Ara Pacis Augustae (Rome, 1st century B.C.)

Ara Pacis Augustae (Rome, 1st century B.C.)

The Altar of Peace, commissioned during the reign of Augustus, was one of the most important works of ancient Roman art.

History

Keywords

Ara Pacis, Augustan, Augustus, Ara Pacis Augustae, Pax, altar, peace agreement, Rome, Római Birodalom, Campus Martius, building, edifice, architecture, religion, relief, marble, frieze, Hispania, Gaul, senate, ceremonial procession, mythology, deities, art, antiquity, history

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Scenes

  • - The scrolling acanthus frieze on the outside of the wall contains acanthus leaves, flowers and birds, including Apollo’s swan which was one of Augustus’ favorites. Their symmetry symbolizes the harmony of nature.
  • - He was the first Roman emperor who ruled from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D. and laid the foundations of Pax Romana or Roman Peace.
  • - It consists of two parts, the altar proper resting on a stepped podium and the wall. The sides of the 4.6-m-tall (15.1-ft-tall) rectangular monument measure 11.62 and 10.62 m (38.1 and 34.8 ft).

Ara Pacis Augustae

The altar was named after the Augustan Peace that was established by Augustus, the first Roman emperor. It was commissioned by the Senate in 13 B.C. and the construction was completed in 9 B.C. The monument honors the return of Augustus from his military campaigns in Spain and Gaul. The altar, dedicated to Pax, the goddess of peace, stood in the Campus Martius, not far from the Via Flaminia.

The altar proper, made of Luna marble (or Carrara marble), rests on a podium surrounded by a wall. There are finely carved reliefs on the inner and outer surfaces of the wall. On the outside of the north and south face of the wall, where there are no entrances, processional friezes depict priests, senators and officials as well as Augustus and other members of the imperial family. Mythological scenes decorate the wall flanking the doorways.

The four main panels feature important figures connected to the city of Rome. The lower parts of the outside of the wall are decorated with carved acanthus plants, the symmetry of which symbolizes the harmony of nature. The inside of the wall is decorated with carved ox skulls (bucrania), symbolizing sacrificial offerings, and garlands interlaced with fruits.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, sediment from the Tiber River buried the monument that was carved by the most talented artists of the Augustan period. Fragments of the altar were found only in the 16th century during the building of a palace.

The reliefs of the altar broke into pieces and ended up in many different places. During the modern period, more and more pieces were found. Finally, in 1937-1938 all the fragments were excavated as well as collected from other parts of the world and the altar was reconstructed. Today, the Ara Pacis is found not at its original location but in the Museum of the Ara Pacis, near the Mausoleum of Augustus.

  • - Inside, the upper part of the wall is decorated with carved garlands interlaced with fruits, and ox skulls symbolizing sacrificial offerings. There were sacrificial bowls (libation bowls, or paterae) above the garlands. The lower part of the wall symbolizes a wooden fence that would surround a traditional Roman sacrificial altar.

  • - The scrolling acanthus frieze on the outside of the wall contains acanthus leaves, flowers and birds, including Apollo’s swan which was one of Augustus’ favorites. Their symmetry symbolizes the harmony of nature.
  • - He was the first Roman emperor who ruled from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D. and laid the foundations of Pax Romana or Roman Peace.

Narration

Ara Pacis Augustae

The altar was named after the Augustan Peace that was established by Augustus, the first Roman emperor. It was commissioned by the Senate in 13 B.C. and the construction was completed in 9 B.C. The monument commemorates the return of Augustus from his military campaigns in Spain and Gaul. The altar, dedicated to Pax, the goddess of peace, stood in the Campus Martius, not far from the Via Flaminia.

The altar proper, made of Luna marble (or Carrara marble), rests on a podium surrounded by a wall. There are finely carved reliefs on the inner and outer surfaces of the wall. On the outside of the north and south face of the wall, where there are no entrances, processional friezes depict priests, senators and officials as well as Augustus and other members of the imperial family. Mythological scenes decorate the wall flanking the doorways.

The four main panels feature important figures connected to the city of Rome. The lower parts of the outside of the wall are decorated with carved acanthus plants, the symmetry of which symbolizes the harmony of nature. The inside of the wall is decorated with carved ox skulls (bucrania), symbolizing sacrificial offerings, and garlands interlaced with fruits.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, sediment from the Tiber River buried the monument that was carved by the most talented artists of the Augustan period. Fragments of the altar were found only in the 16th century during the building of a palace.

The reliefs of the altar broke into pieces and ended up in many different places. During the modern period, more and more pieces were found. Finally, in 1937-1938 all the fragments were excavated as well as collected from other parts of the world and the altar was reconstructed. Today, the Ara Pacis is found not at its original location but in the Museum of the Ara Pacis, near the Mausoleum of Augustus.

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