Ara Pacis Augustae (“Altar of Augustan Peace”), dedicated 9 BCE, a monument celebrating Augustus’s most significant achievement -his establishment of peace.
The Ara Pacis is one of my all-time favorite ancient artworks, and the amount of information, analysis, and research done on it is abundant. Attempting to do a post covering all of this would not do the monument justice, and so I’ve instead decided to focus on a few key scenes shown in the friezes (using Gardner’s Art Through the Ages). I likely will cover other aspects of the Ara Pacis in the future, but I would definitely recommend doing some extra reading on this fantastic monument.
Analysis of the second image showing a female personification:
Her identity is uncertain. She is usually called Tellus (Mother Earth), although some scholars have named her Pax (Peace), Ceres (goddess of grain), or even Venus. Whoever she is, she epitomizes the fruits of the Pax Augustusa. All around her the bountiful earth is in bloom, and animals of different species live peacefully side by side. Personifications of refreshing breezes (note the windblown drapery) flank her. One rides a bird, the other a sea creature. Earth, sky, and water are all elements of this picture of peace and fertility in the Augustan cosmos.
The final image showing Aeneas sacrificing:
Four panels on the east and west depict carefully selected mythological subjects, including a relief of Aeneas making a sacrifice. Aeneas was the son of Venus and one of Augustus’s forefathers. The connection between the emperor and Aeneas was a key element of Augustus’s political ideology for his new Golden Age. It is no coincidence that Vergil wrote the Aeneid during the rule of Augustus. The epic poem glorified the young emperor by celebrating the founder of the Julian line.
-Helen Gardner, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: The Western Perspective, Volume I. page 176.
Photos courtesy & taken by Steven Zucker.