Forgotten Magnates from 13 BC on the Ara Pacis Augustae

  • 19. února 2024
  • Online at Zoom (Meeting ID: 842 7329 3522, Passcode: 271900)

Several ideas about the Ara Pacis and who appears on the long friezes have won over scholarly approval, even though they were built on flimsy or very uncertain ground. One example of this is Heinz Kähler's theory that Gaius Caesar and maybe Lucius Caesar are dressed as Trojans for the Troy Games of 13 BC. Brian Rose and several others have written against this theory, and most North American and British scholars follow Rose et al., but most German and Italian scholars still follow Kähler, though with somewhat less certainty. Kähler's theory is creative but completely mistaken, as I hope to persuade you. A tradition, nearly universally accepted, is the idea that the family of Nero's father and grandfather form the last extant family group on the South Wall. There are many problems here, starting with the methodology of how Alfred von Domaszewski devised his identification and the fact that the number of participants does not match the family of Nero's father. I suggest the lasting power of his idea owes more to the romantic notion of seeing Nero's father as a child than it does to any resemblance to the truth.

One might ask why it matters who the people are. I think it matters a great deal if you are curious to know which magnates in the Roman state had the official right to appear on the Ara Pacis as the individuals most responsible for restoring peace, stability, and prosperity to the Roman Empire. Augustus and the senators who designed the Ara Pacis wished very much not to present Augustus as a king lacking only a crown, so which other individuals got to share credit with him for the Pax Augusta mattered in their ideas of the sake of credit and responsibility and duty, and since this monument was carved in fine Carrara marble, it would last as a testament to generations yet to come that these magnates were the people who saved the nation. Certainly, many more politicians wanted to appear on the friezes than space permits, so the 75 or so who do appear are "the cream of the Roman aristocracy."

The lecture will be given in English online by Prof. Gaius Stern from the University of California, Berkeley.

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