Public Approach Front
original east front

Pax / Italia / Tellus / Venus

Scholar's Interpretations? Although portions of this relief are later restorations, these changes seem not to have transformed the figures and their composition in major ways. Without doubt, this is the best preserved of the 4 figurative relief panels on the 2 frontal facades. Nevertheless, this multifaceted relief has stimulated an exceptional range of scholarly interpretations, focusing primarily on the identity of the central figure.

Most often the panel has been interpreted as Pax, Italia, Tellus, or Venus, recently Ceres. In recent years, some scholars have accepted a synthetic view, suggesting that the relief may have been deliberately designed to encompass all of these meanings, perhaps with an intensional degree of ambiguity to reference the full Augustan programme, and to speak to the entire Roman populous. While this may well be true, the nature of Roman art suggests that there would have been a primary identification of the major figure.

The size of the central goddess, and her position facing inward toward the doorway, echo that of Roma on the opposite panel. However, other comparisons between the 2 panels are difficult if not impossible because only 2 small fragments of the Roma panel survive. The number and variety of figures, animals, reptiles, and birds on this panel exceeds that on any of the other frontal relief panels.