The Ara Pacis: Roma sub specie aeternitatis
The Ara Pacis Augustae (“Altar of Augustean Peace”) in Rome is a marble monument that the Senate had built in honor of the Roman goddess of peace, Pax, only a handful of years after Augustus had returned from his successes in Hispania and Gaul in 13 BC. The beautiful altar was meant to celebrate what seemed like the beginning of an endless time of peace in the world.
The Ara Pacis – with 4.5-meter-tall walls on a ten by eleven meter rectangular base, protecting the altar itself – was built in the Campus Marius and inaugurated on January 30th, 9 BC.
Senators, priests, and the imperial family took part in the event, and are portrayed in procession on the outer walls. However, the impressive friezes were not meant to represent Augustus’ return to Rome or the day of the inauguration (actually, some of the people portrayed were dead at the time, such as Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, the celebrated hero’s son-in-law). The entire monument was meant to represent the “sub specie aeternitatis” of the State in Rome, symbolized by the prince’s “reditus”, which was in turn an emblem of the city’s prosperity and eternal greatness.
What is left of the Ara Pacis was found during the final excavations under the Peretti-Fiano-Almagià Palace, carried out between 1937 and 1939 between Via del Corso and Piazza di San Lorenzo in Lucina, and reassembled near the Mausoleum of Augustus, where it is on display today.