Contexts for the Ara Pacis

Text of Hum 110 Lecture, 12 February 1997

by Minott Kerr, Visiting Assistant Professor of Art History and Humanities

Reed College Portland, Oregon USA

© 1997 Minott Kerr. All rights reserved.

Handout that accompanies this lecture.

As a historian of medieval architecture, I do not usually have the opportunity do make close readings of texts, instead I usually study the buildings themselves, either existing or reconstructed. My preference to focus on things rather than texts should have been evident from my talk on Monday. But today I will do something I don't normally do, that is focus my discussion of a particular monument using a particular text. I will look at the Ara Pacis using the Res gestae Divi Augusti.

However, I would like to start today by considering not the sculpture and architecture of the Ara Pacis, which will be the subject of most of my talk, but rather by examining a description written during the Augustan period of someone experiencing architecture and sculpture. I would like to begin by discussing a passage in the Aeneid, the one in which Aeneas examines the temple of Juno in Carthage related in Bk. I, between lines 625 and 700. Hopefully, you remember the passage Professor Drum analyzed it in a very interesting way in her discussion of ekphrasis a few weeks back. But let me refresh your memory anyway. (read highlighted passages)


There is no doubt that the hero is moved by what he sees. Aeneas is, in fact, so moved that he appears to have lost all his critical faculties. He groans, he cries, and according to Virgil, "watched these scenes in wonder,/ while he fastened in a stare astonished" (I:699-700). Aeneas is portrayed here almost as a rube or country bumpkin gawking at the sites of the first urban and cultured setting he has ever encountered. Aeneas is able to identify the scenes depicted on these reliefs, but he seems able to do so, only because the scenes illustrate the terrible fall of Troy; something he has experienced himself.

I would suggest that on one level Aeneas has it all wrong. He seems unable to consider what he sees here at the temple of Juno beyond what he's experienced himself. He reacts emotionally, and not intellectually, and thus as Virgil writes Aeneas "feeds/ his soul on what is nothing but a picture." I: 659. In these lines, Virgil seems to suggest that there could be something more beyond the picture itself that Aeneas needs to draw upon in order to comprehend what it is that he is seeing, that there is something to understanding images beyond an immediate emotional reaction.

Most important in my mind is the fact that it never occurs to Aeneas to ask himself exactly what these scenes are doing on the temple, a temple of Juno. I think this unasked question is essential to understanding the passage, since these reliefs surely were not placed on the temple to recall the sorrows of Troy, but rather to celebrate the great power of Troy's arch-enemy, the temple's patron deity, Juno, and to suggest the horrors which are in her power to exert over those who cross her, such as the people of Troy. Moreover, Aeneas doesn't consider the fact that in a few moments he is going to place himself at the mercy of Dido, the woman who commissioned this temple in honor of Troy's immortal enemy. Not exactly an auspicious beginning, at least not to the attentive reader.

This narrow reading by Aeneas of the reliefs on the temple of Juno results from Aeneas being unable to draw on anything beyond himself in order to interpret the scenes depicted on them. This narrow perspective of Aeneas is typical of him, at least at this point in the poem. Aeneas's perspective does broaden somewhat as the poem progresses. A broader view of the world, a context into which Aeneas can place the fall of Troy, only begins to occur in Book six of the poem, when at the end of his visit to the underworld, Anachises lays out for him the future of Rome.

The word context, which I used in my last sentence, and which appears in its plural form in the title of my lecture, has an interesting etymology. Our English word, context, is derived from the Latin word contextus which means woven together. What is crucial to see here in the source of our modern word is that the word, woven, implies an active agent, that is a weaver, since something woven requires someone to have done the weaving. This necessity for an active agent to weave a context implies that a context or perhaps better put a contextualized interpretation of an inanimate object such as a work of art requires human beings. In other words, a contextual analysis is an analysis which weaves a work of art into a fabric, a fabric that is large enough to make inferences about the meaning of that work.

