The Italian Almanac

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ara pacis

Italian News - April 22

A new home for the Roman Empire's most famous peace symbol was unveiled on Friday after a turbulent seven years of building, polemics and alterations. "We are giving the Ara Pacis back to the citizens of Rome, at once an ancient and modern monument," said Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni, who has championed US architect Richard Meier's ultramodern showcase since his election as mayor five years ago.

Speaking on Rome's traditional 'birthday' - the 2,759th anniversary of its mythical foundation - the centre-left mayor promised work to "integrate" the building into its surroundings. Meier's design, the first piece of modern architecture in Rome's historic centre since Fascist days, has had to be changed several times since Meier won the contract in 1995 - six years before Veltroni's election.

The Ara Pacis altar was commissioned in 13 BC to celebrate peace throughout the Roman Empire. It was completed in 9 BC, 23 years before Augustus's death at the age of 76 in 14A D. The architectural hub of Ancient Rome, circled by a bas relief of a procession of peace showing Aeneas, the Earth, Italy and Rome, it marked the first emperor's victorious return from Spain and Gaul and celebrated the peace he had restored to the empire.