Italian lesson in Italy

Erasmus logo

Erasmus + project Nr. 2014-1-LV01-KA201-000431,

How to Make Education Process Attractive to the Teenagers of the 21st Century”

Italian teaching/learning activity taught by Pierluigi Sichirollo

Adria, February 15 – 19, 2016

Title: The Roman sculpture between art and propaganda

Nr.

Topics

Objectives of the activity

Materials needed for each step

Steps of the activity

Approximate timing of each step

  • Art history

  • History

  • Sculpture

  • Architecture

Students will:

  • learn about the relationship between art and propaganda in Roman art

  • to know the influence from Greek to Roman art

  • understand the importance of Art as a source of historical comprehension

  • compose oral-written texts (language skills), make comments, descriptions and analyses about art

  • pen and sheets

  • video projector

  • computer

  • internet connection for both the teacher and students

  • student’s personal cell phones or tablets (or one pc for each student)

Acquaintance with students and organization of the groups

3 min

Introduction to the contents of the lesson

5 min

Students watch the first video (Augustus of Primaporta)

5 min

Students watch the second video (Altar of Augustan Peace)

10 min

Students work in groups and complete the worksheets

15 min

Students individually answer to the questions proposed by teacher

7 min

       

Total

45 min

Bibliography

Video Ara Pacis Augustus

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kiMNT18c4Ko

Video Augustus of Primaporta

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3i8iou6tXqY

STUDENT WORKSHEET

Teacher: Pierluigi Sichirollo (Art history)

 

Lesson TitleThe Roman sculpture between art and propaganda

 

OBJECTIVES

Increase ability to understand the content of a video.

Develop the ability of writing about art using L2.

Increase the ability of discussing and debating in L2.

 

Content

Analysis of two objects of Roman art related to propaganda: the statue of Augustus of Primaporta and the Altar of Augustan Peace.

Language

Be able to use English language to analyze sculpture and to compare your ideas with those of other students.

Study Skills and Strategies

Be able to analyze sculptures using the competences learned before.

Frontal lesson, work in group and individual work in classroom.

Activity 1: The students watch a short video about the statue of Augustus of Primaporta, using the subtitles for a better comprehension of the contents.

Activity 2: The students watch a short video about the Altar of Augustan Peace, using the subtitles for a better comprehension of the contents.

Activity 3: the students divided intogroups (in group of 3 people) discussthe following questionsproposed by the teacher in the worksheet, respond to themand explaintheir answersto the class

  1. What are the formal elementsof the Augustus of Primaportathat showexplicit referencesto classicalGreek sculpture?

  2. What are the elementsof the Augustus of Primaportashowing a specific political propaganda purpose ?

  3. What is the meaning of the word “propaganda” in your opinion ?

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Activity 4: the students answer individually to the questions proposed by the teacher using the web platform Kahott (www.kahott.it)

Essential glossary for the comprehension of the videos

First video - Augustus of Primaporta

Ruler

Sovereign, king

Likeness

Portrait

Ushered

Introduced

What it takes

What is the necessary

Hem

Board, edge

Second video - Ara Pacis Augustus

Prompted

Suggested , pushed

Vowed

Swear

Precinct

Fence

Occurred

Happened, took place

Involved

connected

Brought about

Took, produced, realized

Relief carving

Bassorilievo

Frieze

Ornament

Are cast

Are expressed

Cling

Join, attach

Underneath

Under, below

Raised

Proposed, suggested

ABSTRACT OF THE LESSON

Thetopic of the lessonis the relationshipbetween artand propagandaat the beginningof the Imperial Agein Rome.

In this regardI proposeto your attentiontwo specificworksof art, thestatue of AugustusofPrimaPortaand the Augustan Altarof Peace, which allow us tomake someinteresting reflections on theway in whichthe artwas used byOctavian Augustus, the first emperorRome, to build andto maintaina popular consensusaround his figureas a politician.

Theseare twoworkswhich, whilerepresenting the fullRoman character both the commemorativesculpture and theportrait sculpture, arewatchingvery carefully to theGreek artof the Classical period, trying also to bringin Imperial Rometheidea of greatnessand eternitywhich it had previouslybeen ownedby thesacred buildingsof AthensAcropolis.

To explainthis subjectI will usetwo shortvideos that, in the form ofarttalkwill illustratethe mainformal and stylisticcharacteristicsof these twomasterpiecesof Roman art.

Video Ara Pacis Augustus

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kiMNT18c4Ko

Video Augustus of Primaporta

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3i8iou6tXqY

The groups willconsist of threestudentseach havingdifferentgeographical origin, so that they areforced touse Englishas the language fordiscussion anddebate on theproposed theme. One student fromeach group, in turn, will bethe spokesman whowill have to explainto the classhowsuccessfully processes yourgroup.

For the part of the on line questions:

Go to the site

https://create.kahoot.it

and sign in as a teacher. Then you will be able to enter in the site and use all the Kahoot (on line questionnaire) and not only the one I have created (Title: The Augustan Altar of Peace – created by Sichirollo).