In the case explored above, in Book Six of the Aeneid, Anachises, in exposing his son to the fate of his actions, allowed Aeneas to create or weave together a fuller understanding of the Fall of Troy. In the case of the temple reliefs, we, the readers, can also weave a fuller understanding of the reliefs by creating a context by considering the conditions that might have lead to the creation of the Temple, something at this moment of the poem, Aeneas seems entirely incapable of doing. In either of these contexts, Aeneas's or ours, the reliefs on the temple to Juno cannot provide a context by themselves. For a context to be created, the weavers, Aeneas on the one hand, and we on the other, have to go both beyond the reliefs and outside of themselves in order to achieve this greater understanding. While contextual weavers might draw upon themselves, it is really the act of drawing in new information or evidence that is needed in order to create or weave a fabric of contexualized understanding. Note that the context which Aeneas creates, and the one which we do, are not the same, they are dependent upon their respective weavers.

So where does that leave us with the Ara Pacis? I hope it is clear from my discussion above that the Ara Pacis cannot supply its own context. Rather someone has to do it by weaving one for him or herself. The reading for today exposed us to two contextualized examinations of the Ara Pacis, that of Natalie Kampen and that of Peter Holliday. The Res gestae, which we read for Monday exposed us to a third, that of Caesar Augustus. For the moment, however, I want only to consider the two readings we did for today, I'll come back to the Res gestae later in my talk. Both Holliday and Kampen make the Ara Pacis a central focus of their discussion. The two authors don't appear to disagree on any point of fact about the altar; yet, while they both provide a contextual interpretation, the context each creates virtually does not over lap the other. That two contemporary American historians of Roman art can write radically different articles on the Ara Pacis underlines the fact that a contextual interpretation depends more on who is doing the interpretation than on what is actually being interpreted. Since neither Kampen's or Holliday's interpretation is marred by factual or logical errors, though as I will point out later in my talk there is one essential point of fact that I think Holliday needed to consider to make an entirely satisfactory context for what he is trying to argue, the differences between the two essays are not caused because one is bad and the other good. We are faced, in this case, with authors who construct two different and equally valid contexts for the Ara Pacis. You might examine exactly how each author does so in your conferences.

I would like to spend the rest of my talk weaving or creating a context that makes special sense for this course, one which uses a text which we read for this week, the Res gestae, as a basis for understanding the monument. Some of the points I will make will be ones similar to what you read for today in Kampen and especially Holliday, but I think by focusing on the Res gestae or at least certain passages, I am able weave a context that makes special sense for Hum 110 in a way that Kampen and Holliday cannot.

Since the altar will be more or less in the foreground of the rest of my talk, I would like to introduce you to the monument as I understand it. Since it should already be relatively familiar to you from Holliday's article, I can be relatively brief. May I have the lights down please. (SLIDES LEFT AND RIGHT)

The Ara Pacis consists of two parts, a sacrificial altar proper, and the surrounding precinct walls. The almost square enclosure which defines an area of about 35 by 40 roman feet stood on a base and had openings on the east and west sides. The altar complex was entered by a flight of stairs leading to the western opening. The irregular topography of the original site sloped upward toward the east so the opening in the east side of the precinct wall was at the level of the adjacent via Flaminia. Within, the altar proper stood on a stepped base at the center with a second flight of steps at the west leading to the sacrificial table. (SLIDE Left)

The upper section of the altar proper bears a frieze carved in relief depicting animals being led to sacrifice. Elsewhere on the altar there were personifications of the provinces under Roman jurisdiction during Augustan times.

The most lavish decoration of the Ara Pacis was reserved for the precinct wall where relief sculpture was carved inside and out. (Slide Left) The walls of the interior depict, in marble, the wooden fence and garlands carried on wooden posts of an actual temporary altar precinct. Interlaced within the garlands are the fruits of all the seasons of the year. (Slide Right) Above the vegetation are paterae, the shallow bowls from which sacrificial libations were poured. The garlands hang from bull skulls known as bucrania, a reference to the sacrificial victims. (Slides Left and Right)

The outside of the precinct wall is even more lavishly decorated, and what is represented there is quite different from what is depicted on the interior. Pilasters, a sort of flattened column, decorated with scrolling leaves of acanthus flank the openings, mark the corners and appear to carry the crowning architrave. The exterior is divided into two zones; with the lower register decorated with scrolls of acanthus populated with animals. The acanthus on the lower register on the exterior is merely ornament decorating the surface, rather than the architectural supports of the faux architectonic setting of the interior.

