The Fascist-Era Excavation of the Emperor’s Peace Altar in Rome
The exquisite Ara Pacis Augustae (Altar of Augustan Peace) stands on a busy Roman thoroughfare near the Tiber River. Carved on the walls enclosing the altar is an elegant relief showing, among other things, a procession led by the emperor Augustus (63 B.C.-14 A.D.). Who would have guessed that this unassuming monument would become the center of scholarly and ideological controversies?
Built between 13 and 9 B.C., the Ara Pacis was dedicated to Augustus by a senatorial decree, commemorating his return to Rome after three years’ residence in Gaul (Augustus spent much of his reign in the provinces). The monument stood on the ancient Via Flaminia (today the Via del Corso), in the area known as the Campus Martius (Field of Mars), and would have been seen by people entering the capital from the north. It is mentioned in the Res Gestae, the list of accomplishments achieved during Augustus’s reign, and representations of the altar appear on coins from the first century A.D.
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