Buried deep within Barcelona’s underworld a mosaic displays a perfectly preserved swastika, a motif with ancient origins and adopted as a political symbol by the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi) in the mid 20th century.

#01. The swastika is an ancient symbol, thought by many ancient cultures to represent the sun. This design is found on a Roman mosaic at Barcino ( Barcelona)

#02. The swastika symbol was adopted by many ancient cultures and each associated it with different meanings and drew it in different styles. It was most often used as a solar symbol and represented the sun, light and good fortune and for this reason it was displayed above doorways and entrances to special, often sacred, spaces.

The earliest known recorded use of the word swastika is in Ashtadhyayi or Eight Chapters, a 6th century BCE Sanskrit treatise on grammar written by Panini, establishing the linguistic standards for Classical Sanskrit.

The word ‘swasti ‘ was a common greeting meaning ‘health, luck and prosperity’ and the ‘ka’ at the end of the word ‘swastika’ is similar to the common English suffix ‘like’, so swastika essentially means to be associated with well-being.

The symbol was often associated with the sun and it was used to decorate entrances and doorways, implying that a place was lucky or auspicious. In ancient Greece it was called the tetragammadion as each arm resembles the Greek letter I (gamma). The Barcelona example is a classic Greco-Roman swastika with trailing arms integrated into the greater design. But what on Earth is this symbol doing beneath the streets of Barcelona, hundreds of miles from India, Greece and Rome?-


In context, this swastika is but a tiny symbolic component in what are the most extensive underground Roman ruins in the world, located in the Plaça del Rei labyrinth, in Barcelona’s Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter), now the Musea d’História de la Ciutat (City History Museum). Over four square kilometers of gargantuan sandstone columns protrude from crumbling mosaic walkways lined with Roman houses, towers, streets, factories, wineries, laundries, salted fish and garum, in what was once the thriving ancient colony of Barcino (Barcelona) between the 1st and 6th centuries.

#03. Remains of an ancient Roman salt fish factory and garum factory in the archaeological underground ruins at  Museu d'Història de la Ciutat de   Barcelona  (Plaça del Rei).

#03. Remains of an ancient Roman salt fish factory and garum factory in the archaeological underground ruins at Museu d'Història de la Ciutat de Barcelona (Plaça del Rei).

Augustus (63 BCE to 14 CE) was the title given to Octavian, the adopted son and heir of Julius Caesar when he became the first emperor of the Roman Empire. A vast Roman temple dedicated to Augustus was built in Barcino during the Imperial period that was not discovered until the late 19th century when three of its four vast columns emerged from the construction site of Centre Excursionista de Catalunya.

This Roman temple was the central feature on Tàber Hill, the highest point of the ancient Roman Barcino colony, and unlike the majority of other Roman buildings in Barcelona the columns of the Temple of Augustus were not built over, rather, they were incorporated into the surrounding medieval buildings. Thus, for those who care to count, volumes of hitherto unobserved data can be derived from the measurements, proportions and ratios of this ancient temple.

#02. The bases of the three pillars of the Temple of Augustus in Barcelona, Spain, are of the Attic type as they sit directly on the stylobate without any plinths. CC by-SA 3.0

In the January 2014 edition of the Oxford Journal of Archaeology, scholar Hector Orengo from the Department of Archaeology, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, published a paper titled The Augustan Temple and Forum of the Colony of Barcino: A 90 Degree Turn. Orengo explains that architect Antoni Celles (1775 - 1835) completed “a description and a map of the temple” during excavations as early as 1830 financed by the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce. Celles incorrectly believed the temple was Carthaginian and described it formally as being “a peripteral temple with 11 columns on each wing, including corner columns, and with 6 on the front and further 6 on the posticum. The whole building would have been 35 x 17.5 meters in size, erected on a podium a third the height of the columns.”

Although Celles recorded the temple’s foundational measurements he failed to even begin interpreting the building’s metrology. This is to say he never asked “why” the designers installed 11 columns and not ten or 12; neither did he enquire as to “why” the building’s length measured exactly double its breadth. If he had asked such questions Celles would have found the temple was constructed using an ancient Greek architectural format expressing the universal cosmic languages of mathematics, geometry and music.

THE Music OF Greek geometry

Hypothetical reconstruction of the plan and section of the temple following the B hypothesis and the archaeological data provided by the excavations in Paradís Street. Drawing by H.A. Orengo.

To reveal this temple’s underlying architectural musical code, the researcher must simply enquire into the Roman architects reasoning and rational for measuring exactly “35 x 17.5” meters, a double square with a 2:1 ratio, and not any of the other infinite possible measurements or proportions?

The English word ‘temple’ comes from the Latin word ‘templum’ which referred not to the tangible stones or wooden buildings, but to any defined sacred space, with walls and ornamentation. To assure longevity holy spaces in ancient Greece were surveyed and plotted out by a highly-educated class of geometer skilled in orienting and aligning buildings with millimeter accuracy, using carefully prepared wooden siting posts and accurately calibrated cords, they adhered to a well-developed set of rules of mensuration.

At a rudimentary level in ancient Greek building projects the specialist priestly classes established ‘prime-measurements’ which defined the centers of temples, the sanctum sanctorum, and these became the standard building modules, or calibration units, for the building. In Rome the preferred primary measurement, or sacred unit, was the foot, which varied between 29 and 34 cm from region to region. Whole number divisions and multiplications of the foot were used to establish walls and the positions of doorways, the lower diameter of columns, the widths of plinths and the distances between the column axes.

