Side with Augustus
original south side

         Scrolling Acanthus Frieze

The engraving reproduced at left below is valuable proof that portions of the Ara Pacis reliefs had been discovered and appreciated by 1535 (though not yet associated with the Ara Pacis Augustae). This engraving is especially valuable in depicting in careful detail an important missing section of the monument, possibly one entire slab. If so, the slab is cut along its left side in nearly the same position as the corresponding slab on the north side, not where indicated in Moretti's Plate 10 in the image below.

Swans: Throughout the scrolling acanthus friezes on the 2 fronts and 2 sides of the enclosing precinct wall, swans rhymically punctuate the design. There were originally 20 swans, 2 on each of the scrolling acanthus panels flanking the 2 front doorways, and 6 on each of the scrolling acanthus friezes on the 2 sides.

"Poised on the apex of each [tendril] is a swan with extended wings. The birds appear weightless like blossoms, and their twisted necks, turned towards each other, are analogous with the convolutions of the volutes. It is seldom in visual art that animals and plants are so closly related. In contrast to the apparent aimlessness of the creatures crawling in the depth, the swans are participating in the dynamic growth, the effortless symmetry of this miraculous plant. They also emphasize its growth toward the light. The volutes too become increasingly lighter and more delicate with height. Finally, they bear half-palmettes, which follow the movement of the swans"  (Simon, 1968, p.12).