The upper half of each wall presents figural scenes of contemporary and past Roman history. (Slide Left) Panels depicting allegorical figures on the east, and scenes from Rome's legendary past on the west, frame the openings on the short sides. The upper register on the long sides depicts figures from the Augustan era arrayed in a procession performing a sacrifice.

On the main, west facade, to the left of the opening, shown in the upper left corner of the slide on the right, there was an image of Romulus and Remus with their father, Mars, their foster father, the shepherd Faustulus, and their foster mother, the she wolf. As this slide shows, this scene is in such bad condition that little of it survives, only enough to discern its principle features. (SLIDE RIGHT) Much better preserved is the corresponding scene to the right of the door which depicts Aeneas making a sacrifice to the penates, the household gods of the Trojans. Behind him stands his son, Julus, while to the left, two attendants lead the white sow of Lavinium to sacrifice. (SLIDE RIGHT)

On the opposite side of the altar, the east, this pattern of two more or less square scenes flanking the opening is repeated. As on the west side of the altar, the state of preservation of these two reliefs is vastly different. The one to the right of the opening, which personifies the city of Rome, exists only in a few fragments, and is known from later coin issues. The relief to the left of the opening (SLIDE RIGHT) is much better preserved, and depicts a woman with two rather animated babies, flanked by two partially clothed women. The exact identification of these figures is not certain. The central figure seems to personify Tellus or Earth or perhaps Italy. The billowing mantles of the flanking figures identify them as female personifications of the winds.

As crucial as these four small panels are for interpreting the Ara Pacis, the monument draws our attention principally because of the long reliefs, running down the north and south flanks. (SLIDES LEFT AND RIGHT) These scenes, arguably the most famous in all of Roman art, represent a procession of standing figures, mostly male but interspersed with a few female figures and some children. The inclusion of women and children here on the flanks Ara Pacis is the first time such members of Roman society have been depicted in a state relief.

The two slides now on the screen show the continuous panels of the south relief. The identification of most of the figures here is disputed, and the proper identification of them is a central concern of the Ara Pacis industry of modern scholarship. We are, however, certain as to who some of these figures are. The figures on the south move from right to left, that is towards the west. All scholars agree that the main figure of the left panel is Augustus.(POINT OUT) He is identified with certainty by means of his distinctive facial features and his coiffure both of which we know from other carved portraits and coins. Though the bottom of the figure is fragmentary, he has his toga pulled up over his head in a sign of religious respect, indicating that he is either preparing for or performing the sacrifice. From what survives, his pose echoes that of his distant relative, Aeneas, who stands in the small scene just around the corner. Other than acting as the celebrant of the sacrifice, Augustus isn't singled out here on the Ara Pacis, and is, instead, depicted as he represented himself in the Res gestae, as merely the first among equals.

Augustus is accompanied by a group of priests sporting their rather odd leather hats with spikes. To the right of the priests is another surely identified figure. This figure represents the key player during the early years of Augustus' reign, Marcus Agrippa. (POINT OUT) At one time Agrippa was Augustus's heir, but his premature death in 12 BCE, while the Ara Pacis was under construction, was one of the many blows Augustus suffered in his search for a successor. Following Agrippa are groups of men, women and children, their identities are not certain, but apparently these figures are other members of Augustus's family, except for the one child clutching Agrippa's cloak. (SLIDE LEFT) This figure's dress singles him out from the other children on this side of the altar. He is dressed in a simple tunic, and not the stiff woolen toga of all the other figures. He is further distinguished from the other figures on the relief by the type of shoes he wears, the diadem on his head and the necklace around his neck. Brian Rose, whose article I list on the bibliography of your handout, has shown convincingly, I think, that these accouterments all identify him as non-Roman, most probably as a child-hostage of the sort mentioned by Suetonius in his Life of Augustus, who were kept in Rome to assure the continued submission of the client states to Augustus. (SLIDES LEFT AND RIGHT)

The figures on the north move left to right that is towards the east or perhaps towards the tail end of the procession on the south. While a few of the figures on this side of the altar appear to be additional members of Augustus's family, the side is dominated by senators. Identifying these figures is particularly difficult, as these blocks have been especially heavily restored. I would only point out that there appears to be another foreign child on this relief, the barefooted child at the left. Again his dress and peculiar sort of necklace along with his exposed buttocks separate him from the more formal and decorous figures elsewhere on the frieze. (SLIDES LEFT AND RIGHT)

