A Comparison between the Ancient Pieces the Stele of Hammurabi and Augustus of Primaporta

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“The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him” (Machiavelli). The company a man keeps determines his success. From 1700 BCE to the present day, all powerful rulers have had a group of advisors they meet with, or associated themselves with, for higher status. In the pieces Stele of Hammurabi, commissioned by himself around the years of 1792-1750 BCE, and in Augustus of Primaporta, commissioned by what historians believe to be his son in the 1st Century CE, both display this power from having another godly figure around them.

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Although the two pieces are hundreds of years apart, both paint similar attributes that portray their power and success as rulers. Yet, they have key factors that show the difference in the kind of men they were and how they ruled. Through purpose, technique and medium, the Stele of Hammurabi and Augustus of Primaporta are similar; however, they differ in method, ruling, and gesture.

The Stele of Hammurabi was created in Babylon and taken to Susa, which is modern day Shush, Iran as war booty. It is made up of one diorite stone pillar, referred to as a stele, and has two sets of techniques. The first is called twisted perspective, which shows an image’s body facing forward and its face toward the viewer, thus giving off the perception of a twisted view. It is also a relief sculpture. A relief sculpture projects the image out of the stone to give it a third dimension. The purpose of the stele was to have a written set of codes for his people to follow. The codes were written in cuneiform down the lower part of the stele. On the upper part were two images: one of Hammurabi and the other of Shamash, the God of Justice and the Sun. Both are dressed in rich garments and headgear. Hammurabi stands and gives a hand gesture and stance of respect to Shamash, while he sits with his legs raised and fire radiating from him. He is also handing Hammurabi a present of a rod and ring, which shows respect and approval of his codes.

The statue of Augustus of Primaporta was created during the Roman Empire and was found in his wife’s villa in Primaporta. His sculpture is made out of marble and has images of relief sculptures sculpted on his cuirass, a leather breastplate. Along the top of his cuirass is a sculpting depiction of Sol the Sun God, Calleus the Sky God, Aurora the Dawn Goddess, and Luana the Moon Goddess. The middle has a picture of a Roman and a Parthian, as he hands back the Roman standard. The lower part has Apollo, Tellus Mother Nature, and Diana. As a sculptural support and to show his godliness and relations to Cupid, Cupid stands at the back of his foot. He stands in an orator’s gesture, ad locutio, which conveys to the viewer that he is giving a powerful speech.

In comparison to these two pieces, they have many similar qualities. Foremost, the original purpose of why they were commissioned to portray to the viewer is the same. The Hammurabi Code is the first set of laws ever recorded and found. With these codes, he provided structure and fair governing to all his people. With this, he showed his power as a ruler to maintain order without conflict. Augustus shows power using the orator gesture. During the Ancient Roman period, it was believed that to be a good ruler or general, one must be able to persuade and convince their people with their speech, not only by force. The sculpture shows hints of power and strength to make his people feel as though he was the best ruler to have. Another similarity is that both pieces are created with stone. The stele was created with diorite, a type of stone found in modern-day Scotland. The sculpture is made out of marble, which is considered to be a high-class stone, showing off his wealth. The last similarity is the technique in which both pieces were created. Each piece uses relief sculpturing to show the three-dimensional shapes of the images. All of the gods and goddesses on Augustus’s cuirass are relief sculptures that make the images look as though they are coming out of his chest. Hammurabi and Shamash are also shown to be relief and project out of the stele.

However, the two pieces also have contrasting features. In Augustus’s sculpture, every image is placed there to make his people feel like he is the best person to rule over Rome. He is in speech stance, talking to his people, wearing military garments to show his militant strength, and has gods around him to show their acceptance of him. His people could see his greatness within just one sculpture. As for Hammurabi, he is more looking to show that this is the law of the land and if one does not obey, they can be punished. The sculpture was originally painted in color, showing that not only was Augustus a great ruler but he also cared about style and color. The stele, on the other hand, was black and hard, showing no vibrancy to the piece. Even though both works have contrasting features, they are still beautiful masterpieces of their time and depict a great sense of what life was like for the upper class during these periods.

Work Cited

  • “Niccolo Machiavelli.” BrainyQuote.com. Xplore Inc, 2015. 22 February 2015.
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A Comparison between the Ancient Pieces The Stele of Hammurabi and Augustus of Primaporta. (2022, Nov 18). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/a-comparison-between-the-ancient-pieces-the-stele-of-hammurabi-and-augustus-of-primaporta/