The Ara Pacis

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What is the unique vision or intent of the artist or patron in the Ara Pacis? As you write the paper, you must make the connection between subject matter, style and function by discussing how these concepts are represented according to cultural preference and values.

After a century of warfare that led to the downfall of the Roman Republic, Augustus, who had ruled as emperor since 27 BCE, deemed circa 15 BCE a time of peace, frequently called the Pax Augusta. In recognition of this achievement, the Roman Senate voted in 13 BCE to sponsor the construction of an altar dedicated to peace and to the emperor who had made the end of wars possible. The result, completed about four years later, was the Ara Pacis Augustae. This “Altar of Augustan Peace” is the most intimate imperial monument. It serves as the perfect example of the elegant and gracious style of art cultivated during Augustus’ rule. The altar was also meant to be a vision of the Roman civil religion. Augustus worked tirelessly to revive traditional religious observances. He restored more than eighty of the city’s temples, encouraged marital fidelity, and convinced the citizens to raise larger families. The sculptural decorations of the Ara Pacis display a scrolling pattern of branches and leaves, swarming with animal life, a lush world of flourishing plants and lively animals including birds, toads, lizards, and an occasional snake. It forms the foundation both visually and symbolically for the human figures and scenes in the upper band. The scrolls refer to the fertility of the earth durnig this presumed golden age brought about by Augustus. In the Tellus panel from the Ara Pacis, a seated matron is seen with two vivacious babies resting on her lap. It is debatable whether the woman is Tellus (mother earth), Pax (peace), Ceres (the goddess of grain), or the goddess Venus. Though her identity is uncertain, she unquestionably symbolizes the fruits of Pax Augusta. All sorts of animals living harmoniously...
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