Ara Pacis Augustae

"When I returned to Rome from Spain and Gaul after successfully completing campaigns in these provinces, the Senate consecrated the Ara Pacis Augustae (Altar of Augustan Peace) at the Campus Martius in honour of my return; it was to be a place where magistrates, priests, and vestal virgins would hold annual sacrifices.”

This is from Emperor Augustus's accounts of his campaigns in Gaul and Spain. And in fact it was he who in 13 B.C. called the vote for the altar's construction and in 9 B.C. dedicated the Ara Pacis Augustae to peace, personified as a Roman goddess.

The altar was built on the exact spot in Campus Martius where victories were traditionally celebrated. Its only purpose was to aggrandize Augustus's campaigns and to glorify the Pax Romana: the period of increased prosperity resulting from his reign.

Moreover, Augustus was Caesar's adopted son, and to legitimize his seizure of power, it was crucial to emphasize his connection with his illustrious ancestor, Aeneas.

The ceremony inaugurating the Ara Pacis took place on the birthday of Augustus's wife, Livia.

It was an impressive structure, but like most of Rome's monuments, it became buried over time beneath the constantly rising ground level. It wasn't until the end of 1568 that the first fragments were uncovered. During the 1800s a series of excavations followed one after the other in quick succession; following work in 1938, the monument was finally restored in its entirety (albeit with some inaccuracies). A pavilion, built expressly for this recovery work, was situated alongside the Mausoleum of Augustus, the funerary monument built by the emperor. However, the original location of the Ara Pacis was probably a considerable distance away.Its original appearance was reconstructed based on descriptions found in written sources as well as depictions found on Roman coins. It was a nearly square enclosure mounted atop a low podium, with the altar inside, up a flight of stairs. The enclosure was covered inside and out with skilfully executed decorative reliefs; figures of different thicknesses made it possible to perceive the various depths of the scene.

The Ara Pacis successfully blends many different styles: classical Greek style in the procession friezes, Hellenistic style in the panels, and the typically Roman style of the altar decoration. This variety and eclecticism suggest that the work was probably carried out by Greek workshops.

The exterior frieze has floral and small animal motifs. On the side with the altar entrance are the Lupercal Panel and Aeneas Sacrificing to the Penates. The first panel, of which only a few fragments remain, illustrates the myth of the founding of Rome: recognizable are the god Mars and the twins Romulus and Remusbeing nursed by a wolf. The second scene depicts Aeneas, with covered head and accompanied by his son Ascanius, offering a sacrifice at an altar to the Penates, the household gods that protect the family. The relief on the other side, which depicts the Personification of Romeseated atop a pile of weapons, is however almost completely lost.

The short sides depict a procession consecrating the altar, resembling the frieze found at the Parthenon in Athens. There are two parts: one with the priests and the other with Augustus's family. The family is carefully arranged, based on succession to the throne, and it is no coincidence that the figures are located on two floors. Augustus is surrounded by his retinue and is wearing the robe of Pontifex Maximus (the highest authority). Like Aeneas, his head is covered. The imperial family is bit further in front: discernable are Augustus's lieutenant, Agrippa, then the emperor's nephew and wife, and followed by siblings, half-sisters, and other potential successors to the throne.

The north side is in much worse condition, and the heads of the figures were reconstructed during the 16th century.

The inside face of the enclosure has vertical grooves mimicking a fence, probably the same one that was originally used to enclose the sacred area. Most ancient Roman altars were surrounded by a sacred enclosure.

The altar was accessed via a series of steps and was used for animal sacrifices. It is decorated with female figures that may represent the provinces of the Empire. The uppermost frieze, however, depicts the annual sacrifice held there with the Vestal Virgins and the Pontifex Maximus, together with priests and the animals to be sacrificed.

In contrast to those on the exterior of the enclosure, the figures carved on the altar are depicted in high relief.

In 2006 the old pavilion housing the ancient monument was replaced by a modern building designed by the architect Richard Meier. The stainless steel and travertine structure has sparked varied reactions and heated debate.

Augustus and the power of images

Today, politicians think very carefully about how they will be photographed.  Think about all the campaign commercials and print ads we are bombarded with every election season.  These images tell us a lot about the candidate, including what they stand for and what agendas they are promoting.  Similarly, Roman art was closely intertwined with politics and propaganda.  This is especially true with portraits of Augustus, the first emperor of the Roman Empire; Augustus invoked the power of imagery to communicate his ideology.  

Augustus of Primaporta

One of Augustus’ most famous portraits is the so-called Augustus of Primaporta of 20 B.C.E. (the sculpture gets its name from the town in Italy where it was found in 1863).  At first glance this statue might appear to simply resemble a portrait of Augustus as an orator and general, but this sculpture also communicates a good deal about the emperor’s power and ideology.  In fact, in this portrait Augustus shows himself as a great military victor and a staunch supporter of Roman religion.  The statue also foretells the 200 year period of peace that Augustus initiated, called the Pax Romana.

