Marketing is the way of survival in the age of the internet. Because of all the images and people getting their platforms on the internet, we need to come up with something different to make us stand out from the pack. Teenagers on Instagram are starting to learn how to market themselves visually. We act like this is a cutting edge thing, but the Ancient Romans have beaten us to it. The Emperor Augustus was a master of using images as marketing tools. Augustus returned from the wars in Spain and Gaul in 13 BC to a Rome was badly mismanaged. Temples were neglected and people were losing faith in the government.

Up until then, Augustus was at war. He was building an empire by conquering foreign lands and settling them in colonies. No one really knew who he was apart from him being Julius Caesar’s adoptive son. He needed to put his name out there, but due to the people’s mistrust in the government, he needed to be subtle. Finding and killing people who didn’t trust him would take too much time and would not help his purposes.

The Ara Pacis Augustae is a monument consisting a combination of art, politics and propaganda where Augustus established the image of a new political system with himself at the centre. Augustus used Ara Pacis as a visual presentation for his qualification for the job of the emperor. These days, we struggle keeping all our social medias in check, putting in different aspects of our businesses in different feeds annoying people with our spams of variations of “buy my products,” “see my links,” and “notice me”. Augustus has managed to put in all his marketing strategies in a piece of stone strategically placed in the middle of the city, and people still think it’s art to this day.

These are just 7 of the many strategies he used:

  1. Location, Location, Location

ARA PACISThe basic of Real Estate, “location, location, location,” also went back as far as the ancient times. The Ara Pacis Augustae was placed exactly one mile from the government complex, placing it exactly between the imperial household and the military camp. This placement was deliberate. It reveals Augustus as a soldier and an emperor. The placement of the Ara Pacis Augustae right in the middle of the two symbolised Augustus’ military past and his involvement in the government. It also gives the impression of Augustus as a dynamic leader, not afraid to get his hands dirty, who would lead as emperor on a day-to-day basis and still go into battle whenever he had to.

2. His Qualification

ARA PACIS - SnakeThere is a single motive repeated and developed according to the space, flowers and plant life. This is also deliberate, implying richness and fertility of Rome. Reliefs of insects, butterflies, birds, lizards and reptiles add a note of animal life to the fresh plant world, implying richness and diversity in Rome and its natural life. But, with a rich natural life comes danger. So, on the north side, there is a relief of a serpent which has reached a nest beneath some leaves and is devouring the little birds, one of these birds, stronger than the rest, succeeds in escaping, although it’s still unable to fly. The serpent is “fate” or “war” devouring the new, young “leaders” (birds). Augustus is implied in the bird which escaped. Although still young, he survived wars, sickness and assassination attempts which had claimed his peers and those before him. Looking at the average life-span of an average Roman leader in those days and their tendency of getting brutally murdered, “surviving” is quite an accomplishment.

3. Celebrity Endorsement

ARA PACIS - MarsRoman artists structured historical works in a deliberate way. They never used images without infusing them with historical or mythological meaning and background. Considering Augustus’ war victory, it needed to be portrayed that he was humbled and grateful to the gods. So the war god, Mars, made an appearance. It shows that Augustus’ victory is favored (i.e. endorsed) by the god of war himself. Augustus himself had always boasted that he was the “son of Mars,” utilising this celebrity endorsement every chance he got.

4. Cross Promotion

ARA PACIS - AeneasThese day, celebrities do cross promotions all the time. Selena Gomez promotes herself as a singer and actress, Gwyneth Paltrow promotes herself as an actress and a cook book author. Augustus promoted himself as a soldier and a pius emperor. On the right panel of Ara Pacis is an austere bearded figure, head covered by his mantle, in the act of offering a sacrifice upon the altar. On the right of the bearded figure is Aeneas, the forefather of Rome. Apart from Mars, Augustus also claimed to be descended from him, thereby covering all his bases as far as endorsement went. Putting the sacrificing figure there is also important, because Augustus needed to move away a bit from the image of the big bad war-like general to gain people’s trust. So he appealed to both military/politics and religious target audience. Smart move, as they are very closely related in an ancient Roman life. To show that he was serious, he reconstructed eighty two temples in Rome. By proving his piety on top of his power, Augustus also strengthened his political image and appealed to a wider audience.

