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Augustan Portraiture and Ideology. The Ara Pacis and Valentino. Livia, wife Julia, daughter. Cleopatra, queen Octavia, sister. “… Augustus was conflicted about this quartet and the part they played in his life and that of Rome and its empire” ( Kleiner , CC 199).

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augustan portraiture and ideology
Augustan Portraiture and Ideology

The AraPacis and Valentino

Livia, wife

Julia, daughter

Cleopatra, queen

Octavia, sister

“… Augustus was conflicted about this quartet and the part they played in his life and that of Rome and its empire” (Kleiner, CC 199).

Why can Kleiner make this claim?

livia fayoum egypt after 14 ce
Livia, Fayoum, Egypt, after 14 CE

What is significant about this portrait – both in terms of its provenance and its stylistics?

julius caesar 44 bce turin
Julius Caesar, 44 BCE (Turin)

What do these portraits tell us about Caesar’s attitude towards the public presentation of his own image?

alexander roman copy octavian 30 bce of lysippos original actium type
Alexander, Roman copy Octavian, 30 BCEof Lysippos’ original Actium type

Why did Octavian choose Alexander as a model for his early portraiture?

augustus evolving portraiture
Augustus’ evolving portraiture

Before 44 BCE After 20 BCE 10-1 BCE After 10 BCE

How did Augustus’ portraiture evolve?What challenges do art historians face in assigning portraits of Augustus to a particular age or time period?

Augustus of Prima Porta

(Livia’s villa), post-20 BCE

What is the significance of these texts and images?

“I forced the Parthians to restore to me the spoils and standards of three Roman armies and to ask as suppliants for the friendship of the Roman people” (RG 29.2)

King Phraates of Parthia, denarius, 19 BCE

“On humbled knees Phraates accepted the law and rule of Caesar” (Hor. Epist. 1.12.27-29

Reconstruction of coloring on Prima Porta Augustus

“These standards I deposited in the innermost shrine of the Temple of Mars Ultor” (RG 29.2)

“Parthian, you return the eagles and you surrender the bows that have been overcome: now you do not possess any more tokens of our disgrace” (Ovid Fasti 5.593-4)

Details on the cuirass:

Central scene: Mars/Tiberius; she-wolf or army dog; Parthian

Deities: Aurora; Caelus/Sol/ Saturn; Venus; Apollo; Diana

Provinces: Hispania or Armenia; Gaul

Personfication: Tellus; Cybele (Phrygian/Trojan mother goddess)

Creatures: sphinxes

What is the significance of these personficiations in the context of Augustan ideology?








Diana& hind

Apollo& lyre



Tellus with cornucopia

Tympanum of Trojan Mother Goddess


What is the significance of the small figures at the feet of Augustus?

  • What is the significance of Augustus’ pose and dress?

Galinsky argues that the Prima Porta draws upon Polykleitos’ 5th c. Doryphoros and Lysippos’ Hellenistic Alexander (here, both Roman copies from Pompeii). Why is this significant?

gaius iulius caesar 20 bce 4 ce british museum ca 2 4 ce
Gaius Iulius Caesar (20 BCE-4 CE)British Museum, ca. 2-4 CE

LuciusIulius Caesar (17 BCE-2 CE)Corinth Museum, after 4 CE

What do these portraits reveal about Augustan propaganda?


FER(IAE) EX S(ENATUS) C(ONSULTO) Q(UOD) E(O) D(IE) ARA PACIS AUG(USTAE) IN CAMP(O) MAR(TIO) CONSTITUTA EST NERONE ET VARO COS.(Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum 12.24, in reference to July 14, 13 BCE)"Holiday, by decree of the Senate, because on that day the Altar of Augustan Peace was founded in the Campus Martius, in the consulship of Nero and Varus." FERIAE EX S(ENATUS) C(ONSULTO) QUO[D EO] DIE ARA PACIS AUGUSTA[E IN CAMPO ] MARTIO DEDICATA [E]ST DRUSO ET CRISPINO C[OS].(Inscriptiones Italiae 13.2.117, in reference to January 30, 9 BCE = Livia’s birthday)"Holiday, by decree of the Senate, because on that day the Altar of Augustan Peace was dedicated in the Campus Martius, in the consulship of Drusus and Crispinus."

augustus ovid on the ara pacis augustus as the auctor of pax
Augustus & Ovid on the AraPacisAugustus as the auctorof pax
  • “When I returned from Spain and Gaul, in the consulship of Tiberius Nero and PubliusQuintilius, after successful operations in those provinces, the senate voted in honour of my return the consecration of an altar to Pax Augustain the Campus Martius, and on this altar it ordered the magistrates and priests and Vestal virgins to make annual sacrifice” (RG 12).
  • “Unaided to Peace’s Altar has my song guided my footsteps …come and over all the globe sustain your gentle sway …. Pray to the gods, who hearken always to our pious prayers, that Caesar’s house, the guarantor of peace, in peace my live forever” (Fasti 1.709-722 = K13).
augustan narrative

Direction of traffic along Via Flaminia from PortaFlaminia

Augustan narrative

What is the significance of the altar’s orientation?


mars l she wolf romulus remus below restored faustulus r
Mars (l.); She-wolf, Romulus & Remus (below, restored);Faustulus (r.)

How does this scene reflect Augustan ideology?


How do the decorative elements – acanthus leaves, tendrils, etc. – connect to the Augustan ideological program and enhance the viewer’s experience?


What is the intended interplay among the processions, the four smaller panels, and the function of the Ara Pacis? How is the monument polysemiotic and multivalent?

augustus mausoleum
Augustus’ Mausoleum

Res Gestae would have been displayed on the doorposts


Tomb markers of Marcellus and Octavia(Gaius Marcellus, son of Octavia, husband of Julia & son-in-law and nephew of Augustus,and Octavia, sister of Augustus)

Marcellus s(on of) G(aius) Octavia d(aughter of) G(aius)

nephew sister

of Augustus Caesar of Augu[stus Caesar]