Classics Lecture: Augustus, the Senate and the Ara Pacis

On Thursday 11th October a number of Latin and Greek students attended a very interesting evening lecture given by Dr Amy Russell on “Augustus, the Senate and the Ara Pacis’ at the University of Birmingham. The Ara Pacis, or ‘Altar of Peace’, is an altar that was commissioned by the Roman Senate on 4th July 13 BC...

On Thursday 11th October a number of Latin and Greek students attended a very interesting evening lecture given by Dr Amy Russell on “Augustus, the Senate and the Ara Pacis’ at the University of Birmingham. The Ara Pacis, or ‘Altar of Peace’, is an altar that was commissioned by the Roman Senate on 4th July 13 BC following Emperor Augustus’ return to Rome, after spending three years in Hispania and Gaul. The Altar was originally thought to represent the peace achieved by the Emperor, however, these views were challenged by Dr Russell. She highlighted the intricate depictions on the friezes, including the lower area of the frieze which represents the wealth of the Roman Empire through the detailed vegetation. She also highlighted how proud the Senate and Augustus were of their expansion of the Roman Empire through the extremely clear depiction of the Goddess Roma sitting on her shields. One of Dr Russell’s most interesting viewpoints was that the ambiguity of the depiction of Augustus on the frieze could be emphasising how the Senate and the Emperor were very much entwined. Many believed that the Emperor was the most powerful authority at the time, however, what the Ara Pacis could represent is the remaining influence of the Senate. Overall, the lecture was thoroughly enjoyable and hearing a completely different view on the meaning of the Ara Pacis was very useful for the students.

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