The Ara Pacis

I’m thinking of how to end the Lucius Sestius trilogy at the moment, and I’ve decided to make him one of the sculptures on the Ara Pacis which has always been one of my favourites. I first saw it before it had its facelist and transferral to the lovely museum created for it which you will find on the banks of the Tiber, near the Mausoleum of Augustus. The Museum gives you a quick overall view of the structure in this video:

The altar itself lies inside four beautifully carved walls, and I am sure that everyone’s favourites are the two long processions on the north and south walls. Augustus himself is depicted at the head of his Senate and his family have come along in support: maybe it is an imaginative reconstruction of the day the altar was dedicated.

North wall, from the excellent MIT website on the Ara Pacis:

Under the processions, a riot of plants and animals emerge from lush acanthus leaves, and one good game is to see how many small creatures you can find hiding in the leaves.

Today you can find Lucius Sestius Quirinalis on the altar of Augustan Peace in Rome, but don’t tell anyone, because the guide books will get upset. Go to the north side, and head to the front of the procession of those of Rome’s great and good who were invited to be part of this celebration.

Two beak-nosed lictors with their rod bundles on their shoulders lead the way, but third in the procession and looking straight out at you, is Lucius. Unlike the beautiful smooth-faced Augustan family on the south wall, Lucius looks middle-aged, tired and, let’s face it, cross. He wants this ceremony to just be over so he can take off his toga and enjoy a decent wine. 

And, yes, I don’t suppose for a moment the Emperor Augustus really decided to put Lucius on this carving, but as far as I am concerned, this is him.

PS: on the day I last visited the Ara Pacis I also had the best drink ever – a prosecco with lemon sorbet:

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