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ARA PACIS. BASIC FACTS…. the Ara Pacis was set up on the Campus Martius (Field of Mars) in the north of Rome, not far from the mausoleum of Augustus.

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  2. BASIC FACTS… • the Ara Pacis was set up on the Campus Martius (Field of Mars) in the north of Rome, not far from the mausoleum of Augustus. • means “Altar of Augustan Peace”

  3. MORE BASIC FACTS… • the Ara Pacis was commissioned by the Senate in 13BC and consecrated in 9 BC. • it was built to commemorate Augustus’ return from Spain and Gaul after many years disturbance.

  4. SO WHAT MAKES THE ALTAR? • eastern window • exterior screen • altar • interior stairway • western entrance

  5. MATERIALS USED • the altar seems to model itself on the Greek altar of Mercy in Athens. • all the materials used are Italian: • the foundations, platform and pavement are made from travertine (limestone), • Carrara (north Italian) marble for the superstructure, • tufa for the core of the altar.


  7. THE ALTAR • sits upon a small podium. • it is richly decorated with a small frieze (39cm high) of a sacrificial procession with Vestal virgins, other sacrifical attendaents and animals (souvetaurilla). • the altar was meant to used for yearly sacrifices to the Goddess of Peace.

  8. INTERIOR DECORATION • The top section of the inside of the wall is covered with symbols of sacrifice: • bulls skulls, • garlands (of fruit from the whole year symbolizing the everlasting peace of Augustus), • ribbons, • libation bowls.

  9. INTERIOR DECORATION • a palmette design separates the top and bottom section. • the lower section has a ‘wooden fence-like’ design echoing the fence that would have stood around the altar during construction.

  10. EXTERIOR FRIEZE • The decoration on the exterior of the precinct wall is split into two sections.

  11. EXTERIOR FRIEZE - Lower • The lower part of the screen wall is decorated with: • an elaborate floral design of leafy tendrils, emanating from acanthus plants and winding like scrolls until they burst into flowers. • birds especially swans (bird of Apollo), • insects, • snakes, • lizards, • frogs inhabit the vegetation.

  12. EXTERIOR FRIEZE – UPPER East and West • these panels are set either side of the openings in the walls. • the scenes on the eastern end are allegorical and ones on the western end are mythical. • these scenes are framed by Corinthian pilasters decorated with a floral pattern.

  13. EAST • the right panel depicts the armed goddess Roma seated symbolizing victory and peace.

  14. EAST • the left panel shows a veiled Mother Earth, Tellus (personifying Italy) with two children on her lap. • Symbols of fertility are present in the scene: • corn, poppies, fruit, bulrushes, • sheep and cows. • the two seated women represent aspects of natural world of land, sea and sky. • the female on the left symbolises air and sits on a swan the symbol of Apollo. • the female on the right symbolises fresh water and sits on a sea-creature and has her feet in water. • both females drapery billow around them giving them a halo effect.

  15. WEST • the right panel has Aeneas pouring a drink-offering to the gods before he sacrifices a pig at the site of his new home in Italy. • in the background stands the shrine of household gods. • he is attended by two youths. • Aeneas wears his toga over his head in the style of a priest. • the scene reminds us of Aeneas’ devotion to the gods and of his connection with Augustus.

  16. WEST • on the left panel only fragments remain. • the armed god of war Mars is shown with his children Romulus and Remus at the cave of the she-wolf that rescued the babies. • This symbolizes the beginning of Rome and the Roman peoples divine origins.

  17. EXTERIOR FRIEZE - UPPER North and South • both friezes show life-sized figures (1.55m high) all moving towards the west. • the friezes represent the consecration ceremony of the altar in 9 BC. • children appear on both sides: • some are Augustus’ grandchildren, • other unidentified children could symbolise the Emperor’s hopes for an increase in the birth rate among the upper classes.

  18. EXTERIOR FRIEZE - UPPER North and South • the treatment of the poses and the drapery is reminiscent of the frieze from the Parthenon in Athens. • variety in the friezes is achieved by: • different poses, • the addition of children, • figures looking in different directions, • low and high relief used. • use of overlapping and slightly smaller background figures show an attempt at depth but it is not perfect. • there is a calm but serious mood in these friezes.

  19. SOUTH • Augustus stands near the western end of the southern frieze. He is pouring a libation and is accompanied by: • consuls, • priests, • other officials, • members of his family. • the pose and dress of Augustus’ mirrors that of Aeneas on the entrance panel.

  20. NORTH • another procession of senators, officials, women and children of the Imperial moving westwards. • one man has his toga draped over his head. • another man carries an incense box in a sign of piety. • all the heads of the senators are modern. • most of the background heads have been restored.



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