Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pax Romericana

I decided to sneak back up to the Piazza Augusto Imperatore, where the Mausoleum of Augustus is located, when I read about the accompanying Altar of Peace. According to the information in the museum the altar was actually ordered to be built by the Roman Senate in 13 BC. The altar is supposed to celebrate the conquering of Spain and Gaul by Augustus. It was an extremely important monument in Imperial Rome that inaugurated the Pax Romana, a period of time during which Rome controlled the entire Mediterranean coastline. The altar itself is a reproduction using pieces of the original work.

Most of the museum's interior space is dedicated to displaying the reproduced structure. The outer walls enclose the massive altar. The altar was a part of a larger complex of monuments including the Mausoleum of Augustus that is across the street. On the ancient campus, the tomb and the altar were not set so close together and a large field between them was used for military exercises. Thus, not only are the altar and the mausoleum expressions of the power of Augustus, but the overall complex which they were a part of was a staging ground for the military demonstration of Roman Imperial might.

Aside from the Altar of Peace, the museum has a full-scale reproduction of the Res Gestae Divi Augusti printed on its outer wall facing the piazza. Translating to "The Life and Deeds of Augustus;" the Res Gestae was a long text listing all of Augustus's accomplishments as the first emperor of Rome. Some of the highlights of the text include a reference to the killing of Julius Caesar and the proud declaration that Augustus was saluted as imperator twenty-one times during his reign (hence the name of the piazza). A large section of the document innumerates the achievements of Augustus to the tune of, "I did X, X many times." Additionally, this list of accomplishments is told in the first person, as if you are in the presence of Augustus as he explains to you how great he is. This is the expression of power at its most overt.

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