Collaborative Looking and Writing Exercise, Using Images of Augustus Caesar

Objective: To help students see the connections between Augustus Caesar’s public persona and Virgil’s hero Aeneas in the Aeneid

                                                        A gold coin (aureus) with the head of Augustus Caesar

Step 1: Go to http://web.mit.edu/21h.402/www/primaporta/.  Carefully examine the "Prima Porta" statue of Augustus, and read the descriptions: How is he depicted? What personal qualities does he seem to possess in this sculpture? Where was this statue displayed? Write a paragraph of detailed description of the statue. If you use any of the website’s words, be sure to quote them. Then write about the personal qualities this statue suggests that Augustus possessed. For another discussion of this statue, go to this website: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu and click on "Faculty Projects." Under "Classics," click on "Augustus: Images of Power."

Step 2: Examine the "Ara Pacis Augustae," the "altar of Augustan peace." See it at www.bluffton.edu/~sullivanm/ italy/rome/arapacis/arapacis.html. (Be sure to click on pages 2, 3, and 4.)  Write a paragraph of detailed description of the altar’s sculpture, considering these questions: Where was the altar placed? How are Augustus and his family depicted here? What personal qualities does this sculpture suggest Augustus and his family possess? Note the sculpture of Aeneas on one side of the entrance to the altar and of a female figure representing Rome or Peace on the opposite side. Why do you think Aeneas is depicted here?  Why the female personification of fertility?  If you use any of the website’s words, be sure to quote them and cite your source.  

Step 3.  Examine various portrait busts of Augustus at http://www.beloit.edu/~classics/main/courses/history222/augustus/index.html.  Note the different dates of each.  What features of Augustus are repeated in image after image?  Describe at least three in detail.  Then offer an explanation for why he never allowed himself to be depicted as old, or even middle-aged.  What sort of man does his image suggest he was?

Step 4: On the same website described at the end of Step 1, http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/ (Faculty Projects-> Classics-> Augustus: Images of Power) examine the "Gemma Augustea" at the bottom of the page. Or go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gemma_Augustea for another image and article.  How is Augustus depicted here? What personal qualities does he seem to possess here? Write a paragraph of detailed description of the cameo. If you use any of either website’s words, be sure to quote them and cite your source. Then write about the personal qualities this carved gemstone suggests that Augustus possessed.

Step 5: Go to this website: http://www.vroma.org/images/mcmanus_images/indexcoins.html First look at "coin denominations," the first link in the index. Then scroll down and look at several coins issued under Augustus Caesar. These will have his name after their denomination, for ex., "aureus of Augustus." HINT: Use the Back button to move from an image back to the index. Find a coins that display each of the following: a portrait of Augustus, the "clipeus virtutis" (shield of valor) awarded Augustus by the Senate, Augustus' victory over Antony at Actium, the "corona civilis" (civic crown) awarded Augustus by the Senate, Augustus' connection to Apollo, Augustus' descent from Caesar.  Write a paragraph of detailed description of the coins. If you use any of the website’s words, be sure to quote them and cite your source. Then write about the personal qualities these coins suggest that Augustus possessed.

Optional Step 5: Based on the work you've just done with some images related to Augustus, consider this question:  How is Augustus’ public persona similar to the character Aeneas in Virgil’s Aeneid? Write a 3-page paper in which you describe how Augustus Caesar was depicted in these sculptures and coins and what personal qualities they suggest he possessed. Compare these public presentations of Augustus with the character Aeneas in Virgil’s Aeneid. Refer specifically to relevant parts of the poem.