The Ara Pacis Augsutae

New Topic: Religious Architecture
The Ara Pacis Augsutae
“The altar of Augustan Peace”
How we will learn about
 Notes about the general background on
 Then, everyone in groups of 4. Split into pairs
from these groups. Each pair will learn about a
side of the Ara Pacis & take notes
 Then, each pair will teach the other pair the
 When you teach, you learn and remember
much faster 
Vocab list
Bucrania = decorative bulls skull
Palmette = leaf decoration
Precinct = stone walls
Paterae = (highlight in your glossary in workbooks)
Meander = design that is a common motif in Roman art
Door jamb = sides of a doorway
Lintel = (highlight in your glossary in workbooks)
Capital = (highlight in your glossary in workbooks)
Acanthus capital = head part of a column, decorated with
Acanthus leaves
 Cornice = the top, projecting section of entablature
 Entablature = (highlight in your glossary in workbooks)
 Pilaster =(highlight in your glossary in workbooks)
 When Augustus became
Emperor, and started the
Roman Empire, he ruled the
Rome’s rulers used
relief sculpture as a form
Roman world, it was important
political propaganda,
that his image be seen in every of
the message was
public place all over the Empire. readable at a glance
 The Romans liked to see
victories in warfare and other
important events
commemorated in stone.
 The purpose of relief sculpture
was to inform: it told a story to
the illiterate and for the literate,
used images to emphasise the
imperial ideology
 Location: Originally from the Field of Mars (Campus Martius)
in the north of Rome
 Architectural type: Relief Sculpture
 Purpose: This piece was commissioned in honour of
Augustus. It was awarded to him by the Roman Senate after
he successfully pacifiied Gaul and Spain, he had been there
since 16BC. (From 29BC onwards, Augustus refused to
accept triumphal honours that were normally celebrated by a
victorious general, so they had to find different was to
celebrate his return). It is also political propaganda. The altar
was also designed for annual sacrifices to the goddess peace
and Roma by magistrates, priests and vestal virgins.
 Date of construction: 13-9 BC (but was restored by
Mussolini in 1930 and relocated)
 Dimensions: The Ara Pacis is a rectangular stone wall
surrounding a stone altar. The wall is 10.5m in length, 11.6m in
width and 7m in height
 Materials used: Tufa, Travertine, Carrara marble (all Italian
building materials)
Greek Influences:
 Greek Parthenon (440-430 BC) – Augustus wanted to link
himself and his rule with the successes and achievements of 5th
cent Athens, so he copied the style of the processional frieze.
 The altar and screen wall are modelled on the Greek altar of
Mercy in Athens
 Greek influence in style of decoration, structure, acanthus leaf
scroll work
Imperial Propaganda
 The purpose of the Ara Pacis is to show Augustus’ great
achievements. this was started with the defeat of Mark
Anthony and the Egyptian forces at the battle Actium in
31BC which ended the civil war.
 Augustus has given people peace, prosperity, fertility, piety
and those are all shown on the Ara Pacis.
The idea is proclaimed by:
 Showing Augustus’ victory over Western provinces
 Its location in the Field of Mars, a military exercise area
 The symbols and images used on each relief panel
 The altar sits close to a sundial that symbolises defeated
and pacified Egypt. The sundial worked through the power
of Apollo (the sun god), the deity that Augustus favoured.
The shadow aligned once a year with the door to the Ara
 The altar itself is inside
the precinct on a raised
dais, facing east. The
outer and interior wall is
is decorated with
friezes of relief
The altar on the inside:
Has a small frieze,
39cm high of a
sacrificial procession.
Possibly shows the
altar’s dedication
ceremony in 9 BC.
There are vestal
virgins, animals and
interior wall
The lower half of the
Interior precinct wall
represents the carved
Wooden palisade that
was set up as a
makeshift enclosure
when the site was
Inaugurated in 13BC
Upper part of the wall has
symbols of sacrifice, these are:
•elabourate garlands
•patarae (libation bowls)
•bucrania (bulls skulls)
•Palmette decoration
creates a border.
This interior decoration means
the altar is permanently ready for
Exterior wall
The exterior wall is decorated with
two Layers also. Here the two layers
are separated, By a thicker band, a
meander pattern, carved
In high relief.
The bottom layer around the whole
precinct is an intricate floral pattern.
It has hundreds of swirling acanthus
plants that turn into realistic flowers,
each petal has intricate detail.
There are birds, insects, snakes and
lizards in amongst the plants,
making the panel seem alive with
movement. Swans, the symbol of
Apollo are also there. Apollo was
Augustus’ patron diety & helped him
win the battle in Actium in 31BC
Each door is surrounded by
a stepped door jamb and
corner of
has a
which is
with an
scroll and
There are 2 doors in the precinct walls (on the east and west sides) This is the west,
because it is the main entrance for sacrifice and there are 9 shallow steps.
What is on the walls???
 The most significant feature of the
exterior decoration are the reliefs on the
top layer of the precinct wall.
 They are in precise pattern,
mythological, and allegorial features on
the east/west and historical procession
on the north/south.
East: Allegorical
Procession of imperial family
East: Allegorical
West: Mythological
Procession of senators
and priests
West: Mythological
Romulus & Remus
 South frieze
Procession of imperial family
 North frieze, procession of senators,
vestal virgins, and priests
Group work
 Pair one:
East Allegorical side: Tellus relief & Roma
 Pair two:
West Mythological side: Romulus and Remus &
Teacher will cover
North side: Historical procession of priests
South side: Historical procession of Augustus’
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