(a triumphal arch) was a
structure peculiar to the Romans, among whom it seems to have taken its
origin from the Porta Triumphalis,
the gate by
which a general celebrating a triumph led his army into the city, on which
occasions the gate was adorned with trophies and other memorials of the
particular victory celebrated. In process of time other arches were erected,
both at Rome and in the provinces, to celebrate single victories, the
memorials of which were carved upon them or fixed to them, and these
remained as permanent monuments. They were even erected in memory of a
victory for which there had been no triumph, as in the arch of L.
Stertinius--the first recorded instance. And it is convenient to include
under the same head many arches which were not monuments of victory, and yet
from an architectural point of view cannot be distinguished from triumphal
arches--arches commemorating a great imperial achievement, as that in honour
of Augustus' completion of the via Flaminia
Rimini, that in honour of Trajan's improvement of the harbour at Ancona,
that in honour of his restoration of the via
at Beneventum, that in honour of Hadrian's buildings at
Athens; arches erected to an emperor with a less special motive, as that of
Gallienus at Rome, or in honour of a family, as that of the Sergii at Pola.
Moreover structures like the Porta S. Lorenzo (Porta
) and Porta Maggiore (Porta
], built to carry aqueducts over roads, and the
in the Forum,
resemble triumphal arches in their architectural
Triumphal arches were usually insulated structures built across the principal
streets of the city, and, according to the space of their respective
localities, consisted of either a single archway, or of a central one for
carriages, with two smaller ones on each side for foot-passengers, which
sometimes have side communications with the centre arch. Sometimes there
were two arches of equal height, side by side. Each front was ornamented
with trophies and basreliefs, which were also placed on the sides of the
passages. Both façades had usually columns against the piers,
supporting an entablature, surmounted by a lofty attica, on the front of
which was the inscription, and on the top of it bronze chariots, war-horses,
statues and trophies. The triumphal arch recalls its original, the city
gate, in the concentration of ornament on the façades; while the
sides, which in the city gate are buried in the wall, are comparatively
“ Though these arches are upon the whole some of the most successful
efforts of purely Roman architecture, because the real and solid
constructive parts occupy the most prominent place, yet Greek
decorations are dragged in even here. The Romans placed an unmeaning
front of pedestal, column and capital, with abacus, frieze, and
entablature, upon the surface of their massive piers of masonry, ‘thus tying, as the tyrant Mezentius did, the
dead to the living.’ The three great triumphal archways of Titus,
Septimius Severus, and Constantine at Rome, and also the Arch of Drusus,
are decorated with this foreign dress. In the Arch of Constantine alone,
the columns which stand in front are in some measure justified by the
statues they support. The Arch of Dolabella on the Caelian, which has a
single line as cornice, and the Porta S. Lorenzo are examples of the
impressive effect of a plain arch without Greek ornament.” (Burn,
Rome and the Campagna,
Stertinius is the first upon record who erected anything of the kind. He
built, out of the spoils [p. 1.173]
gained in Spain, an arch
) in the Forum Boarium about B.C.
196, and another in the Circus Maximus, each of which was surmounted by gilt
statues (Liv. 33.27
). Six years afterwards,
Scipio Africanus built another on the Clivus Capitolinus, on which he placed
seven gilt statues and two figures of horses (Liv.
); and in B.C. 121, Fabius Maximus built a fourth at the top of
the Via Sacra, which is called by Cicero (in Verr. Act.
7.17) the Fornix
None of these remain, though ruins of the Fornix Fabianus
were found in the sixteenth century,
and again in 1882, near the temple of Faustina. That these erections were
either temporary or very insignificant, may be inferred from the silence of
Vitruvius, who says nothing of triumphal arches. We might be sure, from the
nature of the case, that such structures would especially mark the period of
There are about thirty-eight triumphal arches recorded by different writers
as having been erected in the city of Rome, five of which now remain:
namely, the Arches of Drusus,
of Septimius Severus,
and of Constantine.
