Introduction Standard theory views government as functional: The analogy rests on the market economy:
Ara Pacis Museum, Rome, Italy photo: Sacred offerings to the gods, consultations with priests and diviners, ritual formulae, communal feasting—were all practices aimed at fostering and maintaining social cohesion and communicating authority.
It could perhaps be argued that the Ara Pacis Augustae—the Altar of Augustan Peace—represents in luxurious, stately microcosm the practices of the Roman state religion in a way that is simultaneously elegant and pragmatic.
It was adjacent to architectural complexes that cultivated and proudly displayed messages about the power, legitimacy, and suitability of their patron—the emperor Augustus.
Now excavated, restored, and reassembled in a sleek modern pavilion designed by architect Richard Reed college essay questionthe Ara Pacis continues to inspire and challenge us as we think about ancient Rome.
An open-air altar for sacrifice The Ara Pacis is, at its simplest, an open-air altar for blood sacrifice associated with the Roman state religion. The ritual slaughtering and offering of animals in Roman religion was routine, and such rites usually took place outdoors.
Illustration showing the likely original placement of the Ara Pacis Augustae far right in proximity to the Horologium Augusti sundial and the Mausoleum of Augustus. Source Illustration showing the likely original placement of the Ara Pacis Augustae far right in proximity to the Horologium Augusti sundial and the Mausoleum of Augustus in the background.
The dedication to a rather abstract notion of peace pax is significant in that Augustus advertises the fact that he has restored peace to the Roman state after a long period of internal and external turmoil.
The altar enclosure is roughly square while the altar itself sits atop a raised podium that is accessible via a narrow stairway.
Ara Pacis Museum, Rome photo: The solemn figures, all properly clad for a rite of the state religion, proceed in the direction of the altar itself, ready to participate in the ritual. The figures all advance toward the west. The occasion depicted would seem to be a celebration of the peace Pax that Augustus had restored to the Roman empire.
In addition four main groups of people are evident in the processions: There has been a good deal of scholarly discussion focused on two of three non-Roman children who are depicted.
A member of the Priestly college association of Septemviri epulones, carries an incense box, processional scene north sideAra Pacis Augustae Altar of Augustan Peace 9 B. The priestly colleges religious associations represented include the Septemviri epulones "seven men for sacrificial banquets"—they arranged public feasts connected to sacred holidayswhose members here carry an incense box image aboveand the quindecimviri sacris faciundis "fifteen men to perform sacred actions"— their main duty was to guard and consult the Sibylline books oracular texts at the request of the Senate.
Members of the imperial family, including Octavia Minor, follow behind. Ara Pacis Museum, Rome source A good deal of modern restoration has been undertaken on the north wall, with many heads heavily restored or replaced. The south wall of the exterior screen depicts Augustus and his immediate family.
The identification of the individual figures has been the source of a great deal of scholarly debate. Depicted here are Augustus damaged, he appears at the far left in the image above and Marcus Agrippa friend, son-in-law, and lieutenant to Augustus, he appears, hooded, image belowalong with other members of the imperial house.
All of those present are dressed in ceremonial garb appropriate for the state sacrifice.
The presence of state priests known as flamens flamines further indicate the solemnity of the occasion. This vegetal frieze emphasizes the fertility and abundance of the lands, a clear benefit of living in a time of peace.
Mythological Panels Accompanying the processional friezes are four mythological panels that adorn the altar screen on its shorter sides. Each of these panels depicts a distinct scene: The panel depicts a scene of human fertility and natural abundance. Two babies sit on the lap of the seated female, tugging at her drapery.
Surrounding the central female is the natural abundance of the lands and flanking her are the personifications of the land and sea breezes. The Altar The altar itself below sits within the sculpted precinct wall. It is framed by sculpted architectural mouldings with crouching gryphons surmounted by volutes flanking the altar.
Initially the makeover had a dynastic tone, with the Mausoleum of Augustus near the river. The choice to celebrate peace and the attendant prosperity in some ways breaks with the tradition of explicitly triumphal monuments that advertise success in war and victories won on the battlefield.
By championing peace—at least in the guise of public monuments—Augustus promoted a powerful and effective campaign of political message making. These initial fragments came to be dispersed among various museums, including the Villa Medici, the Vatican Museums, the Louvre, and the Uffizi.
It was not until that further fragments of the Ara Pacis emerged. Although von Duhn reached this conclusion byexcavations were not resumed untilat which time the total number of recovered fragments reached 53, after which the excavation was again halted due to difficult conditions.
Work at the site began again in February when advanced technology was used to freeze approximately 70 cubic meters of soil to allow for the extraction of the remaining fragments.Browse more than episodes, and find your favorite stories by topic, contributor, and year.
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