See ancient propagandist art at Augustus’ altar of peace.
The Ara Pacis, erected in honor of Rome’s first emperor, is one of the best examples of early Roman relief sculpture. After being buried for over a thousand years, it now sits proudly in its own purpose-built pavilion. Read below to see why you shouldn’t miss it.
- Feast your eyes on the detailed reliefs of the Ara Pacis, odes to prosperity and peace.
- Take a peek at the altar itself, the site of bloody sacrifices.
- Marvel at the architectural contrast between the Ara Pacis and the modern pavilion it’s hosted in, built more than 2,000 years apart.
Tickets & Prices
Although the Ara Pacis can be partly seen through the glass walls of the pavilion, the best way to experience it is to purchase a ticket that allows you to get up close and personal. It is recommended to purchase your ticket online to avoid queues. A ticket is valid for one entrance on the day of your selected visit.
To enhance your visit, you can buy the Museum Video Guide (available in English, Italian, French, German, or Spanish) either at the ticket office or directly from the Museum app available in IOS and Android stores.
To visit the temporary exhibitions held in the basement below, you must purchase a separate ticket.
Here are your options below:
Full Price Ticket
This ticket is for adults over the age of 25. Roman residents receive a small discount.
Reduced Price Ticket
This ticket is for visitors between the ages of 6 and 25.
This ticket is for:
- Children under the age of 6.
- Roman residents under the age of 18.
To view the full list of free and reduced-price admissions, please visit the arapacis.it.
What to See and Do
The Ara Pacis Augustae (Altar of the Augustan Peace), commonly known as the Ara Pacis, is not only a beautiful work of art commemorating a peaceful era, but it also functioned as a propaganda piece for Augustus and his regime.
Augustus was wary of being seen as a ‘king’ or too authoritative, so he promoted himself as the leading citizen of a Roman Republic that he himself had restored and brought peace to. The Ara Pacis served to reinforce this message.
Here’s what you shouldn’t miss:
The Processional Frieze
The altar itself is completely encircled by a marble screen. The north and south sides of the screen show a processional scene. All the ceremonially robed figures face west, proceeding in the direction of the altar. They are celebrating the peace that Augustus has restored to the empire, and they are getting ready to participate in a ritual.
On the north side are the Roman officials, such as priests, senators, magistrates, and their families. The south side shows Augustus and his family. He is standing next to his lieutenant and son-in-law, Marcus Agrippa.
Below the processional frieze runs a parallel vegetal frieze which is meant to symbolize the fertility and abundance of the land thanks to peace.
The Mythological Panels
On the east and west sides of the screen (the shorter sides) are four panels depicting distinct mythological scenes.
One shows a bearded man making a sacrifice to a god. Some say that it’s the Trojan hero Aeneas making a sacrifice to the penates. Others think that it’s a portrayal of Numa Pompilius, Rome’s second king, known as a peaceful ruler.
The panel next to it (on the west side) shows Romulus and Remus being suckled by the she-wolf in the Lupercal (wolf cave). This fragmented scene shows the origins of Rome.
The east wall displays a fragmentary panel of the goddess Roma seated on a pile of weapons. This allusion to war reinforced the Augustan belief that peace can only be achieved through warfare.
The other panel presents a scene of fertility and abundance. A seated goddess, possibly Tellus (the Earth) or Pax (Peace), is surrounded by riches produced by the land and sea. Two infants sit on her lap. It represents once again the idea of peace and prosperity in Rome.
The altar itself stands importantly within the screen walls, accessed by a flight of marble steps. This would have been the functional part of the monument where ritual blood sacrifices of animals would have occurred in honor of the goddess Pax.
The Ara Pacis is located on the Lungotevere (along the banks of the Tiber River) in the center of Rome. It’s within walking distance of many tourist hotspots. The easiest way to get there is by bus, or on foot if you are already in the city center.
- Address: Lungotevere in Augusta, 00186
- Metro: Line A – Spagna or Flaminio, then walk for 10-12 minutes.
- Bus: Lines 70, 81, 87, 119, 492, and 628 stop nearby.
- On Foot:
Piazza del Popolo (7 min.)
Piazza Navona (10 min.)
Pantheon (11 min.)
Trevi Fountain (14 min.)
Did You Know That: 3 Interesting Facts
- The Ara Pacis’ original location was calculated perfectly so that the shadow of the nearby sundial would fall directly onto it on the day of Augustus’ birthday.
- Not everyone liked Meier’s sleek pavilion design. Many Romans thought it looked too similar to the Fascist buildings erected under Mussolini.
- The altar, carved entirely of Carrara marble, measures 11.6m by 10.6m and is 3.6m high.
- The Roman Senate ordered the construction of the Ara Pacis to celebrate Augustus’ return, after three years, from his campaigns in Hispania and Gaul.
- Construction started on July 4, 13 BCE, and it was dedicated on January 30, 9 BCE. It was placed near Augustus’ mausoleum in the Campus Martius, an area north of the city walls.
- The altar was wholly forgotten sometime during the 2nd century CE and was gradually buried by sedimentation from the rising river.
- In 1536, parts of the altar were discovered during the construction of a palace on the site where it lay hidden, and more parts were unearthed sometime during the 1800s.
- It wasn’t until 1937, however, that the Ara Pacis was finally completed and excavated under the orders of Mussolini.
- In 1938, the pieces were reassembled in their current location on the banks of the Tiber River, housed in a purpose-built museum.
- The museum was replaced in 2006 by American architect Richard Meier, who designed the current sleek glass pavilion that houses the monument.
- Today, the Ara Pacis is visited by people from all over the world, and the outside area of the pavilion has become a hangout area for tourists and locals alike.
Address: Museo dell'Ara Pacis, Lungotevere in Augusta , 00186 Roma, Italy · view larger map