Early Greek building formats were developed by Roman temple architects and what can be called the first set of universal cosmic building codes were devised by Vitruvius (80/70 BCE - 25 BCE), the Roman author, architect, civil engineer and military engineer who wrote De Architectura between 35 - 25 BCE. In Book III of his treatise, Vitruvius speaks of the "temples of the immortal gods, describing and explaining them in the proper manner” stating that “temples must depend upon symmetry and proportion, each component in exact relation to the whole.”  His iconic image Vitruvian Man was depicted within a ‘double square’ (left) and Leonardo da Vinci created his Vitruvian Man (right) around 1490 CE, within a circle and square, but the geometric proportions and ratios within each image are the same.

#04. Vitruvian Man, illustration in the edition of De architectura by Vitruvius; illustrated edition by Cesare Cesariano (1521). CA by SA 3.0

#05. Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519). Vitruvian Man circa 1492. Medium drawing pen, ink and wash on paper. Collection Gallerie dell'Accademia. CA by-SA 3.0

The principles of ‘man being laid out’ in architecture were given in De Architectura libri decem I, VI; where Vitruvius describes a Basilica he designed and built at Fanum Fortunae, present-day Fano, a Roman colony situated at the Adriatic end of the via Flaminia. The foundational measurements were a double square measuring exactly 60 x 120 feet, reflecting the 1:2 ratio. The design also embodied the Pythagorean ‘perfect’ numbers: 6, 10 and 16. The columns measured five feet thick and 50 feet tall which is an expression of the 1:10 ratio, thus, Vitruvius’ building was ‘rational’ and displayed near perfect modularity, proportion and harmony, both horizontally and vertically.

#06. From The Ten Books on Architecture: Bks. I-X By Vitruvius, Vitruvius Pollio, Morris H. Morgan, Translated by Morris H. Morgan Published by Courier Dover Publications, 1960. CA by-SA 3.0

secret of the double square

From the double square arises the mysterious mathematical function we write as “Phi”, representing the only way in which a line segment of a given length can be divided, so that the ratio of the smaller part to the larger part, is equal to the ratio of the larger part to the whole. This concept is represented by the number 1.6180339 and Renaissance artists knew it as the Divine Proportion, Golden Section, Golden Ratio and Golden Mean.

#07: Phi, the Golden Section - 1.618 - was a rudimentary formula in temple construction which assured proportions were congruent through out a temple.

According to Hector Orengo “the plan of the Augustinian temple in Barcelona would result in a podium size of 31.69 by 19.1 m.” These measurements, he explains, would closely correspond to the so called “golden ratio, of 1.618.” The golden ratio is also present in the proportion of the plans of the Augustinian temples at Évora, which measures 1.6, and at Emerita Augusta where it is measured at 1.675. Figure ?? shows a comparison between the two possible temple orientations at Barcino, and the double square floor plans used to build Emerita Augusta and Évora.

#0 Typological comparison between the different hexastyle peripteral temples of the Iberian Peninsula. Drawing by H.A. Orengo, adapted from Hauschild 1991.

A later classic architectural treatise, Ten Books, written by Leon Battista Alberti between 1443 CE and 1452 CE was greatly based on Vitruvius's De architectura. In Alberti’s “Survey of Desirable Floor Plans for Sacred Buildings “ all designs began with a perfect circle from which “nine ideal centrally-planned geometrical shapes” would be derived using geometric applications. Alberti determined that when building churches, architects should extrapolate squares, hexagons, octagons, decagons and dodecagons from the circle, and he recommended “deriving one square, then forming a double square rectangle”, because this format had “enharmonic parallels in music.” 


The mathematical code that unites music, geometry and architecture was first espoused by Pythagoras in southern Italy and many Greek temples were designed on these proportional principles - the Music of the Heavenly Spheres. By vibrating strings of different lengths over double square wooden boxes and recording the sound changes, Pythagoras systemized the invisible harmonic vibrational rhythms of the universe and he condensed them into a measurement system that was subsequently expressed in holy architecture.

The double square design format was of great significance to ancient architects because the 2:1 ratio was directly related to music through the octave; if a note is sounded on a stretched string, and that string is halved, the note is one octave higher. Another way, when the length of a string is halved the vibrational frequency doubles.

#06: Pythagorus’s Music of the Heavenly Spheres became a geometric template used in the construction of temples and cathedrals.

This apparently magical 2:1 ratio derived from the vibrational constants of the universe was correctly perceived as having been formed at the very first stages of creation, therefore, it was integrated into the plans of several Augustinian temples, for example, in the city of Pula, Croatia; a temple of Augustus was built at the beginning of the 1st century measuring “8.5 x 17 meters”, another double-square.

#03. Temple of Augustus, Pula, Croatia. The Roman temple is dedicated to the first Roman emperor, Augustus. CC by-SA 3.0

In medieval theology the Biblical concept of “the four corners of Earth” did not refer to the square, but rather, to the double square with its 2:1 ratio and this is why the ratio was used so frequently in the floor plans of Gothic cathedrals and medieval churches and abbeys. Rudolf Wittkower was a German-American art historian specializing in Italian Renaissance and Baroque art and architecture who argued that Renaissance architects saw the cosmic connections in simple ratios such as 2:1; “the octave, a string doubled or halved in length, or in building the double-square.“


The Roman Temple of Augustus buried beneath Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter is a lost library of ancient metrology information, and between its pillar bases are the secrets of ancient Greek and Roman mythology, cosmology and metrology. This cosmic museum is a shrine to the vibrational nature of the universe; a monument of Pythagorean geometry reflected in the music of the heavenly spheres.

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Scottish historian, author, filmmaker and explorer investigating the old world