Mausoleum of Augustus Term Paper

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¶ … Mausoleum of Augustus

Augustus (63 BC- AD 14) was one of the most beloved and successful emperors of the ancient Roman Empire. A visit to Rome will find numerous statues of the Emperor Augustus, all of which depict him as a young, handsome, virile Roman soldier and statesman. Even though Augustus lived to be quite old, he is, for the most part, in the imagery that survived him, young in appearance. The message conveyed was one of a youthful leader, a strong leader, who possessed all the attributes associated with that most precious and desired time in the life of a person; their youth. It should, then, come as no surprise that when the Emperor passed on to the next life, that the iconology surrounding his place of rest would, too, be thwart with images of his success, his relationship to Rome, his strength, his role as a leader of Rome's army, and his ascension to the heavens to take his place among the gods in whom the Romans believed in at the time. This essay will, in brief, examine the iconology that surrounds the final resting place of the Emperor Augustus, and what messages are meant to be conveyed about this Roman leader to those of us who would succeed him in time.

The Funeral

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According to historian and author Beth Severy (2003), Caesar Augustus, himself, made the arrangements for his funeral. The funeral itself was meant to convey to the people, and certainly to the Roman leaders and, of course, his two main heirs, Tiberius, who would succeed him as Emperor of Rome; and Tiberius' wife, Livia, who actually inherited parts of the government through the will of Augustus (Severy, 2003). Tiberius heard from the members of the Senate their suggestions for additional arrangements to be celebrated through the funeral, and Tiberius decided which suggestions should be incorporated into the services (Severy, 2003). No doubt this additional pomp was anticipated by Augustus.

Term Paper on Mausoleum of Augustus Assignment

The funeral procession was one of pomp and circumstance, with three statues of Augustus leading the procession: "one wax image atop his coffin, carried from his house on the Palatine by the magistrates-elect, a gold statue brought from the senate house, and another in a triumphal chariot (Severy, 2003, p. 208)." Formalities and details of Augustus' funeral helped to establish the role of his family, his heirs, and to honor him as was appropriate a man of his station and success. Also, the funeral procession itself was but the introduction, or unveiling, of that which would be the final resting place of the Emperor. In order to establish the importance of the sacred place where the Emperor's body would be laid to rest, it was important to have an elaborate funeral procession leading up to that place - just as is done with modern day world leaders and dignitaries.

The Final Resting Place - the Mausoleum

Augustus was laid to rest at the Campus Martius. The procession to the Campus Martius was a procession that included the Roman senators and their wives. Following state and "military honors, the funeral pyre was circled by the priests, equestrians civic and military, and finally the infantry. After the soldiers dedicated all the military awards they had received under Augustus, centurions lit the prye. Livia and prominent equestrians kept vigil for five days, and then gathered the bones and interred them in Augustus' mausoleum (Severy, 2003, p. 210)." A Roman senator later claimed to have seen Augustus ascend to heaven, which facilitated his being proclaimed divine, and a temple was built and dedicated in his honor, over which Livia, his widow, became priestess of Divus Augustus (Severy, 2003, p. 210).

All of these details surrounding the rituals following the death of Augustus are important, because these events lead up to the interment of his remains, and each ritual and role assigned to the individual who participated speaks to the Augustus' relationship and leadership of Rome, and as the greatest Caesar to at least that date in the history of Rome's emperors.

The Campus Martius, the Field of Mars, lies to the north of the boundaries of the ancient city of Rome, outside what were once the city's walls (Wilhelm-Aerospace.org, found online at (www.wilhelm-aerospace.org/Architecture/rome/tiber/Tiber.html).

Augustus, like all other Romans of the ancient era, is buried outside of the city because it was illegal to bury the dead within the city's walls (Whilhelm-Aerospace). The Mausoleum of Augustus is actually one of the better preserved sites on the Campus Martius, and from its remains and other descriptions of the Campus, it is possible to recreate a map showing the lay of the buildings and the areas. "It is a simple and austere building, consisting of two isolated concentric circles of brick. The outer one is quite large, and now has a wide gate in it (for tourists). This outer ring is planted with cedar trees (Wilhelm-Aerospace.org)."

Photographs of the ruins of the structure show a rounded dome building inside a brick enclosure. The ruins are not as impressive as the more elegant reconstruction of what the Campus would have looked like. In that recreation, the Mausoleum of Augustus stood as a large circular structure, to which access was gained from a slightly raised entry way of about four or five steps, to an entryway above which would have been the carved image of Augustus (Wilhelm-aerospace.org). From an aerial shot, we see that the Campus Marius is large, and that there were at one time many monuments, and that Augustus' mausoleum was probably one of the largest structures.

The mausoleum, it is believed in some scholarly circles, was built about the same time as was the Temple of Apollo, next to Augustus' house (Southern, 1998). What is known, is that Augustus looked over ever aspect of his life and death, and that the symbolism relating to him as a soldier, statesman, and Emperor was apparent in the art and architecture of Rome during the life of Augustus (Southern, 1998). That he would have carefully planned his mausoleum is a strong probability, given his proactive approach to promoting his image and ensuring that his family received the honor and recognition as his descendants (Severy, 2003).

It is perhaps no surprise that Augustus' Mausoleum stands in close proximity of the Ara Pacis, or "Altar of Peace (Robahan, 19500)." In conjunction with all else that we know about the Emperor, that he would arrange for his mausoleum to be built next to the Altar of Peace. The questions to ask, suggests Dorothy M. Robatham, in her book, the Monuments of Ancient Rome, are:

First, why was the celebration of such an important event as world-wide peace commemorated in such a comparatively simple fashion, instead of by the dedication of a large temple similar to those of Mars Ultor or of Apollo on the Palatine, both built at the same period? Secondly, why was this monument placed in a rather remote spot, outside the pomerium instead of in the heart of the city? (p. 152)."

The answers to these questions are, says Robathan, that the altar is a marble replica of the wooden structure which was built to celebrate his return from Spain and Gaul, after having been successful in his campaigns in those countries (p. 153). "The fact that the decoration on the interior suggests wooden panelling supports this theory, and the procession would then have been depicted to put into permanent form the appearance of those who took part in the ceremony (p. 153)." Or it could have been Augustus' tribute to the Urbs associated with Mars, the god of War (p. 153).

The area around Augustus' Mausoleum has the remains of other monuments and places dedicated to emperors and gods (Robathan, 1950). Some of those remains continue to hold mysteries for researchers and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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