Today we visited the Mausoleum of Augustus and the remains of the Ara Pacis (“Altar of Peace”) and discussed exactly how these things related to Augustus’ PR strategy. We also visited the Palazzo Altemps and looked at some statuary that combined ancient parts with reconstructions by sculptors hired by the Ludovisi family, as well as a Roman copy of a Greek piece called “The suicidal Gaul.”

Mausoleum of Augustus

  • Augustus’ tomb, and that of his immediate relatives. Used later as well by other emperors.
  • Dates to 28 BC
  • Earliest monument to be completed by Octavian: not even Augustus at this point. Three years after Actium.
  • Massive cylindrical tomb, topped by a tholos temple, with a gilded bronze statue of Augustus on top of that.
  • Puzzles scholars. The Mausoleum seems to signal dynasty – but Augustus was otherwise careful to avoid looking like a monarch.
  • May represent evidence that the anti-monarchial sentiment was not really as important driving factor as other things. One alternative hypothesis is that the people were wearied by war – 70 years of it – and that peace was in fact even more important.
  • Augustus built the Mausoleum while he was still young.
    • Not that strange. The Romans were very conscious of mortality.
    • Not that uncommon for a person to build a tomb even with decades left to live.
    • But the size is what gives it the dynastic backdrop: associations with Eastern tombs.

Res Gestae Divi Augusti

  • A positively massive inscription.
  • Aqueducts, roads, and 82 temples in one year. Augustus’ accomplishments.
  • Dynastic intent: “if I don’t do it, you can trust my heirs to do it.”
  • Emphasis on relationships. “My father” = Julius Caesar, now deified.
  • “Tyranny of a faction” = Mark Antony.

Northern Campus Martius


  • Not much was built in the Campus Martius. There was frequent flooding courtesy of the Tiber, but it was still used for gatherings of people.
  • Augustus saw this as an opportunity to build-up a part of Rome (the northern Campus Martius) as he wanted it. A blank slate.
    • Via Flaminia intersects the northen Campus Martius.
    • Today, a road is still there in the form of the Via Corso.

Scale model

Structures in the scale model:

  • Saeptia: voting enclosure.
  • Original pantheon: built by Marcus Agrippa.
  • Ustrinum
    • Where emperors cremated
    • Then carried in urn to the Mausoleum of Augustus.
  • Obelisk
  • Ara Pacis
  • Mausoleum of Augustus.
  • The ustrinum, obelisk, and Ara Pacis were all in line.

The horologium

  • Obelisk: brought around 10 BC.
    • Why 20 years to put up?
    • Because it was not a victory monument. Instead, it was the pointer for a meridian.
    • Cast a shadow, track the length of days.
  • Augustus was very concerned with the idea of piety. The Roman people must have a good relationship with their gods.
  • 12 BC: Augustus finally takes on the title of Pontifex Maximus after Lepidus dies.
  • Calendar recalculated with the leap year finally handled properly.
  • Horologium of Augustus: composed of obelisk and meridian strip that goes north.
  • Built to celebrate human time being in sync to cosmic time.

How things work together.

  • Mausoleum for the dynasty of Augustus
  • Ara Pacis to celebrate the peace of Augustus and his accomplishments.
  • Horologium to show that this was pleasing to the gods.

Ara Pacis Augustae



  • In the Campus Martius, but closer to what is now the Italian parliament building.
  • Discovered over time. Initially no one had any idea of what it was.
  • Early 20th century – in line with his propaganda, Mussolini determines to excavate further. The excavation was difficult.
  • One of the most extravagant monuments ever constructed. Not in terms of scale, but in terms of its sculptures, and the intellectual depth of what it represents.
  • The original housing of the Ara Pacis was from the fascist period.
  • In 1999, the mayor of Rome asks the well-known architect Richard Meier to build a new housing.
    • Does not ask others first. Causes much controversy.
  • Debatable, but the building Meier built might not have been a step forward (even though it is at least not fascist).
    • Unnecessary metal beams in windows cast annoying shadows on the monument.
    • Ramps to view the upper carvings at eye level – present in the fascist-era building – were not replicated. Now you have to look up at an angle.
    • Etc.
  • Seems to be based on an old Roman monument: the temple to Janus.
    • The primary temple to Janus: open to the sky, two doors (Janus the god has two faces). Doors open during war and closed during peace.
    • Temple of Janus supposedly built by Numa in the regal period.
  • So lots of associations that the monuments is invoking.
    • But not a direct copy: no doors period, much less those that open and close with war and peace.
    • Similar concepts, but much more detailed sculpture, elaborate material, etc.
  • Only solid marble temple that we have from Augustus himself.
  • Ara Pacis begun 12 BC, finished 9 BC.
  • Incised into panel and painted red = restored guess of what was on the panel.
  • Romans see peace as something that can only be achieved through war.
    • This is why Romulus (a conquering king) and Mars and Roma (war divinities) show up on the structure.