 5. Visual Brand/Logo

ARA PACIS - Tellus Being very thorough, Augustus was not satisfied by just representing the “ideal Rome” with just a bunch of plants and animals. Images of the gods also play a significant part in the Ara Pacis. The female figure represented on the eastern relief panel of the Ara Pacis could arguably be Tellus or Mother Earth. Mario Torelli even gave the female figure a triple identity which includes Venus, Tellus and Pax. Grummond found this idea difficult to accept, arguing that although the figures in the Ara Pacis could represent multiple personalities, they all still have basic trait to identify them. The basic identification of the female figure, according to Grummond, is of Pax Augusta (the Peace of Augustus) Putting a female deity-looking figure as a representation of Augustus’ Rome moves Rome’s image away from the helmet wearing blood soaked soldiers to something more graceful. Making the image as a woman also serves as an image for the soldiers to visually associate Rome with the mother who has nurtured them in her bosom and needed protection. These days, companies do simplified versions of this with their logos.

6. The Company Hierarchy.

ara pacis - Imperial ProcessionOn the three panels on the south side of Ara Pacis is a head of a procession. There is a large group of men. Augustus himself opening the procession with the consuls of 13 BC at his side. On his left is Tiberius, his general, military right hand man, and later his successor (although they both didn’t know it yet at the time), and in low relief in the background is Quintilius Varus. The people at the foreground are the most important either because they fill the most important offices or they are bound to the imperial family by friendship or family ties. There we have Tiberius, Lepidus who was Pontifex Maximus in 13 BC and Agrippa, his best friend, advisor, and father of Gaius and Lucius Caesar, his heirs. Oh, yes, nepotism goes way back too.

7. Backstage Pass

ARA PACIS - FamilyThe women follow, Livia (his wife), Julia (his daughter, married to Agrippa) and Antonia near Drusus. This group represents a few things: the hierarchy, due to the characters of the ceremony in which they are taking part and the etiquette of their fresses and comportment on ceremonial occasions which are especially formal when the emperor was present. They are also his family. By putting his family there, he relates himself to the average fathers and family men of Rome. It’s the ancient equivalent of a backstage pass or behind the scene images. This is one of there reasons why people love Instagram and twitter so much because they give them glimpses of what the personal life of the artist/celebrity looks like. Thousands of years before, Augustus had already given us exactly that, a ancient Roman-style “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”

References:

Favro, D., “Pater urbis”: Augustus as City Father of Rome’, The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 51, No. 1 (1992), p.61

Res Gestae divi Augustus, 2-3, Collected by V. Ehrenberg and A.H.M. Jones, http://www.mq.edu.au/about_us/faculties_and_departments/faculty_of_arts/department_of_ancient_history/teaching_materials/documents_illustrating_the_reigns_of_augustus_and_tiberius/#Res%20gestae%20divi%20Augustus,

Elsner, J. ‘Inventing Imperium: Texts and the Propaganda of Monuments in Augustan Rome’, in J. Elsner (ed.) Art and Text in Roman Culture (Cambridge, 1996), p.35

Favro, D., “Pater urbis”: Augustus as City Father of Rome’, The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 51, No. 1 (1992), p.61

Res Gestae divi Augustus, 20, Collected by V. Ehrenberg and A.H.M. Jones, http://www.mq.edu.au/about_us/faculties_and_departments/faculty_of_arts/department_of_ancient_history/teaching_materials/documents_illustrating_the_reigns_of_augustus_and_tiberius/#Res%20gestae%20divi%20Augustus,

Tellus, http://www.bluffton.edu/~sullivanm/italy/rome/arapacis/0071.jpg,

Grummond, N. de. ‘The Goddess Peace on the Ara Pacis’, American Journal of Archaeology (1990), 663

Overview of the Ara Pacis, http://ilearn.mq.edu.au/mod/glossary/view.php?id=1474824&mode=&hook=ALL&sortkey=&sortorder=&fullsearch=0&page=-1

Priests, http://www.vroma.org

Billows, R. ‘The Religious Procession of the Ara Pacis: Augustus’ Supplicatio in 13 B. C.’, Journal of Roman Archaeology, 6, (1993), p.78

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