Recalling the Golden Age of Ancient Greece

In this marble freestanding sculpture, Augustus stands in a contrapposto pose (a relaxed pose where one leg bears weight).  The emperor wears military regalia and his right arm is outstretched, demonstrating that  the emperor is addressing his troops.  We immediately sense the emperor’s power as the leader of the army and a military conqueror.

Doryphoros (Spear Bearer), Roman copy after an original by the Greek sculptor Polykleitos from c. 450-440 B.C.E., marble, 6'6" (Archaeological Museum, Naples)Delving further into the composition of the Primaporta statue, a distinct resemblance to Polykleitos’ Doryphoros, a Classical Greek sculpture of the fifth century B.C.E., is apparent.  Both have a similar contrapposto stance and both are idealized.  That is to say that both Augustus and the Spear-Bearer are portrayed as youthful and flawless individuals: they are perfect.  The Romans often modeled their art on Greek predecessors. This is significant because Augustus is essentially depicting himself with the perfect body of a Greek athlete: he is youthful and virile, despite the fact that he was middle-aged at the time of the sculpture’s commissioning.  Furthermore, by modeling the Primaporta statue on such an iconic Greek sculpture created during the height of Athens’ influence and power, Augustus connects himself to the Golden Age of that previous civilization.  

The Cupid and Dolphin

So far the message of the Augustus of Primaporta is clear: he is an excellent orator and military victor with the youthful and perfect body of a Greek athlete. Is that all there is to this sculpture? Definitely not! The sculpture contains even more symbolism. First, at Augustus’ right leg is cupid figure riding a dolphin.  

The dolphin became a symbol of Augustus’ great naval victory over Mark Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE, a conquest that made Augustus the sole ruler of the Empire.  The cupid astride the dolphin sends another message too: that Augustus is descended from the gods.  Cupid is the son of Venus, the Roman goddess of love. Julius Caesar, the adoptive father of Augustus, claimed to be descended from Venus and therefore Augustus also shared this connection to the gods.

The breastplate

Finally, Augustus is wearing a cuirass, or breastplate, that is covered with figures that communicate additional propagandistic messages.  Scholars debate over the identification over each of these figures, but the basic meaning is clear: Augustus has the gods on his side, he is an international military victor, and he is the bringer of the Pax Romana, a peace that encompasses all the lands of the Roman Empire.  

In the central zone of the cuirass are two figures, a Roman and a Parthian. On the left, the enemy Parthian returns military standards. This is a direct reference to an international diplomatic victory of Augustus in 20 B.C.E., when these standards were finally returned to Rome after a previous battle.  

Surrounding this central zone are gods and personifications. At the top are Sol and Caelus, the sun and sky gods respectively.  On the sides of the breastplate are female personifications of countries conquered by Augustus.  These gods and personifications refer to the Pax Romana.  The message is that the sun is going to shine on all regions of the Roman Empire, bringing peace and prosperity to all citizens. And of course, Augustus is the one who is responsible for this abundance throughout the Empire.

Beneath the female personifications are Apollo and Diana, two major deities in the Roman pantheon; clearly Augustus is favored by these important deities and their appearance here demonstrates that the emperor supports traditional Roman religion.  At the very bottom of the cuirass is Tellus, the earth goddess, who cradles two babies and holds a cornucopia. Tellus is an additional allusion to the Pax Romana as she is a symbol of fertility with her healthy babies and overflowing horn of plenty.

Not simply a portrait

The Augustus of Primaporta is one of the ways that the ancients used art for propagandistic purposes. Overall, this statue is not simply a portrait of the emperor, it expresses Augustus’ connection to the past, his role as a military victor, his connection to the gods, and his role as the bringer of the Roman Peace.

Essay by Julia Fischer

 

 

Erasmus logo

Erasmus + project Nr. 2014-1-LV01-KA201-000431, “How to Make Education Process Attractive to the Teenagers of the 21st Century”

Italian teaching/learning activity taught by Pierluigi Sichirollo ιn Adria on February 15 – 19, 2016

Title: The Roman sculpture between art and propaganda

Nr.

Topics

Objectives of the activity

Materials needed for each step

Steps of the activity

Approximate timing of each step

  • Art history

  • History

  • Sculpture

  • Architecture

Students will:

  • learn about the relationship between art and propaganda in Roman art

  • to know the influence from Greek to Roman art

  • understand the importance of Art as a source of historical comprehension

  • compose oral-written texts (language skills), make comments, descriptions and analyses about art

  • pen and sheets

  • video projector

  • computer

  • internet connection for both the teacher and students

  • student’s personal cell phones or tablets (or one pc for each student)

Acquaintance with students and organization of the groups

3 min

Introduction to the contents of the lesson

5 min

Students watch the first video (Augustus of Primaporta)

5 min

Students watch the second video (Altar of Augustan Peace)

10 min

Students work in groups, complete the worksheets and shortly summarize the contents of the lesson

15 min

Students individually answer to the questions proposed by teacher

7 min

Bibliography

https://www.youtube.com/user/smarthistoryvideos