Uncontroversial things, description


  • Carvings of vegetation on the bottom panels
    • Growth, peace, flourishing, prosperity
    • Plants from all seasons = continuous, eternal peace. Supposed to evoke the Pax Augusta.

West side left panel

  • Mars looking down on Romulus and Remus; Mars serves as protector of Rome and his children.
  • Also the kindly shepherd; shepherd as caretaker.
  • Romulus and Remus suckling with wolf innocently.
  • Peaceful moment in their history… not fratricide.
  • All about the founding of the city, leading up to Augustus’ reign.

West side right panel

  • Boys leading a pig to primitive altar.
  • Older man (beard, belly) with toga over head = religious ritual.

South side

  • Image of procession of Romans
    • Know they are Romans because of their togas.
  • Augustus was Pontifex Maximus at this point.
  • Augustus is identifiable
  • Many are just background figures.
  • Meaning of the procession?
  • Best guess: supplicatio
  • Dress up, go to shrines around the city, and offer small offerings.
  • Respect the power of all the gods.
  • People participating in a supplicatio carry laurel branches, as here.
  • A man making a gesture of respect to the gods.
    • Touch lips with finger
    • Not “shushing”
    • Evidence for supplicatio.

North side

  • Also a procession, presumably the same as the one on the south side?
  • Bottom: snake poised to consume birds nest.
  • Meaning: danger and violence always threaten to disrupt peace.

East side left panel

  • 2 semi-nude females, one clothed, but still relatively exposed.
    • Left figure: rides a swan over reeds.
    • Right figure: rides a dragon over the sea.
  • Twin children, pile of fruit = fecundity.

East side right panel

  • Goddess Roma, warrior goddess (cf. Amazons).
  • Only have a thigh sitting on armor.
  • Enough to make the Roma identification since this presentation is rather unique to her.
  • Why Roma instead of a different, more explicit female war god like Bellona, e.g.?
    • Since so interested in the city of Rome itself


While the west side left panel (Romulus and Remus scene) and east side right panel (the goddess Roma) are less controversial in what they represent, scholars disagree about the meaning of the other scenes.

West side right panel

  • Traditional interpretation:
    • Bearded guy = Aeneas
    • Beginning of Roman people as they transition from Troy
  • According to the traditional account of Aeneas sacrificing a sow in Italy, he should be sacrificing a sow and 30 piglets, to either Juno or two youthful gods.
    • Other graphical representation of this scene actually do have piglets, even if it is only one or two of them.
    • The two figures in the temple are bearded = not Juno, not young.
  • Paul Rehak: Questions that this is Aeneas. It is not only the visuals mentioned above that present a problem, there is also a conceptual problem. Aeneas’ arrival has nothing to do with the founding of the city of Rome per se, and Aeneas’ arrival is also not a peaceful one, as they immediately go to war.
  • Rehak’s instead offers a different interpretation: the bearded man is Numa.
    • Numa considered to be bringer of peace and law. Numa created the temple to Janus.
    • Numa making a sacrifice with another king to seal a peace treaty.
    • The altar would be the original altar of peace.
    • The two observers are Jupiter and Dis, guarantors of oaths (swear to heavens and the underworld).
  • Romans read visually left to right. Romulus and Remus to Numa is left to right, and thus tracks chronologically. Romulus and Remus to Aeneas does not.

South side

  • Traditional interpretation
    • By Agrippa, there is a young boy. The thought is that this is Gaius, Agrippa’s son, whom Augustus adopts.
    • “Dressed in Trojan dress” to trigger associations with the past, cf. the Aeneas interpretation above.
  • But Brian Rose argues that the idea that Augustus’ grandson would dress up in Eastern attire (like that of the Parthians, one of Rome’s perpetual enemies) is a bit far fetched. The imagery of the earlier Trojans and later Eastern cultures were not highly distinguished.
  • Instead, Rose argues that this is not a child dressed like a barbarian prince; this is a barbarian prince.
  • Sons and daughters of kings sent to Rome to ensure that the Romans and the kings’ countries would continue to get along.
  • Live in Rome to be taught Roman rituals and culture, and Latin.
  • If they return and take power, pro-Roman.
  • Foreign princes thus signify peace in future generations.
  • How we can tell the forein princes from the other Roman youths: no togas, no bullas (protective amulets).

East side left panel

  • Traditional interpretation:
    • Tellus: traditional Roman mother goddess.
    • Venus is sometimes used interchangeably in a context like this, so it could also be Venus. At any rate, the idea is of some fertility/motherhood goddess.
    • Side figures: winds.
  • However, Nancy de Grummond proposes that the central figure is actually Pax, peace personified.
  • Snap reflex concerning what the scene is about: prosperity, fecundity.
    • Bringer of prosperity/fecundity: peace.
  • With Pax in the center, de Grummond argues that the side figures are seasons, not winds.

Why follow the newer interpretations?

