Introduction to the Aura Pacis and Epic Poetry John McBride, John Napolitano, Piero Salas-Allende, Chris Mancini, Kevin Manning

Caesar Octavian Augustus, The Aura Pacis, and the Res Gestae Divi Augusti

John Napolitano

The Ara Pacis, also known as the altar of the Augustan Peace in Rome. This was built to celebrate Augustus returning from his campaigns in Spain and Gaul. This structure of marble once stood in the Campus Martius and was described as a amazing Roman sculpture masterpiece. The whole imperial family are depicted with certain types of wall reliefs of this monument in an animate procession. For example, the procession when the altar was consecrated on July 4, 13 BCE, to welcome back the return of the emperor. On these exterior walls, there are many figures of symbolism coming from two groups on the north and south side of the buildings. The south side was about August and the imperial family. Then on the north side it shows officials such as the magistrates, senators, priests and families. It shows that they were participating in the precession of the emperor. Another major symbol was Augustus sister holding a finger to her lips and calling for silence. This was symbolizing that the children looked bored with one child pulling on the toga of the adult in order to stand up. These Roman figures described the relief of scene depth and reality in future. This altar was named because of Augustus reign and probably a reason that Ara Pacis appeared on the coins of Nero. Leading to this words of Augustus and why this building was made was through his words called res gestae divi Augusti, which were words describing his achievements for the Roman people. It survives as an inscription carved in Greek and Latin on the wall of the temple of Rome and the Ara Pacis. This inscription was called the “queen of inscriptions”, which was Order in bronze and put in front of Augustus’ mausoleum in Rome as a testament to the achievements of his reign or principate. The purpose of the words and the Ara Pacis was overall imperial propaganda. . A great example is the image of Pax, is from the altar showing Augustus family in a sacrifical procession. Overall his imperial propaganda shows the linkness with his military victories, internal order and happiness through his divine providence that is seen everywhere in the art and literature of his era.

Epic Poetry

Chris Mancini

Epic poetry is a long piece of literature which often exhibits a hero and their adventure to complete heroic deeds. The hero is usually described with superhuman powers which he uses to defeat supernatural enemies such as: gods, demons, angels, and other mythology.

Epic Poetry is different from other styles of literature in a number of ways. Compared to normal (lyrical) poetry, the length of an epic poem is much greater. Epic poetry contains a main character and tells a story, while lyrical poetry often expresses the ideas of a person. The perspective of epic poetry is strictly written in the third-person, while other styles of literature will vary between third and first-person. Form and meter of epic poetry changes depending on the region and language of the country it's written in.

The purpose of epic poetry is to represent the culture and the time period of the country it is written for.

Odysseus, a greek epic hero, escapes a cyClops with the golden fleece

Vergil and the Aenid

Pierro Salas Allende

Octavian defeated Antony and Cleopatra in the Battle of Actium. So, he established himself as sole ruler of Rome. This ended the Roman Republic permanently. Many Roman citizens were living in civil strife during the Republic. They looked to Augustus for state stability. Maecenas, Augustus' cultural advisor, grouped together some poets, including Virgil and Horace, to celebrate the new peace. This celebration through poetry became known as the Golden Age of Roman poetry. The Aeneid became a prominent part of Augustus' political plan to celebrate Rome's plan, but also create a future of peace and stability restored by Augustus. The Aeneid boosted Roman pride by telling a story in which Rome is seen as a reasonable city that promoted loyalty and justice. It encouraged patriotism and the belief that in the future, Rome would be the city which brought peace to all. This future would eventually exist as the Pax Romana.


The Aeneid consisted of twelve epic books. Books one through six describe the destruction of Troy and Aeneas’ adventures before arriving in Italy. Books seven through twelve described Aeneas’ tribulations in trying to settle there.

Dido COnfronting Aeneas

The story begins with his ship’s arrival in Carthage. They arrived in Dido’s court, where he tells the story of Troy’s destruction and his quest of finding a new city in the West. He also tells of their journey across the Mediterranean. As he finishes, Dido is struck by an arrow from Cupid, half brother of Aeneas. She immediately falls in love with him. We find out that this was caused by Juno in an attempt to keep Aeneas in Carthage. But, Jupiter, thr and ugh Mercury, reminds Aeneas of his true purpose and sends him on his journey. Aeneas leaves on the Mediterranean in search of a new home. Dido is heartbroken and commits suicide. Aeneas enters Cummae and meets the Cumaean Sibyl. She is a priestess of Apollo who guides Aeneas to the Underworld. There, he encounters the shade of Dido and his father Anchises. His father foreshadows the greatness of Rome, founded by Romulus and ruled by Caesar during its Golden Age. Both are descendants of Ascanius. Aeneas leaves the Underworld knowing the gravity of his task. He leads the Trojans to Actium, in western Italy, invited by King Latinus. Aeneas begins to court Latinus’ daughter Lavinia with the blessing of her father. Turnus, king of the neighboring Rutuli tribe, also looks to court Lavinia. He has the blessing of her mother. This conflict was made by Juno in another attempt to derail Aeneas’ attempts. Aeneas eventually marries Lavinia, leading Turnus to wage war. He raises an army against Aeneas and the Latins. Aeneas, because he is outnumbered, asks the Tuscans and Arcadians for help. Together, they defeat the Rutulis. The story ends with Aeneas killing an injured Turnus in a one on one combat.

