Image of the Statue
The image is known as Augustus of Prima Porta, a name it was given based on the town Livia Villa, the Augustus wife, in Italy where it was discovered. Augustus di Prima Porta is a 2.03-meter-high statue of Augustus Ceasar. The statue was constructed in 20 B.C. and it was discovered in 1863 and is currently stored in Vatican Museums, Rome (Squire 242). The statue was meant to celebrate the Emperor Augustus for his famous triumph over the Parthians. The statue is based on the Roman Empire civilization and political spectrum. Augustus was born as Gaius Octavious and was the nephew and the heir to Julius Ceasar. Augustus managed to defeat assassins and won many battles including the Parthians and the senate crowned him as an emperor. His leadership was greatly linked with religious intervention as he was sometimes referred to as the Exalted One Son of God. Augustus Prima Porta was originally made of marble and bronze which is dated 20 B.C. Marble is a master piece in producing statues for its treatment in the reproduction of the metal from the cuirass (Squire 243). Bronze was used to enhance the metal to achieve durability and strength purposes.
The image was intended to communicate to the Roman citizens who lived during the reign of Augustus Ceasar. The statue is a political propaganda tool that implicates the role played by Augustus as the leader of the Roman Empire. The citizens are expected to feel the portrayal of Augustus as a victorious general. This can be discerned by the depiction of a young child clinging on to Augustus. This implies that Augustus played the father to the citizens and the people he ruled at large. The image was creating a practical impression of August superiority and authority.
There are numerous events that are captured in this image. The focal and central character is an image of Augustus standing on a rock-made beam. His right arm is raised with one finger pointing up and a young boy trying to reach the helm of his cloth. Augustus is dressed in military regalia and is holding a leadership rod with his left arm. There are also images of people giving him leadership badges engraved on his military wear (Squire 247). Basically, the image of Prima Porta is a reflection of adored leadership and military seniority. The images of people putting badges on his cloth include Frates IV, the Parthian, who he had just defeated in a battle. According to Squire, Augustus is dressed with cuirass and a cloak that is wrapped around the waist depicting an army general. His naked feet are likened to the pattern used to depict Greek gods and heroes. This is a meticulous representation of Augustus as a hero and the assertion that his rule was divinely intervened.
Squire call the outstretched right arm with a contrapposto pose (a relaxed pose where a single leg bears the weight with the other a little bit raised) indicates that the emperor was addressing his infantrymen (254). The sculpture shows his youthful age which means that he was an excellent orator and military victor due to his youthful and athlete body. Squire figures it out that Augustus legs have made a shape that looks like a dolphin which was a symbol of Augustus great naval victory over Mark Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE (270). The entire sculpture connotes a sense of military power and army conqueror.
The antique statue has myriad impressions to the viewer based on the composure, components, and the symbolic units in the sculpture. First, Augustus was conscious about his image as the sculpture depicts his youthful and athletic body. In modern days, politicians chose the best image that will appeal to the audience as a central character for their campaign placards. This is a type of communication that portraits Augustus as ready soldier who leads from the front even in battles. This image also gives prestige to the achievements that he has made based on the events engraved on his regalia. They are meant to remind his citizens of what he has done for them so that they can take pride with his leadership.
The message in this sculpture is clearly political as historians indicate that Augustus Ceaser was able to bring peace, Roman Peace, and make cultural, scientific, and architectural advance (Squire 276). The regalia contained a propagandist message that reminded the citizens that the peace they enjoy was not in vain but achieved through strive. In fact, it was meant to emblem the message that Augustus was integral in bringing the Roman Peace. A moment of peace allowed the citizens to concentrate on other things such as scientific innovations (Squire 275). The image also communicates the importance of communication and strategizing. Augustus appears to be addressing his people with his right finger pointing at the audience. It can be deciphered that he was conveying an important message that strengthened Roman cohesion and peace. Therefore, Augustus Prima Porta is a fundamental historical tool that communicates the role played by Augustus Ceaser in bringing peace and civilization in Roman Empire.
Squire, Michael. “Embodied Ambiguities on the Prima Porta Augustus.” Art History 36.2 (2013): 242-279.