Side opposite Augustus
original north side

Scrolling Acanthus Frieze - Entire Frieze

The magnificent, scrolling acanthus friezes on the 2 sides of the enclosing precinct wall have received increased attention in recent years. Previously described as "decorative", these are now recognized as 2 of the most powerful compositions on the Ara Pacis. Scholars have drawn attention to the energy of the scrolling acanthus tendrils, emanating from a single powerful core, and their command of the entire relief. The composition is balanced but full of richly diverse vegetation and animal life, drawn from all reaches of the empire, conveying an overwhelming sense of abundance and fecundity. It is also now clear that the relatively bland, overall tone of the present marble would originally have been richly colored, bringing the acanthus itself to the fore as the skeleton of the entire design, against the darker, contrasting background, and picking out the now easily overlooked flower, berries, reptiles, frogs, birds and other details in bright colors. The scrolling acanthus freizes are now reconized as essential aspects of the Ara Pacis program.

For the most in-depth exploration of these scrolling acanthus friezes with clarifying descriptions see Pollini