Altar of Domitius Ahenobarbus

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The Altar of Domitius Ahenobarbus is an ancient Roman monument base once thought to be an altar, discovered in the Campus Martius in Rome. The base supported sculpted panel reliefs on all four sides; these reliefs have been dispersed between the Louvre in Paris and the Glyptotek in Munich.[1] It was created at the end of the 2nd century BC or in the early 1st century BC possibly by Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus (consul 122 BC), a Roman consul and member of the House of the Domitii Ahenobarbi.

Relief depicts a long continuous scene that may be divided into three main groupings from left. The first is a group of four men wearing togas. Two are seated, and one is writing on a tablet. Two tall military guards divide this group from the central scene of sacrifice. Two musicians, markedly shorter than the soldiers, play a lyre and a horn. An unadorned altar, waist-high, stands in the center. To the viewer's left is the tallest figure in the composition, a military officer wearing a high plumed helmet and holding a long slender spear. standing by an altar. On the other side of the altar a priest, his head ritually covered, extends a libation bowl. A boy attendant pours from a pitcher into the bowl, and to that boy's right is a smaller boy looking on and lifting his right hand to the top of his head, a gesture that appears quizzical to modern viewers but may have some other significance in its Roman context. The priest is accompanied by a third boy close to his left side who stands ready with a towel. The right side of the relief is devoted to the procession of the three animal victims for the suovetaurilia, each led by a young male attendant, bare chested but wearing a short kilt-like garment, with a wreath on his head. The first leads a enormous bull with a tasseled rope dangling from below its left horn. A fourth male attendant in the same attire follows closely on the bull's hindquarter, waving a palm branch in each hand. The attendant bringing the ram is followed by another veiled figure carrying a pole from which a banner unfurls. The attendant herding the pig is followed by another soldier bearing a long shield and looking back at another whose shield rests on the ground, covering most of his body. The last figure is a cavalryman, back turned to the viewer, next to his horse.
Census frieze from the monument of Domitius Ahenobarbus, with the taking of the census (at left) and the procession of the suovetaurilia: the tall warrior standing at the altar is sometimes identified as the god Mars himself[2]
Sea thiasos Nereis Glyptothek Munich 239 front

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  1. ^ Giroire, Cécile; Roger, Daniel; Arts, American Federation of; Musée du Louvre (2007). Roman art from the Louvre. Hudson Hills. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-55595-283-9. Retrieved 1 April 2011. 
  2. ^ Katja Moede, "Reliefs, Public and Private," in A Companion to Roman Religion (Blackwell, 2007), p. 170.