Classics Ara Pacis Augustae
Diane Atnally Conlin
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 September 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 September 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0096


The Ara Pacis Augustae (Altar of Augustan Peace) is a relatively large marble structure (estimated to have been approximately 11 by 11 meters) dedicated on 30 January 9 BCE in Rome. It consisted of a four-sided marble precinct wall (saeptum) that surrounded the U-shaped, marble altar proper raised on a podium. The structure, dedicated by the Senate to the political program of the Augustan Peace, is most renowned for a series of relief sculptures that were carved on both sides of the Carrara marble slabs of the saeptum. It originally stood on the western side of the Via Flaminia in the northern Campus Martius region. Fragments of the relief sculptures as well as the architectural remains of the Ara Pacis Augustae were unearthed over time, beginning in the 16th century. A restoration of the altar and its associated fragments is displayed in a new museum, the Museo dell’Ara Pacis, constructed north of the original location near the Mausoleum of Augustus. The museum was designed by Richard Meier, an American architect, and was completed in 2006. The Ara Pacis is without doubt the most often discussed and illustrated monument in Roman art; moreover, nearly every book on Augustus or the Augustan Age has a reference to the altar structure and its complex imagery.

General Overviews

Few books published since the mid-20th century have dealt exclusively with the Ara Pacis, the most notable exceptions being Simon 1967; La Rocca, et al. 1983; Conlin 1997 (cited under History of Construction and Production); and Rossini 2006. A succinct discussion of the monument and its sculptures can be found in Kleiner 1992, Torelli 1999, and Settis 1988, and a comprehensive bibliography on the monument can be found in Koeppel 1987. For an overview of the altar in the context of the literary, political, and artistic cultures of the Augustan period, see Zanker 1988 and Galinski 1996.

  • Galinski, Karl. 1996. Augustan culture: An interpretive introduction. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

    Crafted for university courses, this survey remains highly useful for an overview of the period.

  • Kleiner, Diana E. E. 1992. Roman sculpture. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

    A detailed but concise description in the chapter on Augustan sculpture.

  • Koeppel, Gerhard. 1987. Die historischen Reliefs der römischen Kaiserzeit V: Ara Pacis Augustae, Teil 1. Bonner Jahrbücher 187:101–157.

    Continued in “Teil 2,” published in 1988 (Bonner Jahrbücher 188:97–106). Comprehensive bibliography of studies on the altar.

  • La Rocca, Eugenio, Vivien Ruesch, and Bruno Zanardi. 1983. Ara Pacis Augustae: In occasione del restauro della fronte orientale. Rome: “L’Erma” di Bretschneider.

    Produced in conjunction with major restoration efforts. Provides a concise review of the history, display, restorations, and iconography, with the most emphasis on the sculptures that adorned the eastern face of the structure.

  • Lamp, Kathleen. 2009. The Ara Pacis Augustae: Visual rhetoric in Augustus’ Principate. Rhetoric Society Quarterly 39.1: 1–24.

    DOI: 10.1080/02773940802356624

    Argues that the Augustan altar should be understood as a rhetorical artifact designed to persuade general acceptance of Augustus’s plans for dynastic succession. Includes a discussion of the rhetorical theories of amplification, imitation, and enthymeme.

  • Rossini, Orietta. 2006. Ara Pacis. Rome: Electa.

    General but comprehensive catalogue with excellent photographic documentation prepared in conjunction with the opening of the Museo dell’Ara Pacis museum, designed by Richard Meier.

  • Settis, Salvatore. 1988. Die Ara Pacis. In Kaiser Augustus und die verlorene Republik: Ausstellung im Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, 7. Juni–14. August 1988. Edited by Mathias René Hofter, 400–426. Mainz, Germany: Philipp von Zabern.

    Detailed descriptive entry on the altar in a volume on the Augustan Age produced in conjunction with a major exhibition in Berlin.

  • Simon, Erika. 1967. Ara Pacis Augustae. Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society.

    Review of major features of the altar.

  • Torelli, Mario. 1999. Pax Augusta, Ara. In Lexicon topographicum urbis Romae. Vol. 4. Edited by Eva M. Steinby, 70–74. Rome: Quasar.

    Comprehensive but concise review of the altar and relevant scholarship.

  • Zanker, Paul. 1988. The power of images in the age of Augustus. Translated by Alan Shapiro. Jerome Lectures 16. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press.

    Remains one of the most important works on the art, architecture, and political ideologies of Augustan Rome and on the multivalent semiotics of Roman art in general. Includes lengthy discussions on the imagery of the Ara Pacis.

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