Augustus Iconography

Great Essays
‘Augustus’ extraordinary position…is defined in art’ and so his iconography programme should be taken at face value in order to identify key motifs and themes within it and how this supposedly reflected Augustus’ rule. However, nowadays scholars debate about the intricacies of said iconography and try to understand it textually rather than by sight. The importance of iconography was larger in Augustus’ time in comparison now, partly because it is estimated that only 10% of the population was literate leaving the remaining 90% having to receive information via imagery. Another reason is that its ‘political imagery…had little meaning outside [Roman] borders’ and so iconography within Rome would have had very specific messages. Whilst it is …show more content…
The morality laws were in response to the alleged sins of current and previous Romans and were thought necessary in order to preserve ‘pax romana’ (roman peace) and peace with the gods. This is best described in a passage from Horace’s Odes: ‘Our age, fertile in its wickedness, has first defiled the marriage bed, our offspring, and homes: disaster’s stream has flowed from this source through the people and the fatherland’. This shows the opinion of contemporary Romans and the desire for social reform, which came in the form of laws; the Lex Julia for example decreed a punishment for adultery. The importance of family can be seen in the Ara Pacis on the north side where members of Augustus’ family are watching a religious procession, reinforcing the theme of piety once again, and how Augustus and his family are directly linked to this. This family image created widespread appeal for the monument also- the multiple displays of mothers and children adopting informal postures could not be found on many other monuments, and this popularity is important in scoping the impact of the iconography. Oriental cults had become popular in Rome, such as the cult of Isis, and so temples and official religious calendars were used to reduce ‘danger of alienation and the dissolution of society’, in other words to keep the peace. An …show more content…
The Ara Pacis is ‘filled with imagery of a blessed world, an empire at peace under the sway of a great ruler’. Its location has connotations of war and peace, and Rome’s origin story, referencing Augustus’ ancestry. The constant religious imagery shows the importance of reinforcing traditional religious customs during Augustus’ reign- Augustus experienced an unprecedented amount of conflict; he inherited Rome during a political civil war and a military civil war, and he also had the job of expanding the Empire. The monument serves to tie its message to Augustus and his family; with the Ara Pacis being dedicated to Gauis and Lucius in 9BC, it ensured that through his iconography programme, Rome believed that only Augustus and his legacy could deliver a peaceful and pious

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