Adopted son and great-nephew of Julius Ceasar, Augustus was endowed with extraordinary charisma and political acumen. Succeeding where his adoptive father failed, he ended decades of bloody internecine strife, replacing the Roman Republic with the Empire.
2014 marks the 2000th anniversary of his death and Rome celebrates this event with an exceptional exhibition gathering 200 works from most of the world’s top archaeology museums, from monumental items to daily life objects, that not only track the life and career of the man who ruled Rome for 45 years but also the way he affected the cultural life of the Roman Empire.
Under his rule Rome expanded its territory and enjoyed a long period of domestic peace. It was then that the crucial concepts of pax, pietas and concordia were developed and sung by poets such as Virgil and Horace.
One of the most famous quotes attributed to Rome’s princeps is that he “found a city made of bricks and left it covered with marble,” which gives you an idea of the changes Rome went through under Augustus.
And in marble are the majestic statues displayed altogether for the first time for the show at Scuderie del Quirinale through February 9, 2014.
The one found in Via Labicana, from the Roman National Museum, and the Augustus of Prima Porta, from the Vatican Museums (near its classical model, the illustrious Doryphoros from the Archaeology Museum of Naples). The third major statue is equestrian, in bronze, and comes from the Aegean Sea, for the first time in Italy. Other interesting sculptures come from Copenhagen’s Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek.
Going to something smaller and more intimate, you will appreciate the precious cameos from London, Vienna and New York’s museums, personal gifts that belonged to the imperial family. Another fantastic treasure to admire is the Silver collection from the Louvre Museum.
The exhibition winds up with an unprecedented reconstruction of eleven bas-reliefs, now located in Hungary and Spain, from a public building near Naples that commemorated Augustus after his death, telling to great effect the story of the decisive naval battle of Actium in 31 B.C. which paved the way for the ultimate triumph of this towering figure of world history.
PS If you are crazy for Augustus and want to know and see more about him you can easily add a short itinerary while in Rome, visiting Ara Pacis, the altar dedicated to the peace implemented by the emperor, reproducing his clan, and, from outside, the adjoining mausoleum, his monumental grave.