Week 12: Image and Message in the Art of the Augustan Age

The label ‘propaganda’ has been applied to the material output of the Augustan Age perhaps more than to material from any other period in antiquity.  After a century of civil war, Octavian certainly had his work cut out for him in restoring order reassuring a distressed and uneasy populace.  His many policy reforms were accompanied by a massive building program to rejuvenate the city of Rome.  Peacetime requires a different sort of leader than does wartime; Augustus’ recognition of that is perhaps most evident in his portraiture as well we can see a careful and calculated image.  We’ll look at his building program as well as the portraiture, which goes in a new direction.  There’s a lot of material, so we’ll really just be scratching the surface.  Read the background in David Potter’s textbook, first, if you are unfamiliar with the history of this period.  Then read the selections from Zanker and Diana Kleiner’s article, which paint slightly different pictures of art and message in the Augustan Age.  Then read Brian Roses’s detailed and very interesting discussion of one of many of the interpretational challenges of the Ara Pacis.  His article is a good example of critical art history, as it attempts to set aside presumptions about what we think the Ara Pacis should represent and instead focuses on the evidence as it is.

Reading:

D. Potter, Ancient Rome, pp 165-177 (for historical and cultural background and context) Potter 165-177

Res Gestae.  Inscription put up by Augustus in AD 14. (i’ll give you the relevant parts in class)

P. Zanker. 1988. The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus.  Ch. 5, “The Mythical Foundations of New Rome”  Zanker.pp172_238

D. Kleiner.  2005.  Semblance and storytelling in Augustan Rome.  In The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Augustus, edited by K. Galinsky, 197-233.  Kleiner 2005

C. B. Rose.  1990.  “Princes” and barbarians on the Ara Pacis.  American Journal of Archaeology 94 453-67. Rose Ara Pacis


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