To understand exactly what the Ara Pacis is, I think we need to know a bit about altars and their physical settings. A discussion of the mechanics of Roman religion is complicated by English terminology. The English word, temple, refers to the main cult building which usually sheltered the cult statue of the god. The Latin word templum does not refer primarily to the temple building sheltering the god's image; the word for such a building in Latin was aedes, meaning, literally, house. The Latin, templum, referred instead to a ritually defined place, an area set aside for the taking of auspices, the search of omens usually in the sky from the particular god in question. (cf. Romulus and Remus story, Livy: 1:18) The piece of consecrated ground from which the priest contemplated the sky was the templum. The most important physical requirements needed for a templum was a viewing space and some sort of boundary wall, which could be as simple as wooden stakes with strips of cloth run between. This sort of arrangement is, in fact, what we see represented on the interior of the precinct wall of the Ara Pacis. The next important feature was the altar on which sacrifice, animal or vegetable was offered to the deity. The aedes or what we call the temple, if it was included, housed the paraphernalia dedicated to the god and the cult statue, if indeed there was one. Sacrifice, thus, took place outside, in the open, much as we see here in the slide on the left, which shows a second-century relief depicting a later emperor performing such a rite. The emperor stands before the aedes with attendants and makes a preparatory sacrifice at a small altar, while the bull, the real victim of the sacrifice, looks on. The slide on the right depicts Augustus on the south side of the altar performing a similar act. (Slide Left)

A number of ancient texts allow us to date the monument quite precisely and explain its purpose. Commissioned and set up on 4 July, 13 BCE, it was completed four years later in 9 BCE, when it was dedicated on 30 January, the birthday of Augustus's wife, Livia. Sacrifices were performed there on both these days each year. As Holliday points out, the sacrifice on the exterior of the precinct walls represents the particular sacrifice on the day of the altar's foundation in 13 BCE. The smaller and more humble relief on the altar proper probably depicts the sacrifice as it was regularly practiced and not the special event shown on the exterior of the precinct wall.

Now that we've gained some familiarity with the Ara Pacis, I would like to create a context for it, that of Caesar Augustus, in order to reconstruct the historical conditions under which the Ara Pacis came about. I think that this is a reasonable context to establish because in antiquity, it was the patron, much more than the artist, who determined the appearance of a work of art. In the case of the Ara Pacis, it is close to impossible to talk about the artist or presumably artists, who carved the work, because we basically know nothing about them. Because artists were of little importance, there are, aside from the altar itself, no records about them. And this is not so with Augustus, since we have his own words to tell us something about the work he commissioned. As I mentioned above, he discusses the altar in the Res gestae. In the twelfth chapter of this autobiography, which I have included on your handout, Augustus tells us that:

and I quote,

When I returned to Rome from Spain and Gaul in the

consulship of Tiberius Nero and Publius Quintilius,

after successfully settling the affairs of those

provinces, the senate, to commemorate my return,

ordered an altar of the Augustan Peace, to be

consecrated in the Campus Martius [Field of Mars],

on which it decreed that the magistrates, priests

and Vestal Virgins should make an annual sacrifice.


This is an extremely rare situation to have such an autobiographical statement made by the patron of a key, well-preserved work of art from a crucial historical moment. For our purposes, this is a critical text.

The text tells us that the Senate resolved to build the altar in honor of Augustus. Now, this statement might seem to contradict what I said a few moments ago, that it was really Augustus, who was the patron. But I think we can answer this objection by pointing out, that by 13 BCE, when the Ara Pacis was begun, the Senate was very much under Augustus's thumb. In fact, there are numerous references elsewhere in the Res gestae that make this political reality abundantly clear, you might look for example, at the next to last chapter of the inscription, which discusses the shield that was erected in Augustus's honor in the curia or senate house.

