Traditions', a site worth visiting.
The portrait is by Rembrandt Peale, also known for handsome Jefferson portraits. Surrounding Washington are Oak leaves, which were sacred to Zeus/Jupiter who is presented at the top. The artwork is titled "Patriae Pater, meaning Father of our Country. Jupiter;Zeus, was the Father of the Gods.
Obelisks at the self-designed grave sites of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and James Madison: