This paper will be a visual description of the Gemma Augustea (Ramage, 146, 4.2). The analysis will cover the stylistic features of the piece, the history behind it, and the scenes depicted in it. The paper will pull all these sections together to give the overarching themes of proclaiming the strength of Augustus and the power of Ancient Rome. The piece teaches all of its viewers the might of Rome through Augustus, particularly in battle. By studying these areas of the piece, one can understand more about the significance and the power of Augustus, Rome, and of the piece itself.
The Gemma Augustea is a large double-layered onyx cameo bordered by a gold trim. ...view middle of the document...
His stepson Tiberius, whom he wasn't necessarily as fond of, was his closest heir. He adopted him as his son (Ramage, 146). Tiberius would soon be the highest in authority. This cameo depicts this power transfer to come. This exchange would happen officially, when Tiberius eventually became emperor in 14 AD.
Rulers of Rome almost always proclaimed their power and might through the arts by Imperial propaganda. It advertised achievements, dominion, and victories of the emperor. Public artwork included statues, portraits, public centers, and temples (SmartHistory). In addition to public artwork which everyone could see, Augustus also supported small, private artwork. The Gemma Augustea is an example of the private artwork. This piece was not used for propaganda and was most likely not on display for the public to see (Ramage, 146). Instead, this gem was only available for a small audience. Only those relatively close to Augustus would have seen this piece. The piece was probably created late in the reign of Augustus, before his death.
The transfer of power is shown through two separate scenes. These scenes became conventional in Roman world. The scenes are separate, but they both are related. The bottom scene is of the real world while the top scene is of the divine world. Both the scenes are important, but the top, divine scene is significantly larger than the bottom. This is not unusual from other Roman art, as the gods are almost always shown larger than other subjects in the piece. This can be seen on the Ara Pracis Augustea (Ramage, 129, 3.29) In the Relief sculpture of Tellus, Mother earth.
The real world scene on the bottom shows Roman soldiers erecting a pole that acts as a type of trophy. The pole is shaped as a rectangular human and even has a helmet and breastplate on the top. Weaponry of the enemy is also on the pole. This type of trophy pole was raised after a battle when the victory was evident (Wikipedia). Next to the pole is a shield with a scorpion on it. This represents November, the month Tiberius was born (Wikipedia). Two foreign prisoners are on the left side of the piece. One of these, an old bearded man, has his hands tied behind his back. His outfit as well as the scorpion on his shield, suggest he is a Barbarian. The other, a woman, is sitting near the base of the pole. It seems as if she is waiting scared, as she is preparing to be marched into captivity. It is possible that these people are prisoners of war and are being tied to the trophy pole as humiliation.
There are six other figures in the bottom realm that are not foreigners. Some interpreters think the role of the figures is anonymous, while others think that some of the figures are identifiable (SmartHistory). The four men on the left of the bottom scene are in the process of raising the victory pole. These are Roman soldiers. They have the armor of a Roman auxiliary troops and one even has a flying cape. On the right...