A Thousand Words
Ara Pacis Augustae
The Altar of Augustan Peace
by Mary Elizabeth Podles
When the Roman legionaries embarked on a new military venture, they left the city via the Forum's Portal of Janus, the god of new beginnings (and endings), and the doors of the Temple of Janus were always kept open in times of war, while in peacetime they were closed. For nearly four hundred years, they stood open. They were formally closed in 29 b.c., again in 25 b.c., and finally and definitively around the year 13 b.c. The Pax Romana had begun, and in the year 9 b.c., the Ara Pacis, the Altar of Augustan Peace, was consecrated.
The altar itself, in proper Roman fashion, was open to the air, . . .
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Mary Elizabeth Podles is the retired curator of Renaissance and Baroque art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. She and her husband Leon, a Touchstone senior editor, have six children and live in Baltimore, Maryland.
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