Horace and the Odes

John McBride

Horace was undoubtedly one of the greatest Roman poets during the age of Augustus. Born in Apulia, Italy, in 65 BC, he grew up in Venusia where he developed a strong love for nature. In 42 BC, during the Civil war period of Rome, Horace fought on behalf of Brutus in the battle of the Philippi. Brutus’ army was defeated by the forces of Antony and Octavian, but Horace and the defeated soldiers of Brutus were offered amnesty by Octavian, as explained by Caesar Octavian Augustus in his Res Gestae:

“Wars, both foreign and domestic, I waged throughout the world, both on land and sea, and when victorious I spared all citizens who asked for pardon.” -Caesar Octavian Augustus, Res Gestae 3

After being pardoned, Horace moved to Rome to work into the treasury. He befriended Vergil, Varius, and Maecenas. Maecenas gifted him a farm, which allowed him the leisure to write. In 23 BC, he published the first three books of Odes, and the fourth in 14 BC. He later died in 8 BC. Horace’s Odes consisted of four books, each including smaller poems. These poems promote his wisdom by including meaningful themes in seemingly simple topics, such as proposing a drink, or wishing a safe journey. Through these poems, Horace embraced an Epicurean view of the world. He promoted living for the moment, and enjoying life while you can. These poems accomplished his goal of promoting an Epicurean philosophy by writing on love, politics, as well as other areas of life. Horace was also known for callida iunctura, which means skillful joining. This references his great ability to get the most out of the words he used. For example, he used witty aphorisms such as Carpe Diem, which means seize the day.

Sources- Ecce Romani III chapter 73;

Ovid and the Metaporphoses

Kevin Manning

The author of the Metamorphoses, Publius Ovidus Naso was born in 43 BC in the town of Sulmo. Originally, Ovid wrote Romantic poetry or “Amores” (loves). After first century BC Ovid began to shift from love poetry to epic poetry that told a story for a deeper meaning and a different purpose, to tell a story. He began his writing of epic poetry with his most famous work and the work I will be analyzing, the Metamorphoses.

The Latin translation for Metamorphoses is “Changes of Form”, which fits the main theme of the poem is transformation. As seen in the poem, the characters go through dramatic change by way of the gods and goddesses of Ancient Rome. The Metamorphoses does not have a central heroic character that the poem revolves around. Ovid does not focus on specific transformations of characters, but a general transformation of the world and the nature of the world around the characters as a general theme. This poem explains a transformation from the beginning of time all the way up to the time of himself. The result of the poem is that Cipus refuses to become emperor by growing horns and asking senators for him to be sent away from Rome, and as a result, Caesar comes into power, and then Augustus. Ovid says at the end that as long as Rome survives under Augustus, his work will survive.

One of the stories of the Metamorphoses is of King Midas. Legend has it that Midas was given a wish for anything in return to his hospitality towards Dionysus. Midas wished that anything he touched be turned to Gold. However, he soon learned that he could no longer eat or drink, as they turned to gold at his touch. Midas eventually died of starvation.

Another myth told in the Metamorphoses was the story of Daedalus and Icharus. Imprisioned in the Labyrinth, Daedalus fashioned wings so he and his son could escape. However, Icharus flew both too close to the sun and too close to the sea. The wax on the wings melted and he drowned in the ocean.

Both of these tales teaches the lesson of balance, humility, and moderation. If Midas was less desiring of riches and more of virtue, he would not have met such a fate. Similarly, if Icharus had known moderation and balance, he would have made it safely across the ocean.

There is no direct impact that the Metamorphoses had on society, rather it influenced other great writers to create poems and literature modeled after Ovid’s style seen in Metamorphoses. A major influence that Metamorphoses had was on Shakespeare. This story did not only affect Shakespeare, but along with the other works of Ovid, it contributed to Renaissance literature. This can be seen in the sculptures and artwork produced in the Renaissance period. Some are based off of characters directly from Metamorphoses.


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