Delightful studies of imperial and other children and such homely incidents as conversations between persons taking part in the procession introduce an element of intimacy, informality, and even humour into this solemn act of public worship.
The Ara Pacis, in fact, sums up all that was best in the new Augustan order—peace, serenity, dignity without pompousness, moderation and absence of ostentation, love of children, and delight in nature.
Meantime, in sepulchral custom, the ancestral bust had become an alternative to the ancestral mask, a development exemplified in a marble statue of a man wearing a toga and carrying two such busts in the Capitoline Museums at Rome; and portrait busts and figures carved on numerous stone and marble grave stelae (slabs or pillars used for commemorative purposes), characteristic of the late republican epoch, suggest the persistence of a preference for severe pose in middle-class and humbler circles.
Such works of art as were made in or imported into Rome during the periods of the monarchy and the early republic were produced almost certainly by Greek and Hellenized Etruscan artists or by their imitators from the cities of central Latium; and throughout the later republican and the imperial epochs many of the leading artists, architects, and craftsmen had Greek names and were Greek, or at any rate Greek-speaking.
References in ancient literature and signatures of artists preserved in inscriptions leave no doubt on this point.
But the Emperor is consistently idealized and never shown as elderly or aging.
A marble statue from Livia’s Villa at Prima Porta (in the Vatican), which presents him as addressing, as it were, the whole empire, is the work of a fine Greek artist who, while adopting the pose and proportions of a classical Hellenic statue, perfectly understood how to adopt these to the image that Augustus cultivated as emperor.
And it is significant that the earliest account of Roman realistic portraits of private individuals is contained in the Greek historian , when the tide of Greek artistic influence was sweeping into Rome and Italy from countries east of the Adriatic, where a highly realistic late-Hellenistic portrait art, which sometimes depicted Roman or Italian subjects, had already blossomed.
The first appearance of three art forms that expressed the Roman spirit most eloquently in sculpture can be traced to the Hellenistic Age.
But Rome’s own contributions to art, if of a different order, were vitally important.
Its historical aims and achievements furnished late Hellenistic artists with a new setting and centre, new subjects, new stimuli, a new purpose, and a new dignity.
On the upper part of the external faces of the south and north precinct walls ran a frieze representing the actual procession (of Augustus, members of his family, officers, priests, magistrates, and the Roman people) to the altar’s chosen site on its foundation day (July 4, 13 ), when sacrifice was offered in thanksgiving for the Emperor’s recent return to Rome from the provinces.