Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Imperial Arches, Rome

Rome features many triumphal arches, but the most famous one is right by the Colosseum. It's the Arch of Constantine, completed in AD 315 to celebrate the emperor's victory over co-emperor Maxentius at Milvian Bridge in 312. This battle is the one before which Constantine had a vision of a cross in the sky and heard a voice saying, "In hoc signo vinces," which means, "In this sign you will conquer." He had his soldiers put the sign of the cross on their armor and shields and won the day. He later converted to Christianity, becoming the Roman emperor to legalize the Christianity.

Arch of Constantine, being restored!

The arch has nothing particularly Christian about it. Most of the decorations were taken from other monuments.

Side view, with one of the many vendors

South side (by the Forum) of the arch

Some of the "reused" reliefs include scenes from the lives of Hadrian, Trajan, and Marcus Aurelius, popular emperors with whom Constantine may have wanted to be identified.

Arch details

Some of the medallions

The arch is part of the route conquering emperors would take into Rome. From here, they would go up the Via Triumphalis into the Roman Forum and on through the Arches of Titus and Septimius Severus.

Via Triumphalis with Arch of Titus in the distance

Some excavations near Constantine's Arch

The Arch of Titus was built in AD 81 by Emperor Domitian to commemorate the Judaean victories of his brother Titus and father Vespasian. They put down an uprising in the late 60s during which the Roman soldiers destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. The arch shows the soldiers carrying off spoils.

Arch of Titus

Inside the arch

Detail from above

Other side of the inside of the arch

Roman soldiers taking away spoils

Further into the Roman Forum is the Arch of Septimius Severus. It dates from AD 203 and commemorates the tenth anniversary of Septimius Severus becoming emperor. The images show his victories in Parthia (now Iraq and Iran) and Arabia. This arch is another example of restoration blocking our photography.

Arch of Septimius Severus

Other side of the arch

Detail from the arch

These arches have inspired countless imitations across the world, including the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and the Marble Arch in London.

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