The Ara Pacis Augustae, (the “Altar of Augustan Peace”), commonly called the Ara Pacis, is not one of the places normally visited by groups that only spend a day or two in Rome.
As Christians begin to celebrate the season of Advent, I thought I would share a reflection on how the Ara Pacis illustrates at least one aspect of “the fulness of time.”
Gal. 4:4 But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,
This altar was dedicated to Pax, the Roman goddess of peace in honor of the peaceful conditions that the Emperor Augustus (r. 27 B.C.–A.D. 14) was able to bring to the Roman Empire. It was dedicated on January 30, 9 BC. Thus, this altar was over 60 years old by the time Paul arrived in Rome as a prisoner!
This Augustus is the same Roman Emperor who is mentioned in
Luke 2:1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.
Roman Emperor Augustus (r. 27 B.C.–A.D. 14) could write about himself
I extended the borders of all the provinces of the Roman people which neighboured nations not subject to our rule. I restored peace . . . with no unjust war waged against any nation.
It is interesting that Paul wrote in the book of Galatians
Gal. 4:4 But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under 1the Law,
During the years following Augustus—ca. First Century A.D.—it was relatively safe to travel by land and by sea, the Greek language was understood and spoken by many, and peaceful conditions prevailed.
In the providence of God, it was during such an era that people such as Paul had the freedom to travel about to spread the “Good News”—the Gospel of Jesus Christ (but see note 1 below).
The following two images of the Ara Pacis exhibit the “peacefulness of the era”—think Royal (governmental) propaganda!
View of the upper left rear panel of the Ara Pacis with Tellus, the earth goddess—or possibly Pax, the goddess of Peace. Note the peacefulness of the image—Augustus had established peace in the Roman Empire (= pax Romana).
The two infants look so contented in the arms of the goddess. The two semi-nude figures on the left and right of the goddess, with the billowing cloth, may represent the sky (on the left with the bird) and the sea (on the right with a tamed sea creature). The sheep and the large ox seem very docile!
View of the upper south panel of the Ara Pacis. Near the center of the procession is a child holding his father’s hand. The father, tall, head–covered (like a priest), facing to the left of the image, is the son–in–law of Augustus, Marcus Agrippa. The woman on our right of the child is Agrippa’s wife, Livia/Julia, daughter of Augustus, and the child is Gaius Caesar their offspring—an intended heir of Augustus.
On the left side of the image, there is a partial figure with a sharp vertical break. This figure is that of Augustus himself!
The Ara Pacis was located in the Campus Martius, a large, formerly swampy, parade ground on the east side of the Tiber River—about 1 mi. northwest of the center of the Roman Forum. Because of the flooding of the Tiber, it was buried in 12 ft. of debris and gradually fragments of it have been recovered. It was reassembled in 1938.
Check Here to view additional images of the altar.
BTW — Ara Pacis was originally in full color:
This image is from this website.
Note 1 — obviously, in Judea and Galilee there was much discontent with Roman Rule during the first century A.D.