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This Week In History

Festival of Pax – January 3

Pax was the Roman goddess of peace, carried over from the Greek goddess Eirene. She was the daughter of Jupiter (Zeus) and Justitia (Themis), the goddess of justice and order. Although sources have conflicting dates, one of the dates listed is January 3 as being when the Festival of Pax was celebrated. Celebrated as Pax Romana and Pax Augusta, she was celebrated since the 2nd century BC. In hopes of blessing of peace, images were placed at the feet of Pax during the festival to promote positive energy in their interactions.

Ara Pacis reassembled

Ara Pacis reassembled

Augustus had a sanctuary dedicated to Pax erected on the Campus Martius, called the Ara Pacis. It was dedicated on January 30, 9 BC – January 30 being one of the other possible dates listed for the annual festival. Along with the altar in Rome, Seutonius writes there was an altar dedicated to Pax in Athens. Also, Claudius began and Vespasian completed on the Forum Pacis, a temple to Pax, called the Templum Pacis, which was dedicated in 75 AD.

The Ara Pacis has been reconstructed from many fragments and exists today in Rome. The building was originally commissioned by the Roman Senate on July 4, 13 BC to honor the return of Augustus after three years of campaigning in Hispania and Gaul. It is an open-air building with openings at the eastern and western sides. The exterior is sculpted entirely from Luna marble, decorated with two tiers of friezes, showing members of the Imperial household and various allegorical figures, all depicting themes of peace and Roman civic rituals.

The altar itself was also highly decorated with images from the lex aria – the law governing altar rituals. The style of the altar engravings contrasts with the surrounding enclosure in that the altar is similar to the Republican Altar of Domitius Ahenobarbus, with depictions of animals being led to sacrifice. Although the Ara Pacis was completed and dedicated under Augustus, it was Nero who issued a series of AE Ases from the Lugdunum mint with the Ara Pacis on the reverse. Well-struck and preserved examples show intricate details on the altar.

Pax, herself, is portrayed on coins in several guises. Sometimes she is shown with an olive branch raised in one hand and holding a cornucopia in the other. Also, she might be shown leaning on a column. Other times she is setting fire to a pile of arms. Pax is also known as the goddess of security, holding a caduceus and grain stalk, or holding a scepter over a tripod. The first Roman coins struck with the depiction of Pax were minted in 44 BC, with the possible exception of a denarius of L. Caecilius Metellus Diadematus, minted in 128 BC, showing a female figure with scepter and palm branch driving a biga. Some catalogers describe the figure as “goddess” where others call her Pax.

 

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