Museo del Ara Pacis ☆☆

The Ara Pacis, Ara Pacis, Rome, Italy (Photo by Damian Entwistle)
The Ara Pacis

Emperor Augustus' ancient Altar of Peace in Rome, Italy

Ara Pacis, Ara Pacis, Rome, Italy. (Photo by the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World)
A relief of Tellus Mater, the Roman earth-goddess, Ara Pacis, Rome, Italy. (Photo by Chris Nas)
Relief from the west side, Ara Pacis, Rome, Italy. (Photo by Sailko)
Reliefs, Ara Pacis, Rome, Italy. (Photo by Miguel Hermoso Cuesta)
Casts of busts showing the members of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, Ara Pacis, Rome, Italy. (Photo by Giovanni Dall

Augustus had his "Altar of Peace" built from 13 to 9 BC to celebrate the peace his campaigns to unify the new Empire had brought to Europe, northern Africa, and the Near East.

It's been reconstructed and placed in a huge, post-modern aquarium along the Lungotevere, and though you can admire it from without through the glass walls, it's worth the admission to go inside and examine up close the decorative relief panels that ring the entire exterior.

These carvings depict mythological figures and long processions of prominent citizens from Rome's history above a Greek key band and lower frieze of acanthus leaves and swans.

Not only are they beautiful, but these carvings represent the point at which Roman art finally significantly broke from Greek models to make a strong, classical statement all its own.

The discovery of the Ara Pacis

Since the 16th century, bits of decorative frieze have been recovered from beneath buildings lining the Corso, most making their way to collections in the Louvre, Vatican, and Florence. The bulk of the altar, however, lay under the water table and was serving as the foundation for several palazzi.

Mussolini, who was always looking for ways to link the concept of his new, Fascist empire with that of ancient Rome, order the rest excavated in 1938.

His archaeologists came up with the brilliant plan of freezing the water in the soil, building new supports for the palaces above, and extracting the chunks of marble altar before the ground thawed again.

The reconstituted Ara Pacis is very close to complete, with casts replacing the bits Rome hasn't been able to repatriate from museums. It has been reassembled in a giant aquarium-like building along the banks of the Tiber.

(This used to be in a much smaller aquarium, and you could see it better back then, but the old, simple, utilitarian glass box has recently been replaced with a much larger, fancier, sleeker building designed by Richard Meier—still with glass walls so you can kinda see it without going inside—with a more elaborate interpretive center inside.)

Directly across from the Ara Pacis, in one of Rome's most hideous, Fascist-designed piazze, lie the rotund brick remains of the mausoleum of the man whose accomplishments this altar glorifies: The Tomb of Augustus.

Photo gallery
  • The Ara Pacis, Ara Pacis, Italy (Photo by Damian Entwistle)
  • Ara Pacis, Ara Pacis, Italy (Photo by the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World)
  • A relief of Tellus Mater, the Roman earth-goddess, Ara Pacis, Italy (Photo by Chris Nas)
  • Relief from the west side, Ara Pacis, Italy (Photo by Sailko)
  • Reliefs, Ara Pacis, Italy (Photo by Miguel Hermoso Cuesta)
  • Casts of busts showing the members of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, Ara Pacis, Italy (Photo by Giovanni Dall
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Tips

Free or reduced admission with a sightseeing card

Get into Ara Pacis for free (and skip the line at the ticket booth) with:

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How long does the Ara Pacis take?

Figure on spending 30–45 minutes inside. It's a pretty spectacular chunk of Ancient Rome, but in the end it's just one structure, so no need to linger.

Note that the museum stays open until 7:30pm, but the last entrance it at 6:30pm.

Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
     
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
     
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
     
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
     
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
     
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
     
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
     
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
     
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah


* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).