Monday, January 29, 2018

Rome Journal: Ara Pacis


virtual reality at the Ara Pacis (photograph by Hallie Cohen)
Augustine and Augustus were both august figures and August is not the month to visit Rome, due to both the heat and the tourists. But speaking of Augustus, back in l938 the Ara Pacis, the enormous sculptural monument to the emperor, which is the Roman version of Hegelian dialectics (originally commissioned by the Roman senate in 13B.C.), was moved from the North of Rome to the Longotevere along the Tiber. It renders both the ideology and history of Pax Augusti. Then in l996 the Mayor of Rome commissioned the American architect Richard Meier to create a new housing which was completed in 2006. Today you can look at it through virtual reality goggles which turn the stone carvings into a living narrative of the first emperor in Roman history whose reign ushered in an era of relative peace (if you prefer looking at Augustus' reign in a more classic novelized version read John Williams' novel Augustus). The panels are a mixture of mythology from Romulus and Remus to major figures whose exact identities are still subject to question, but may have included Tiberius, Agrippa and more certainly Augustus himself. The Ara Pacis offers both a hagiography (like that found on the frieze of an Egyptian tomb) and a formative document providing both the governance and bylaws for the most long-lived governmental enterprise in human history. Though the Augustan era is remembered for its stability one still can’t help but recall Shelley’s famous words about another stone sculpture in “Ozymandius:” “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!”


No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.