Dig Into History Magazine for Kids and TeensNovember/December 2017
Visual imagery— including statues, inscriptions, and paintings—carried deep meaning for the ancient Romans. In essence, it was a powerful and lasting way of communicating with the masses. Rulers of Rome often used art to make clear their authority to their subjects and to express political and religious beliefs and practices. Just as Augustus started a new political tradition when he became Rome’s first emperor, so he also re-imagined Roman art.
Augustus as High Priest (left)
The new artistic style is perhaps best seen in his unique statuary, specifically sculptural portraits. Sculptors carved likenesses of him that emphasized his different religious and political roles, as is seen in the statue of Augustus as Pontifex Maximus (left). This piece shows Augustus not only as the emperor of Rome, but also as the Pontifex Maximus, the high priest of Rome. The hooded toga that he wears is a special outfit worn only during religious rituals and thus identifies him as a priest.
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