More importantly, I would suggest that the very centrality of Augustus to the altar's dedication indicates the sort of power he was able to exert, not only over the Senate, but over the Roman army, and probably over the entire empire as well. Though I've been referring to the object of our study as the Ara Pacis or the Altar of Peace, the Res gestae tells us that the official name of the altar was the Ara Pacis Augustae, or in an exact English translation, the Altar of Augustan Peace. The Latin syntax is absolutely unambiguous, the adjective Augustan modifies the word peace and definitely not the word altar. Thus, the work we are examining this morning is not Augustus's altar of peace, but rather the altar of Augustus's peace. I don't think this distinction is splitting hairs because the syntax suggests that peace, not usually a concept I think of as belonging to an individual, is here considered to be a personal possession of Augustus. Attributing peace to Augustus himself indicates just how central Augustus is to Rome at this particular moment, and I think key to understanding the monument.

Thus the Res gestae suggest that we are on the right track to view the Ara Pacis from the perspective of Augustus. When we do try to see the altar from his point of view, a number of things about the altar become clear. First, it explains why Augustus is portrayed in the key position in the reliefs. (Slide Left) It also explains why scenes depicting Aeneas and Romulus and Remus are also included on the altar. I should not need to remind you at this point of the semester that Augustus claimed to be descended from the Trojan hero, and that he had been acclaimed as a second Romulus, a title which he refused for the less historical one Augustus. You might recall that I mentioned last time that Augustus's house was located on the Palatine hill, not far from the hut that was believed to have belonged to Romulus. So just as his home was juxtaposed with that of the city's legendary founder, so he is juxtaposed with him here on the altar. The connection between Augustus and Aeneas is particularly stressed by portraying the princeps and his ancestor in a similar pose while performing a similar act.

The Augustan context also helps us to understand the specific siting of the Ara Pacis, after all, it is, at one level, somewhat odd to locate an altar to peace in an area of the city named after the god of war (SLIDES LEFT AND RIGHT) We see in the slide on the right a reconstruction of the site of the Ara Pacis, as it would have been in Augustus's day, and a plan of the area on the left. As I mentioned briefly on Monday, the Campus Martius was littered with buildings commissioned by Augustus and his closest associates. Along the via Flaminia, the route along which Augustus would have entered the city upon his return from Gaul in 13 BCE, we see in this reconstruction on the right, a number of Augustan buildings. At the left is the mausoleum of Augustus, it was begun in 31 BCE the same year as the battle of Actium when Augustus was still a young man. Based upon a royal Etruscan type of tomb, the mausoleum suggests, that even at this early date, Augustus had dynastic intentions. It was in front of the entrance to this monument that the Res gestae were set up, after the princeps's death in 14 CE. Not far from the mausoleum, Augustus constructed an immense sundial which designated the year, month and time of day. Its hundred foot tall gnomen, or marker, was a spoil of war, an Egyptian obelisk, which clearly refers to Augustus's eastern victories. The sundial was erected during the same years as the Ara Pacis, which is the small square structure further to the right of the slide. The time piece and altar were certainly laid out with each other in mind, as the obelisk cast a shadow at precisely the center of the altar on the 23rd of September, the princeps's very birthday. (Slides Left and Right)

As Holliday makes abundantly clear, the Augustan context explains the profusion of flora and fauna on both the interior and exterior surfaces of the precinct wall. As he and many other writers on the altar have pointed out, the amount and variety of the sorts of plants and animal life found there refer to the fertility made possible by the Augustan peace. This idea of the great bounty produced under Augustus's reign is expounded upon by a number of other writers of the period, whose work like the Ara Pacis was sponsored by Augustus.

We should note, however, that the passage I quoted above from the Res gestae appears to be quite specific about what peace the altar is intended to celebrate. The altar is to honor Augustus's return from successfully arranging affairs in the provinces of Spain and Gaul. We know from other sources that he had in fact been away from Rome for three years campaigning in these areas in order to bring them to heel. Importantly, Agrippa, who you should recall is also prominently portrayed on the south flank, was busy doing the same thing in the eastern half of the empire. And the two children who I singled out on the exterior friezes as non-Roman may represent hostages from these campaigns.

Peace is also the theme of the chapter of the Res gestae that follows the one which mentions the Ara Pacis. I have also included this second passage on your handout:

I quote,

The temple of Janus Quirinus, which our ancestors desired should be closed whenever peace with victory was secured by land and sea throughout the empire of the Roman people, and which before I was born is recorded to have been closed only twice since the foundation of the city, was during my principate three times ordered by the Senate to be closed.


