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Roman Art & Architecture. Ara Pacis ‘Altar of Augustan Peace’ 13-9 B.C. Introduction. It is built in the Field of Mars/Campus Martius The Altar of Peace Altar/Relief Sculpture It is made all of marble from Italy

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roman art architecture

Roman Art & Architecture

Ara Pacis

‘Altar of Augustan Peace’

13-9 B.C.

  • It is built in the Field of Mars/Campus Martius
  • The Altar of Peace
  • Altar/Relief Sculpture
  • It is made all of marble from Italy
  • Relief scultpure is raised stone silhouette. It is produced by carving away the background.
  • It is meant to be seen and its function is to inform.
  • Mix of human and divine.
  • It was created in honour of Augustus for after he passified the Gauls and Spaniards. It was a gesture of public thanks and was dedicated on 30th January 9 B.C
  • Propaganda/to honour Augustus for bringing peace.
  • Width – 11.6m Length – 10.5m Height 7m
materials influences
  • Tufa for the core
  • Travertine (limestone)
  • Carrara Marble
  • The Parthenon
  • Altar of Pity in the Agora
  • Allegorical scene and the West side shows a mythological

Altar raised and faces due east.

The outer wall is called the precinct.





9 Stairs


lower register precinct outer wall
Lower Register Precinct (outer wall)
  • Is decorated all the way around with a floral scene of swirling tendrils that finish in Acanthus leaves. Petals, lizards, snakes, birds, scenes from nature. Intricate detail. Panel appears alive.
  • In several places a swan takes pride of place.
  • The swan is sacred to Apollo who is Augustus’ patron diety.
inside wall lower register
Inside Wall Lower Register
  • Wood symbolises the enclosure around the Ara Pacis while it was being built.
  • The interior was is decorated with three symbols
  • Garlands
  • Libations
  • skulls
upper register inside wall precint
Upper Register, inside Wall Precint
  • Bulls heads, garlands, Patera (Paterae, sacrificial bowls). These may represent a sacrifice at the dedication of the altar.
  • Garlands which adorn the bulls heads have fruit from all 4 season to signifiy that Augustan peace is present through the whole year.
precinct upper register west side
Precinct, Upper Register, West Side
  • Panel 1
    • Aeneas, Iulus, Lares and Penates (household gods in the shrine). They link back to Aeneas and the fall of Troy.
    • Aeneas wears vail to symbolise piety.
    • Aeneas sacrficing the Lavinian sow to the Lares and Penates. The Lavinian sow myth is one of the foundation myths of Rome. This frieze is destined to link Augustus to divine ancestry and piety.
  • Panel 2
    • Fragmentary
    • Another foundation myth of Rome. Romulus and Remus suckling the shewolf. Mars, their father, looks on.
precinct upper register west side2
Precinct, Upper Register, West Side
  • Both panels are linked:
    • Show animal and the implication for ROme of their discovery
    • Foundation myths
    • R & R divinity suggests Romes divinty. Aeneas connects Aeneas with divine heritage.
precinct upper frieze east side
Precinct, Upper Frieze, East Side
  • East Panel: Tellus Relief
  • The central figure is Mother Earth, voluptuous and very fertile. This represents new life, peace and all things good about the Roman empire.
  • Tellus sits on a Rocky outcrop amidst nature. She holds two chubby infants who appear healthy.
  • Drapery is billowy and body can be seen underneath.
  • Tellus has fruits and grains in her lap, well fed livestock.
  • Two maidens with their cloaks billowing represent salt water (dragon) and fresh water (swan). Reign spreads over whole world (seas)
  • There has been controversy over whether this is actually Tellus or the goddess Pax (peace), who would be surrounded by the bounty of Augustan Peace.
precinct upper frieze east side2
Precinct, Upper Frieze, East Side
  • Panel 2
    • Roma, Goddess enthroned on a pile of weapons.
    • Too Fragmented.
precinct upper frieze south side
Precinct, Upper Frieze, South Side
  • Procession of either 9 B.C. dedication or 13 B.C. inauggaration.
  • Symbolic procession of religious representative and imperial family.
  • Augustus had his head shrouded (piety) links with Aeneas on W.S. He’s conducting a sacrifice.
  • Priests with candles on their heads (flamines).
  • Augustus’ family led by Agrippa who dies in 12 B.C., his wife Lavinia and daughter Julia. This is an idea of strong family representing his political ideaology of children = wealth. Large families were provided with a tax incentive, unmarried adults were penalised. Children represent public faith in the Julio-Claudian destiny.
  • Height of figures are varied, this draws the observers eye up and down the procession, adding interest.
precinct upper frieze north side
Precinct, Upper Frieze, North Side
  • Senators wearing wreths and members of Rome’s most important priesthoods.
  • End of procession standing slightly apart from the group is women and children, minor members of Augustus’ family.
  • Facing due east
  • Central section is fragmentary: maybe goddess Pax and other gods and goddesses gathered to receive sacrifice.
  • Raised ends: vestal virgins and their servants. Animal being led to sacrifice.
  • Probably two narratives: the sacrifice and rituals that take place at the altar.
Tellus is Mother Earth, likes peace and is surrounded by all creatures
  • Four symbols of fertility from the east side: - water

- children

- Fruit/vegetaion/animals

- Mother Earth

  • The main message behind the Ara Pacis is peace and harmony to all in the Roman Empire. The Emperor is great to bring this peace.
  • Again on the North side we see a Historical procession. Augustus himself is present is represented as a pious person, with his head bowed as if he is about to conduct a libation/prayer
  • Aeneas – the founder of Rome
  • Through war Rome was founded. Augustus wouldn’t have his peace without War.
On which monument is this relief? Ara Pacis
  • When was this monument erected? 13-9 BC
  • Which emperor was this built in honour of? Augustus
  • What political idea does the name of the monument promote? Peace
  • Describe the TWO reliefs on this monument that relate to the mythical origins of Rome. Romulus and Remes and Aeneas
  • Describe in detail, what is depicted on this plate. What is the symbolic significance of the features you have described. This plate is the Tellus relief (mother earth) holding two children at her are sheep and cow, holding a bowl of fruit.

There are two women either side of Tellus. THese are representations of nature – air and wind shown by the billowing of the cloaks/ Fresh and salt water. THe natural elements of the earth. The left lady is sitting on a swan which is the symbol of Apollo.

  • Describe in detail, what is depicted on the northen and southern side of this monument. How is a feeling of movement and depth created in these two long friezes?