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Monuments: Ara Pacis Augustae

The Altar of Augustan Peace (Ara Pacis Augustae) was dedicated on 30 January 9 BC, having been decreed by the Senate to celebrate the return of Augustus from Spain and Gaul on 4 July 13 BC. It was carved entirely in white marble from near Luna (modern Carrara). The Ara Pacus was originally situated next to the Via Flaminia on the Campus Martius but is now on display in a purpose-built museum, the Museo dell'Ara Pacis (the current incarnation of which was opened in 2006). In its current form the Ara Pacis is the result of reconstruction work carried out in 1938 during which hundreds of fragments were put together with the gaps filled with plaster. More

The reliefs on the Ara Pacis celebrate Augustus wider political and social ideology. The upper zone of the exterior sides of the altar's enclosure are ornamented with two friezes, depicting a public procession of the key members of the Roman order: priests, magistrate, Augustus and his family, and the citizens of Rome. Beneath these reliefs the lower zone of the side walls is decorated with elaborate acanthus plants. This motif is found again on the end walls of the enclosure beneath four reliefs flanking the two entrances to the altar itself: on the front, either side of the main steps, these reliefs refer to the foundation myths of the city, to Romulus and to Aeneas respectively; on the other end, the goddess Roma enthroned on a pile of weapons and accompanied by Honos and Virtus faces across the entranceway to a relief depicting a female figure in a landscape of abundance. The identity of this female figures is much debated by she appears to represent either Peace (Pax), Land (Terra), Tellus (Mother Earth), Venus Genetrix, or perhaps even a combination of all of these intended to celebrate the multifarious character of peace and the wealth that it had brought to Italy. Inside, the altar itself it decorated with a relief showing a sacrificial procession while the interior of the enclosure walls are ornamented with garlands, paterae (offering dishes) and bulls' skulls, all reference to the actual acts of sacrifice that took place here. The quality of the carving of all of this decoration is among the highest found on any monument of any period in Rome and draws heavily on the classicizing style that dominated Augustan state art.

Conlin, D. A. (1997). The artists of the Ara Pacis. The process of Hellenization in Roman relief sculpture. Chapel Hill NC.

Cohon, R. (2004). ‘Forerunners of the scrollwork on the Ara Pacis Augustae made by a Western Asiatic workshop’, Journal of Roman Archaeology 17: 83–106.

Foresta, S. (2011). ‘La policromia dell’Ara Pacis e i colori del Campo Marzio settentrionale’, in M. Rossi (ed.). Colore e colorimetria. Contributi multidisciplinari. Vol. VIIA (Collana Quaderni di Ottica e Fotonica 20). Santarcangelo di Romagna: 333–40.

Hannestad, N. (2000). ‘Late-antique reworking of the Ara Pacis?’, Journal of Roman Archaeology 13: 311–18.

La Rocca, E. (1983). Ara Pacis Augustae: in occasione del restauro della fronte orientale. Rome.

Rossini, O. (2010). ‘I colori dell'Ara Pacis. Storia di un esperimento’, Archeomatica: tecnologie per i beni culturali 1.3: 20–5.


ObjectType object (1)
Luna Marble (Archaeometric identification)  
bc 13 - bc



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