Ara Pacis (Altar of Peace), Rome Built to honor the Roman goddess of peace, the Ara Pacis is a stunning example of early Roman sculpture. The altar symbolized the establishment of peace in the Empire. History of the Altar Originally named the Ara Pacis Augustae but usually shortened to just Ara Pacis, the Altar of Majestic Peace was consecrated in 9 BC. It was commissioned by Roman Emperor Augustus to celebrate his victories at Gaul and Hispania (now France and Spain) and the establishment of peace in the Roman Empire. At its time, it was considered one of the most important monuments in Rome. It is said that the altar represents the peace and prosperity achieved as a result of the time period known as the Pax Romana, which occurred between the years 27 BC to 180 AD. The altar was originally located on the Campus Martius, in the flood plain of the Tiber River. It was placed in such a way that the shadow of the obelisk on the Campus Martius (now on the Piazza di Montecitorio) would fall on the Ara Pacis on the birthday of emperor Augustus. Throughout the centuries, the monument became buried under silt and the first sculptures weren’t rediscovered until sometime in the 16th century. The Design of the Altar The Ara Pacis was sculpted from white marble and the scenes found on the altar depicted traditional Roman piety. The Emperor and his family figured prominently into the sculptures on the altar. Figures of priests and other individuals wearing laurel crowns of victory can also be found on the Ara Pacis. There is still debate on the meaning of some of the panels (in particular one on the east side) but what is certain is that the reliefs on the north and south side of the altar show a procession that effectively took place on the 4th of July 13 BC. Most notable about the figures on the altar is the fact they are a classic example of Roman sculpture. Unlike Greek sculpture, the figures actually resemble real individuals and are not idealized.turkeyarena.com Protecting the Remains Over the centuries, pieces of the Ara Pacis were discovered, but it wasn’t until 1938 that Benito Mussolini decided the remains needed to be protected. He had a structure built specifically for that purpose at the original location of the altar, near the mausoleum of Augustus. However, that building is no longer standing. It has been replaced by a pavilion designed by Richard Meier, a renowned American Architect. The modern pavilion houses the Museo dell'Ara Pacis, the Ara Pacis Museum, which opened in 2006. Today, the Ara Pacis as displayed in the museum is a combination of original fragments found on the original site of the altar and kept in Rome, and of plaster casts of original fragments that now sit in museums around the world.