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Ara Pacis Augustae. The Alter of Augustan Peace. Ara Pacis Augustae. Who commissioned it : Augustus When: 13- 9 BC Where : field of Mars (Campus Martius), Rome Materials : Italian- tufa, Carrara marble, travertine

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Ara pacis augustae

Ara Pacis Augustae

The Alter of Augustan Peace

Ara pacis augustae1
Ara Pacis Augustae

  • Who commissioned it: Augustus

  • When:13- 9 BC

  • Where: field of Mars (Campus Martius), Rome

  • Materials: Italian- tufa, Carrara marble, travertine

  • Commemorates: return of Augustus from Spain and Gaul where he settled the provinces.

  • Message: A new Age of Peace and fertility given to Rome by Augustus.

  • Scenes: Historic procession with Augustus, Roma, Tellus, Romulas and Remus and Aeneas.

  • Style: Greek in origin (Greek Altar of Mercy in Athens, acanthus leaf scroll work etc).

  • Artistic Devices (include deities & personification): Tellus- Mother Earth; Roma- Armed Goddess; Romulas and Remus; Aeneas; Imperial propaganda- Peace; etc

Ara pacis augustae

  • The Senate awarded the Ara Pacis to Augustus after the successful pacification of Gaul and Spain.

It was inaugurated on the 4th July 13 BC in lieu of Triumphal honours- Augustus had refused to accept Triumphal honours since 29 BC.

The alter was dedicated on 30th January 9 BC.

The ara pacis
The Ara Pacis:

  • Is a commemorative structure.

  • Promotes Augustus’ ideology.

  • Emphasises the divine origins of Rome and the Julio-Claudian dynasty.

  • The overall theme is the Augustan Peace and the resultant prosperity and fertility for Rome.

Ara pacis augustae

Length 10.5 m

  • Location:



  • It was

    made from:

  • Tufa for the


  • Travertine


  • CarraraMarble.

  • Height 7 m

Width 11.6 m

The doors
The Doors

  • There are two doors located on the east end and the west end.

  • The main entrance is the west end. The door is approached via 9 steps.

The altar
The Altar

  • Location: inside the precinct facing due east.

  • The altar was raised.

  • Decoration: friezes of relief sculpture.

Vestal virgins and servants

Centre: people walking in procession. Perhaps Pax with a retinue of deities.

Animals led to be sacrificed by priests and attendants.

Vestal virgins and servants

Animals led to sacrifice by priests and attendants.

The frieze probably depicted sacrifices and rituals which were carried out on anniversaries of the altar's dedication.

Screen wall interior
Screen Wall Interior

  • Top Band: A series of bull-heads with elaborate garlands.

  • Mid band: A thin line of floral decoration.

  • Bottom band: It was carved to look like the temporary enclosure built round the altar when the site was inaugurated in 13 BC.

The precinct s exterior
The precinct’s exterior

  • Has two tiers of relief which a separated by a thick band of meanders, carved in raised relief.

  • The top and bottom bands are framed by Corinthian pilasters which are decorated with elaborate foliate scroll.

  • Acanthus capitals support the cornice and entablature.

Screen wall lower exterior
Screen Wall lower exterior

This is on all sides of the precinct, located under the top frieze.

  • The relief contains an intricate floral pattern of swirling tendrons ending in acanthus leaves and realistic looking carved flowers.

  • Birds (including a swan), lizards and snakes are amongst the floral pattern. This gives the impression of movement.

  • The swan is significant as it is sacred to Apollo, who was one of Augustus’ patron deities.

Northern and southern friezes
Northern and Southern friezes

  • Although there is a north section and south section, the processions are probably the same one continued.

  • Unsure of what occasion the procession is for:

    • Inauguration in 13 BC.

    • Dedication in 9 BC.

    • Or another religious occasion.

Northern frieze
Northern Frieze

  • The procession includes:

    • Senators wearing wreaths.

    • Members of Rome’s most important priesthoods.

    • Smaller groups of men, women and children at the end of the procession. It is thought these people might be less important members of Augustus’ family.

Southern frieze procession
Southern frieze Procession

  • Augustus: about to sacrifice, his head is covered (piety).

  • Around Augustus, members of the Flamines (a priesthood group). Note the headgear, looks like candle sticks .

  • Further on in the procession are members of Augustus’ family.

  • Marcus Agrippa leads them- his head is covered by his toga indicating piety. Agrippa died in 12 BC.

  • Other family members include his wife Livia, his daughter Julia, and the future Emperor, Tiberius.

  • The most important family members are in the foreground. In the background are leader members of the Roman aristocracy.

Family values
Family Values

  • A strong family was part of Augustus’ ideology.

  • He believed that the children was a indication of the city’s wealth.

  • He penalised unmarried adults during his reign.


  • Devices from the Panathenaic procession frieze of the Parthenon are re-used:

    • Varied positions, indicating restless movement.

    • The height of children is varied. This draws the eye along the procession.

The upper exterior reliefs
The upper exterior reliefs

  • Each of the precinct’s short sides (east and west) have two friezes, an allegorical one and a mythological one. The long sides of the precinct (north and south) depicts a processional frieze.

Western frieze
Western Frieze

  • The right panel shows Aeneas sacrificing the Lavinian sow to the Penates.

    • Aeneas is:

      • Heavily bearded.

      • Standing before an altar with his toga draped over.

  • Two youths wearing wreaths assist him.

  • Aeneas, son of Venus, is the ancestor of Caesar, who was Augustus’ adopted father.

  • The left panel is fragmented but depicts Romulus and Remus being discovered by Faustulus as the she-wolf was suckling them.

Eastern frieze
Eastern Frieze

  • Left Panel = Tellus Relief:

    • Centre: woman on a rocky outcrop, could be Tellus/ Mother Earth.

    • Fertility is emphasised:

      • The pair of infants on her lap.

      • The fruit lying around and the livestock in the background.

  • Left and right of Tellus: maidens.

    • Personify water: Salt Water is on a winged sea serpent; Fresh Water is on a swan.

    • The cloaks of the maidens billow out as if in a breeze

  • The relief might not be of Tellus, some have suggested the central woman is Pax- this would still be in keeping with the theme of the Ara Pacis.

  • Right Panel = The goddess Roma enthroned on weapons:

    • VERY fragmented.