This practice of closing the doors to this temple {{to Janus Quirinus (also known as the temple to Janus Geminus)}} was apparently rather important, as it is also mentioned by both Livy and Suetonius. Two of the three occasions of the closing of the temple's doors under Augustus need to occupy us here. Livy relates that the doors were closed after the battle of Actium, that is at the end of the civil wars that had plagued the Roman world for almost a hundred years. Other sources inform us that a second closing took place in 25 BCE, after Augustus had supposedly pacified Spain, the text in the Res gestae that discusses the Ara Pacis essentially implies that Augustus's earlier campaign in Spain had not been entirely successful after all, because he had needed to return there less than a decade later for a multi-year stint. That this peace in Spain was not permanent should not surprise us, since the history of the temple of Janus informs us that peace had, apparently, reigned only 5 times in the 700 year existence of the temple.

The fact that the doors of the Temple of Janus had been closed so few times throughout all of Roman history may suggest that peace, though perhaps desirable, wasn't a necessary state of affairs for the Romans. In fact, since peace happened so rarely, it might not be entirely correct to see peace, at least through Roman eyes, as a good thing. Perhaps we should recall here Livy's view that peace might enervate the Romans or lead to internal social conflict. We might want to consider for a moment, what peace might have meant for Romans at the time of Augustus. The burgeoning foliage that we found on the Ara Pacis suggests a bucolic and fertile setting. While this might be an appropriate visual metaphor in the case of the peace which followed the Battle of Actium, it is probably not the way to think about the peace Augustus brought to Spain, either in 25 BCE or twelve years later in 13. (Slide Right)

The sort of peace that Augustus brought to Spain was really pacification, that is imposed Roman rule. That is a sort of peace not unlike the sort which Anachises says in Book Six of the Aeneid will be the art that the descendants of Aeneas will teach to conquered peoples. You might recall too, that Jupiter tells us in Book I of the Aeneid that the Romans will have empire without end, implying perpetual expansion of Roman domination: good, of course, for the Romans in Rome, but perhaps less good for their subjects on the periphery of the empire.

Thus, I think it quite probable that the Pax Augustana may have meant different things to different people. We can well imagine that the Pax Augustana presumably meant one thing to someone like Agrippa, a Roman in Rome who had survived the civil wars, and quite another to the small foreign boy, a hostage from the captured provinces who clings to Agrippa's toga on the south frieze of the Ara Pacis. I would also suggest that the siting of the Ara Pacis in the Campus Martius, that is in the Field of Mars or the War God, also indicates something important about the relationship between War and Peace for the Romans. Note, that what we have here is an altar of peace in the field of the God of war, and not the other way round. Such an arrangement suggests in my mind, at least, that Peace plays only a subservient role in relation to Mars and what he stands for. Note too, that the Res gestae is clear that the Temple to Janus was only closed becuase of peace through victory, that is peace by means of war.

In any case, the immediate juxtaposition of the only two passages in the entire Res gestae which discuss peace specifically suggests that we can link the specific instance which led to the commission of the Ara Pacis in 13 BCE to the broader context of peace in all its manifestations during Augustus's reign.

This juxtaposition which helps so much to establish an Augustan context for the Ara Pacis also helps to explain certain oddities about the altar's appearance. (SLIDES LEFT AND RIGHT) The first concerns its plan. Unlike most altars, or temples for that matter, the Ara Pacis could be entered from two sides. I showed you last time how much Roman planners insisted on controlling access to buildings; thus the two entryways to the Ara Pacis seems, in terms of Roman design, almost promiscuous. Because they allow an unusual amount of freedom of movement, I think they require some sort of explanation.

