ROME: Political genius, reformer, patron of the arts – but Caesar Augustus was also a family man. It is this side of him that is highlighted in the exhibition “Augusto.”
The show marks 2,000 years since the death of the founder of the Roman Empire, the man associated with the “Pax Romana,” a period of immense architectural and artistic achievement.
Through some 200 items including statues, jewelry and platters, the exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale delves into the emperor’s family life and tries to depict the ebullient mood of the time.
The show assembles for the first time statues of Augustus in his attire as divine leader and as star general, in addition to an equestrian one found in the Aegean.
“We know of more than 210 portraits and statues of Augustus,” said Mariarosaria Barbera, the chief superintendent for Rome’s archaeology. “He was no ordinary emperor.”
Augustus had specifically wanted his official images to reflect his duties, his political program and his plans for the future, Barbera said.
“From an upstart young prince he became a man of power who legislated everything in public and private life,” she said, “including the length of togas that citizens were allowed to carry.”
Caius Octavius was born in 63 B.C. He was the grand nephew of Julius Caesar and became his adopted son. He governed for over 40 years.
He took on the title of Augustus to indicate his position had divine blessing and he managed to unify the era’s aristocratic and populist political thought.
Flanked by his general Agrippa – his best friend to whom he married his only daughter – and by his political adviser Maecenas, Caesar Augustus was well known as a patron of the arts and helped sponsor the writings of such writers as Virgil, Horace, Livy and Ovid.
With his imposing statues, said Daniel Roger, chief conservator at the Paris Louvre, “we have the impression Augustus invented political propaganda” but “what he really wanted, was that artistic style as much as military [might] would unite the provinces of the Roman empire.”
“Augusto” runs at Scuderie del Quirinale until Feb. 9, 2014, and will then move to the Grand Palais in Paris between March 19 and July 13.