Ara Pacis: The Monument In Augustan Arts

2137 words - 9 pages

The Ara Pacis (“Altar of Augustan Peace” in Latin) is one of the most representative works of Augustan art. The monument was dedicated on 4 July 13 B.C to honor the return of Augustus after three years in Spain and Gaul, which were his last military operations, and commemorate military victories. The altar was an impressive example of the culture of Rome in general and illustration of prosperous Rome. The monument is a visual medium to represent that peace is the result of military victories and his proconsular power on the land and sea. Karl Galinsky, a Professor of Classics at the University of Texas at Austin says that the Ara Pacis is linked with the concept that pace is the result of military victories. According to him, Augustus mentioned the importance of the Ara Pacis in Res Gestae by saying, “On my return from Spain and Gaul in the consulship of Tiberius Nero and Publius Quintilius, after I had successfully arranged affairs in those provinces, the senate decreed that an altar of the Augustan Peace should be consecrated next to the Campus Martius in honor of my return, and ordered that the magistrates and priests and the Vestal Virgins perform an annual sacrifice there” (Karl Galinsky, 1996). He avoided building an altar in the senate chamber to honor his return. Instead, he ordered to build an altar to Pax Agusta in which one mile away from the sacred boundary of the city. It means that the altar was meant not only to be a monument of military achievement, but also a vision of the Roman religion. This research aims on function, structure of the altar, and reliefs on each side of the precinct wall.
The Ara Pacis probably functioned as a memorial of Augustus’s succeeding events and surficial place for peace. The inner altar was used for sacrificial place involving the slaughter of large animals; the blood was washed out into drain holes. The height of the walls cut the altar off so that people outside the structure could view inside. The inner space was not enough to accommodate many people and animals; only few priests entered and participated in a ritual. Paul Rehak, an American archaeologist, illustrates how the space is small. He says, “Tonybee (1953) suggests that officiating priests entered the monument its west side, but the animal victims were slaughtered outdoors on the east side. Such a reconstruction of the sacrifice mentioned in the Res Gestae sounds implausible, but it at least acknowledges the reality of cramped quarters” (Paul Rehak, 2006). In addition, bloodless offerings were also carried out in the altar. David Castriota, a faculty at Sarah Lawrence College, says, “The narrow space on the altar top could only have allowed bloodless offerings like fruit, cakes, or wine, and maybe a small fire for burning incense, as Ovid testifies, but a large fire would damage the marble” (David Castriota, 1995). In the transitional sense, however, the Ara Pacis lost its function as a sacrificial place. The altar probably functioned...

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