  • Following the arguments of Rehak, Rose, and de Grummond simplifies the meaning siginificantly. (No esoteric mythological interpretation).
  • All together: axis through monument:

It is also worth pointing out that the east side with Pax and Roma was the side facing the Via Flaminia, so would have been the one most immediately presented to passers-by. The idea of Augustus’ peace is neatly summed up by Pax and Roma… so much so that the peace ushered in by Augustus eventually came to be known as Pax Romana!

The tower of the monkey


The story

  • Once upon a time in the late middle ages or the Renaissance, a family had a pet monkey named Hilda. The father of the family had trained the monkey to come when he clapped.
  • Baby born, family then focuses on the baby. Hilda feels left out.
  • One day, Hilda takes the baby up on top of the tower to get to know it. Rocks it lovingly.
  • The humans panic. The father makes St. Mary a vow that if he has his child returned to him safely, he will keep her light shining forever (knowledge of her, fame).
  • So he claps, and the monkey brings the baby back, and a statue of St. Mary with a light continuously burning has been on the tower ever since, for centuries.
  • Everyone always wants to know what happens to Hilda. We don’t know: the story ends.

Historical comments

  • Brick rectangular towers in the city: medieval
  • Usually attached to the homes of aristocrats.
  • Families would quite literally control neighborhoods with force, or at least with armed guards around.

Palazzo Altemps


  • Built by a cardinal in the 1500s.
  • Personal residence for a time, then owned by the Ludovisi family. Eventually it becomes this museum.
  • The Ludovisi were a very wealthy family. They owned the ground around the Ercoli: the place that includes the gardens of Sallust.
    • Full of ancient ruins, sculpture.
    • The Ludovisi claimed anything that came out of this space.
    • Ancient sculpture that had once decorated the gardens of Sallust.
  • But much was fragmentary.
  • The Ludovisi, wanting full sculptures, hired artists to “reconstruct” statues.
    • Algardi, a famous sculptor, and also Bernini.
  • Would take fragment(s), and then create a whole new statue that incorporated it (them): a mix of ancient and modern.
  • Sometimes fragments of different statues were combined into one frankensculpture. (Along with the new reconstructed portions).
  • Therefore, care must be taken with all the statues; you need to consider what is ancient and what is restored.

Statue of Hercules

  • Not much replaced. Mostly original.

Statue of “Aesklepios”

  • We identify the statue as Aesklepios because of the staff… which was a reconstruction part.
  • We do not have other examples of Aesklepios with a scroll.
    • It could have been something else like a spear or trident that got truncated. This would then be an entirely different meaning.
  • This is a good example of the problems that crop up due to the combination of modern and ancient in the statuary.


  • Pastiche: pile elements from completely different works together.
  • Here, an ancient funerary monument, a container for cremated remains, and a fragment of a figure, perhaps a satyr.
  • Artist arranges a series of unrelated elements.
  • Led astray in thinking that the remains went with the funerary monument, that the statue was a portrait of the deceased person, etc… but these things are not so!

The so-called “Ludovisi throne”

  • Aphrodite not commonly shown in art from rising from foam (cf. her origin in Greek myth from severed genitals, rising from the foam of the sea), but as here, she is shown rising from a bath.
  • Stylistically, appears to be classical in form, but also seems to show Aphrodite nude. This would be strange for classical since archaic/classical had taboos regarding female nudity.
    • It turns out that Aphrodite is not nude here: there is a thin robe.
    • No taboos of nudity for representing prostitutes, who embody the carnal form of love.
  • The artists were looking for a way to “technically” not break the rules, while effectively doing as much.
  • Images on the sides reflect the dual natures of Aphrodite.
  • Carnal lust
  • Pure love: parents and children, psychological/emotional form of love.

Cupid and psyche

  • Heads are ancient, bodies are not.
  • Iconography of Eros is a complete fabrication of the Baroque.
  • This piece is a good examples of the dangers present in this Ludovisi collection.

“The suicidal Gaul”

  • Hellenistic
    • Torsion characteristic of the period.
    • Have to circle the sculpture to take it in fully.
  • “Antithetical binary”
    • Composed of paired opposites.
    • Alive, dead
    • Action, passivity (not exactly the same distinction as alive/dead)
    • Male, female
    • Nude, clothed
  • The artist wants us to understand who the figures are and what they represent: a Gaullic man man about to kill himself, probably after killing his wife.
    • Death before dishonor.
    • Slavery equivalent to death in the minds of the Gauls.
  • The man is a noble: mustache, long oval shield.
    • Diodorus Siculus
  • Gaul: women would be proximate to battlefield
    • Once the battle moves on, help their wounded, kill enemy wounded, loot enemy corpses.
  • Roman copy of Greek original
  • Original: Greek bronze.
  • By Epignos of Pergamon
    • Pergamon was a Hellenistic kingdom
    • Does not exist in archaic/classical
  • Original purpose: elevate Pergamon
    • So utterly defeated the Gauls that slavery would be the result (rather than any possibility of regrouping to try and fight again). And therefore suicide.
    • Showing the Gauls as noble and fierce (suicide over slavery) makes the Pergamon victory even more impressive.