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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ara Pacis

One of the most extraordinary surviving roman monuments from the time of Augustus is the Ara Pacis. It was dedicated to Augustus for his triumphal return to the capital after three years spent establishing his rule in Gaul and Hispania.The Ara Pacis was originally aligned with a giant sundial, marked out on the pavement with lines and bronze inscriptions, using as its pointer an Egyptian obelisk. The monument itself consists of a rectangular enclosure with an open-air altar, mimicking Greek custom. It is made entirely of marble panels covered with intricate sculptures which presented powerful propaganda, uniting portraiture and allegory, religion and politics, and the private and the public. On the inner walls you can find engraved ox skulls symbolizing sacrificial offerings at the altar during annual commemorations. There are also garlands on the inside showing the continuing peace and prosperity that Augustus brought to the Roman world. On the exterior, natural prosperity continues in lower reliefs of decorations populated by animals. On the front and back are allegorical scenes showing the mythical history of Rome and the divine lineage of Augustus. Two continuous processions are engraved on the long ends representing real historical events rather than myth or allegory. The Ara Pacis was made to celebrate imperial power as part of a larger complex declaring the civic generosity of Rome’s emperors which will bring continuing peace and prosperity since Augustus's successors have already been born.

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