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Programme October - November 2016

Seminars at the Institute

Seminar 2019: II
Tuesday 22 January 17.00

Gaius SternUniversity of California at Berkeley (retired)
Correcting the Reconstruction and Some Interpretations of the Ara Pacis

Modern students and scholars sometimes forget the Ara Pacis looked somewhat different in the year 1 than it does today.  Despite his best efforts, Giuseppe Moretti, building upon the work of Eugen Petersen, was able to reconstruct only an approximation of the Ara Pacis, unveiled to the public on 30 January 9 BC.  Missing material made it impossible to fill in certain gaps, and in a few places, Moretti deliberately or accidentally hid the loss of characters with an illusion of completion.  The combination of the missing pieces and the slightly flawed reconstruction have misled scholars, whose interpretations, in turn, deviated from the Roman vision of a New Golden Age, especially if they imagined they were looking at a perfect reconstruction of a great piece of imperial propaganda.  The result resembles a performance of a bad translation of a Shakespeare play.  The elegance of a great work of art is partly lost.   However, it is possible to correct some of these approximations and thereby get closer to the Augustan (and Senatorial) vision for the future, even though that future never took place as planned, for the death of Agrippa upended the stability of the regime and set in motion more than one crisis.

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