Side opposite Augustus
original north side

Processional Frieze

& Louvre Slab

Scholarly interpretation: The near life-size figures represented in the processsional friezes on the two sides of the surrounding precinct wall are presented as if walking along its two sides from the public approach front facing the Via Flaminia toward the ceremonial entrance front then facing the open fields of the northern Campus Martius. Whether or not an actual event is represented, and if so which, who is represented and indeed how many are real people or representatives of types, and many other aspects of these two carefully orchestrated prosessional friezes have formed the basis of continuing scholarly debate over the years. This has encouraged in-depth research on cultural practices, political and family relationships, clothing, even foot attire, and many other aspects of Augustan society, all of which have kept the Ara Pacis alive as a key monument in our interpretations of ancient Rome.

Within the world history of art, it is most notable that this is perhaps the first significant representation of a contemporay event approximately as it could have been seen by those present at the time. Equally impressively, this is the first state relief to depict men with their wives and children..

Originally there would have been over 90 figures in the 2 processional frieizes, approximately half on each side. Most scholars now agree that they are to be seen not as 2 different sections of the procession but as the same procession seen from 2 sides. The figures are represented as if moving very slowly, some pausing, perhaps engaged in quiet conversation. As spectators, we are thus encourgaged to move slowly also along the full length of the two friezes, pausing also to observe them individually and in groups.

Louvre Slab: The first large slab now toward the left side of this processional frieze is a cast of the original marble slab now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris (acquired 1861-63 as part of the collection of the Marchese Campana: Inventaire Cp 6468, n. usuel Ma 1088). Because this original slab has been well preserved, its evidence is especially valuable, but very few adequate photographic details have been published. A variety of high resolution images help us to study various aspects of this original slab including details of carving, treatment of hair, faces, and clothing, comparison with the copy on the Ara Pacis in Rome, and proposed identification of figures. The identity of each of these figures has been debated by scholars. The 13 photographs of the Louvre slab on this page were taken in July 2012 and added to this web page August 7.