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Indo-European Tripartition and the Ara Pacis Augustae: an Excursus in Ideological Archaeology

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The Ara Pacis Augustae or Altar of Augustan Peace, erected by the Emperor outside Rome in 9 B.C., expresses perhaps more clearly than any other monument the ideology of the Augustan Age: the peaceful union of Rome with her Empire. At the same time, in the iconography of the east and west fronts, and especially in the images on the altar table, pedestal and plinth, it contains several expressions whose structures appear consonant with the tripartite Indo-European ideology that was derived from the earliest phases of religion at Rome and elsewhere in the ancient Indo-European speaking domain by Georges Dumézil. Finally, this monument also appears to constitute a crystallized cognitive map-a visible set of reference points-in terms of which the Romans of the period could orient themselves to their contemporary circumstances, future expectations, and a past studded with subconscious echoes of their Indo-European heritage.

Affiliations: 1: Department of History, Los Angeles Valley College, Van Nuys, CA 91401; 2: Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA 90041; 3: Department of German, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60201


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