Rome is the city of Roman Empire and the Emperors! Let’s be introduced to the first Roman Emperor, Octavianus Augustus, by visiting the Ara Pacis, the altar of peace, built by him as an hymn to peace and to himself, the peacemaker.
My interest for Augustus started when I was a teenager….. strange for a 17 years old girl. I wanted to know all about the first emperor of Rome because he was the first, the man of the big change in the roman tradition of the Republic but I was attached to this historical man due to his name. Yes Augustus was the name of my father, who I lost just before I develop this love for the first Emperor of Rome. The name brought me to read the Res Gestae ( the testament of the Emperor wrote by him with the list of what he had done during his time) in one night , to visit the Mausoleum of Augustus the monumental family tomb and of course the Ara Pacis.
This white marble monument is very small compared to some gigantic monuments of Rome such as the Colosseum, but it is a small jewel of roman art. Everything about this monument was so interesting for me, from the terrible condition when it was discovered, in fragments, the way the archeologists put it back together, they had to make a sort of a puzzle with marble pieces but more than everything the possibility to see in front of me Augustus, his family and his friends.
Today you can see this monument inside a white modern structure built by the american architect Richard Meier on 2006 to replace a previous protection structure built on 1938 by the italian Vittorio Ballio Morpurgo who designed the all square dedicated to the Emperor Augustus.
The Ara Pacis was built by Augsutus , consecrated the 4 of July 13 b.C. ( yes….. we also have a 4th of July way before America) and dedicated the year 9 b.C. in the region of Rome called Campus Martius to celebrate the victory of the Emperor in the Haul and in Spain and so the peace was re-estabilished.
The most interesting part it is the outside of the marble structure, it is divided in two sections, the upper and the bottom part, totally different in decoration but both incredibly beautiful. The bottom part has a floreal decoration with acanthus which creates round shapes, all very balanced and perfectly designed, nature appears here and there between the perfect leaves and you can start finding the different animals hided in the decoration. It is going to be a nice game for you, go find the lizard resting in the sun, or the baby chicks inside their nest. The upper part it is a a parade of the Imperial family of Augustus and some of the most important people of the time, the first Instagram of history, invented by the Emperor Augustus. We see the Emperor Augustus, his wife Livia, his daughter Giulia married with Agrippa , very good friend of Augustus and also his best admiral of the roman fleet, and many more.
So when you get to Rome if you really want to have the pleasure of meet some of the ancient romans, go visit the Ara Pacis and you will have all of them in front of you. In the era of pictures, Instagram, social networks the Ara Pacis is THE MONUMENT to go see and maybe we can meditate to the fact that even 2000 years ago it was very important to be seen by lots of people and maybe since these pictures where taken in marble maybe the idea to be seen for the eternity…… Are we so good nowadays with our social networks?
Book: Res Gestae Divi Augusti