Not census but deductio: reconsidering the ‘Ara of Domitius Ahenobarbus'

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Since its rediscovery in the late nineteenth century, the ‘Ara of Domitius Ahenobarbus’ has become a keystone in the history of Roman republican art. Following the seminal interpretation of Alfred von Domaszewski, the monument is usually understood as commemorating the key stages of the Roman census. This paper offers a fundamental reappraisal of the Ara’s imagery, based on an iconographic analysis which takes into account all relevant signs of rank and status such as shoes, clothing and other attributes. From this it becomes clear that none of the three protagonists on the Ara can be identified as a censor. Consequently, the monument neither commemorated a census nor was it a censorial location. Instead, I suggest that the Ara actually shows another important political event, namely the deductio of a Roman colony which I tentatively identify as the colonia Neptunia founded by Gaius Gracchus in 123 B.C.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-52
Number of pages26
JournalThe Journal of Roman Studies
Early online date6 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • late Roman Republic, Roman republican art, Roman magistrates, republican census, republican colonisation, Gaius Gracchus