Walking around the Ara Pacis Augustae to the West side, where the entrance was, the young doctor opened his mouth once again, in an attempt to make conversation, much to Musa's despair. As he looked gazed at the alter of peace, Musa could almost feel the waves of enthusiasm and eagerness flowing off him. It was nauseating. "Wow!" cried the young man. "The Ara Pacis Augustae. It’s absolutely beautiful. When was it built? Was it done by Augustus himself then? People come here every year do they? What for?" The young doctor asked all these questions in one excited breath then paused staring at Musa expectantly. Jupiter above! he actually expects me to answer him. Musa gave a mental sigh.
"Uh, it was commissioned by the senate 4th July in 14 years ago. and actually consecrated on the 30th January in 10 years ago." answered the older man slowly. He squinted in the sun, racking his tired brain, for something intelligent to add. "He was returning from Spain and Gaul, where he had been settling matters and trying to make peace since 16 B. C. The Ara Pacis was therefore built to thank the Emperor for his gift of peace." Musa hoped that that was enough information to keep the young man happy. The energy that he had shown at the gates of Janus this morning, showed no signs of diminishing, and further more, seemed to expand with each monument that he saw. “The foundation and dedication are commemorated by sacrifices held here annual. Usually sacrifices are made to Julius Caesar and Pax, occasionally, to other gods." As an afterthought, he added, "Its made of marble".
“Beautiful”, said the younger man again. “Would they have come the way we did?” he asked, walking up to admire it more closely. “Yes. The procession would approach here from the city, along the road we came in from, the Via Flaminia, then it would have circled around the precinct to reach the main entrance.” Musa gestured with his hand, “That’s here. The West side. After the ritual, they would exit towards the city again”. Despite his nausea, Musa could not help but enjoy himself, as he spoke of the history of great Rome. It was undeniably nice, to have such as attentive audience for once. Sliding a glance at the young man, he felt sorry for him, hung-over or not. His youth and innocence was written all over his face, and Musa knew that however enthusiastic and eager he was, he still had a lot to learn. Life was not always easy for a Greek in Rome, especially for an inexperienced young Greek doctor, who had little status in the Roman world.
Walking up to join the young man, Musa could not help but admire the beauty of the alter, or deny the sense of tranquillity and peace that it radiated. Despite the heat in the air, the Luna Marble that the Ara Pacis was made of felt cool to the touch. Feeling a little better, he began to talk the young apprentice through the images shown. “You see, here, on the upper left,” he pointed “that’s the Lupercal.” The young man brightened. "The shrine on the Palatine!" He exclaimed.
“Ah yes! I remember, suckled by the She wolf. Romulus was the great founder of Rome.” Looking at Musa, he said enthusiastically, “I’ve heard the legends. I love legends and stories.”
“Well. Their father, Mars, the god of war, is standing just behind them. And that, on the other side, would be Aeneas, sacrificing the a white sow-”
“That the gods prophesised that he would find under a laurel tree, suckling her young.” The young man interrupted. “Then he was supposed to sacrifice the pig and thus lay the foundations of Rome.”
“You certainly listen to what legend says. But yes, that is correct. Aeneas travels around the world and goes on many adventures, a bit like Odysseus, before the gods finally lead him to Rome. There, behind him is Mars again. Aeneas had the gods on his side constantly. He was a very pious man, never forgot the gods.” Mars, the consort of Venus, ancestor of Augustus, indeed looked like he was on the side of Aeneas, silently approving as the dead Hero carried out his duties. Musa pointed again. “Before we go on, did you notice the bottom half of the frieze? The frieze on top shows the history of Rome, but if you like closely at the bottom, you can see Augustus’s desire for peace etched here.” Musa pointed out the individual parts of the frieze that he was explaining. “There is the repetition of fruit. That represents the forever flowering of Rome, and symbolises the fertility of the Empire. See the details of the birds, the small creatures? Look, there’s even worms in the soil! And look at the swans. Know what they symbolise?” The young doctor shook his head. “Swans, are sacred to the god Apollo, and he is connected to the house of our Emperor.” Leaning towards the young doctor, Musa whispered, “There are rumours that Apollo is Augustus’ real father.” He cleared his throat as the young man gasped. “Swans are also seen as creature of beauty, elegance and above all, peace. Peace, is a very important part of the Emperor’s regime. He prides himself of keeping it, and the favour of the gods.” As the young man peered at the depictions, Musa closed his eyes for a second. The noise and the heat of the crowd came back to him, as he remembered last year’s sacrifice. A huge event, everyone had come to watch the Vestal virgins and the priests perform their duty; to honour the gods, and to remind the public that it was Augustus, that had given them all this to be proud of. The Emperor, who never forgot his father, Julius Caesar, who had now earned a place with the gods above, following his murder in 44 B. C.
“And this side?” The young man’s voice brought Musa back to the present. He had walked over to the east side of the alter. Musa followed him amused, the young seemed to have taken him as the expert. “Ah. That’s Roma, she’s the goddess of war. I suppose you could say that she’s also a personification of Rome. See, she’s sitting down. Rome won’t be going to war anymore, my boy, the goddess is at peace. Her armour won’t be needed so it rests next to her.” He pointed to the other side. “That’s Tellus, mother earth.” He bowed his head as a sign of respect to her image.