Given Augustus's unparalleled record of closing the temple to Janus {{Quirinus}} three times in his reign, it should not be too surprising to discover that the rare plan of a square structure with doors on each end, as used in the Ara Pacis, is also used for the temple to Janus Quirinus. In fact, it is pretty safe to assume that this feature of the Ara Pacis was taken from the Temple of Janus. This temple to Janus, the most important temple dedicated to this god in the city of Rome, stood in the Roman Forum. We are not sure of the exact design of the temple, but we are able to reconstruct it along general lines on the basis of descriptions and coin issues. We can see one reconstruction of the Janus temple in this view of the Forum shown on the Left. (POINT OUT) Like the Ara Pacis the temple to Janus was open at the top. The double-door arrangement of the Janus temple apparently came from the fact that Janus, as the deity of the New Year, was a two-faced god, expressing both the beginning and the end. The plan of the temple to Janus in the Forum, with doors at either end, was a kind of literal depiction of the god Janus's double faced appearance. The plan was used in the Ara Pacis because of the connection between the altar's dedication to peace and the fact that the opening and closing of doors of the Temple of Janus indicated whether Rome was at war or at peace. You might note, that unlike on the temple of Janus, there were no doors to the Ara Pacis. So technically, it was always open, a state which meant for the model, upon which the Ara Pacis was based, that Rome was at war. The normal state of affairs.

You might just take a second and think about what I've just done. I've argued that when a work of art, in this case the Ara Pacis, copies some aspect, here the plan, from another work of art, in this case the Temple of Janus, the meaning of the original is retained in the copy. I know it is still early in the morning for most of you, so let me repeat what I just said. I just suggested above, that when a work of art copies some aspect of another work of art, the meaning of the original is retained in the copy. You might want to discuss this idea in conference. For the moment, however, you should recall, that I stressed quite emphatically towards the start of my talk, that context is not determined by the objects themselves, but rather by the person who weaves them into place. In other words, the fact that the plan of the Ara Pacis copies the plan of the Temple to Janus in the Forum does not dictate the particular interpretation of that fact, that I have just given, mainly that the plan of the altar copies that of the temple for political reasons. My interpretation is a conclusion that I draw from the evidence, there may well be others that are possible. You need to create your own context, whether in conference or by yourself, in order to evaluate this conclusion and develop your own.

Different weavers will construct different contexts for the same fact, changing that fact's meaning and significance. This is of course one reason why the Holliday and Kampen articles, though based essentially on the same facts, raise such different questions and come to such different conclusions. In conference, you might try to establish what the underlining approaches and assumptions are for each of the two authors, and then consider how each author's approaches and assumptions not only open up different ways of thinking about the Ara Pacis, but perhaps also close off other possible interpretations.

As an architectural historian, for example, I am somewhat at a loss to understand how Holliday can avoid considering such an obvious source for the plan of the Ara Pacis, as the temple of Janus in the Forum, considering: a) the importance of time for Holliday's argument, b) the importance of Janus as a god and symbol of time, and c) for what seems to me to be a rather obvious association between the altar and the god in the Res gestae. I would point out that this connection between altar and temple is not one I discovered myself, but rather one that has suggested by earlier scholars of the Ara Pacis. Given all this, it seems to me that Holliday ignores a fact, which at face value seems closely related to his argument. This lacuna in Holliday's discussion raises certain questions, in my mind, about his argument. Don't get me wrong, I don't necessarily think that this observation makes his entire argument fall apart, but it does make me hesitant to accept it without reservations, it is as if Holliday has left a hole in the tapestry that he has woven. Such a gap, no matter how small, makes the context that Holliday weaves less satisfactory, than a fully completed one, one without any such gaps. [Slides Left and Right]

I feel a little awkward in having depended so heavily on virtually a single text to weave my context of the Ara Pacis. Indeed, I fear that I may have made it look entirely natural that such texts exist, and that they can be so easily connected to a work of art. Again, as I said at the outset of my discussion of the Ara Pacis in relation to the Res gestae, that what we have here with these two works is almost unparalleled in all of European antiquity. To a large extent, this parallel is due to the happy but random happenstance of survival. However, I would also suggest that their co-survival was in part due to the very thoroughness with which Augustus wove the context about his own person, or perhaps better put, his persona, during his reign. As I hope our study of Ancient Rome has shown, in the Augustan era, images of and texts about Augustus were tightly interwoven. The very density with which he was able to flood the Roman world with his image and related texts may have worked to insure that such a parallel could be possible.

The purpose of my talk today was not just to provide you with additional material to help you weave your own context. I hope I have made you much more self-conscious about the very process of how you might weave a particular context. In the end, I hope I have helped you to become better viewers of the Ara Pacis, better viewers, that is, than Aeneas was of the reliefs on the temple of Juno. Thank you and have a good morning.

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Created: 12 Feb. '97
Last Modified: 12 Feb '97