A brief account of these, and of some of the most
important Italian and provincial ones still in existence, follows. For
restorations and descriptions of them, see Canina, L'Architettura
vol. ii. p. 676, iii. p. 473, and volume of plates, from
which this article is illustrated. The Arch of Augustus at
represented in the accompanying woodcut after Canina,
Arch of Augustus at Rimini.
on account of its early date, its fine style, and its peculiarity
of not being an insulated structure, but merely an archway pierced in a
wall, and decorated with unusual simplicity. Hence Hope (Essays on
i. p. 69) criticises its detail as jejune. The
Arch of Augustus at Susa,
though insulated, is
still simple in its design, the entablature being supported by attached
columns at the corners. The Arch of Augustus at Aosta,
although its Doric entablature does not harmonise with its Corinthian
columns, and although it has possibly suffered restoration, is here given as
an instance of a single arch of noble span. Returning to Rome, we have first
to remember the Arch of Augustus
in the Forum, erected in
honour of the battle of Actium, B.C. 30 (D. C.
Arch of Augustus at Aosta.
its exact site is unknown. The Arch of Drusus
the Appian Way, erected in honour of Nero Claudius Drusus (Suet. Cl. 1
), is identified with the existing
arch, which pierces a wall, while its attica carries the aqueduct over the
to the thermae
of Caracalla. But this is an error, as the existing arch
is in all probability only. one of the arches built by Caracalla to carry
his aqueduct over the road, like the Porta Maggiore
Porta San Lorenzo
pp. 149, 150]. The details are much
later than the time of Drusus (Middleton, p. 365).
The so-called Arch of Drusus.
The Arch of Tiberius
in the Sacra Via in the Forum, near the
temple of Saturn, was erected in A.D. 17, in honour of Tiberius, on account
of the recapture by Germanicus of the standards lost by Varus in Germany
(Tac. Ann. 2.41
). Some fragments of it
have been found near its supposed site (Middleton, p. 169). The Arch
erected in A.D. 43 to commemorate his supposed
victories over the Britons, stood across the Via Lata, near the Palazzo
Sciarra, where fragments belonging to this arch were found, with an
inscription recording its erection by Claudius. [p. 1.174]
This arch is represented on coins of Claudius, with the legend DE BRITANNIS. It existed in an almost perfect
state till the seventeenth century, when it was destroyed by Alexander VII.
(Middleton, p. 442; Burn, p. 323). In the same locality stood the
Arch of M. Aurelius,
in the Via Flaminia, a continuation
of the Via Lata. It was also destroyed in 1563, and six of its sculptured
panels are now on the staircase of the Palazzo de' Conservatori. These
reliefs are of great historical interest (Middleton, p. 443).
The Arch of Titus,
of Pentelic marble, spanning the Sacra Via
at the very summit of the Velian ridge, was erected to the honour of Titus,
after his conquest of Judaea, but was not finished till after his death;
since in the inscription upon it he is called Divus,
and he is also represented as being carried up to heaven
upon an eagle. The bas-reliefs of this arch represent the spoils from the
Temple of Jerusalem carried in triumphal procession, and are among the best
specimens of Roman sculpture. This arch has only a single opening, with two
columns of the Roman or composite order on each side of it. This structure,
which is here represented, is generally
Arch of Titus, restored.
regarded as the finest extant specimen of a triumphal arch. The
Arch of Trajan
was a magnificent structure leading to his
Forum. It is represented on coins of Trajan, on the top of which stands a
triumphal chariot of Trajan with six horses, and six generals. (D. C. 68.29
; cf. Gel.
.) From this arch some of the bas-reliefs now on the Arch of
Constantine were taken, as is mentioned below. The Arch of Trajan at
attributed to Apollodorus of
Damascus, is condemned by Hope (l.c.
) on account of
its disproportionate height and “confused reduplication of unmeaning
mouldings ;” that at Beneventum
exhibits an increasing amount of sculpture.
The Arch of Septimius Severus
was erected by the senate (A.D.
204) at the end of the Via Sacra, in honour of that emperor and his two
sons, Caracalla and Geta, on account of his victories over the Parthians and
Arabians. This is the earliest extant specimen of an arcus triumphalis
Arch of Septimius Severus.
with three arches, the central one being higher than the lateral
ones, which have side communications with it. Though its main proportions
are fine, many of the details of its sculpture show degeneracy.
The arch erected in honour of Gallienus
at Rome by M. Aurelius Victor (prefect A.D. 262),
close outside of the Porta Esquilina, in the Servian agger, is now a single
arch with roughly executed Corinthian pilasters, two side arches and a
pediment having been removed in the sixteenth century.
The Arch of Constantine
is larger and more profusely
ornamented than the Arch of Titus.
Arch of Constantine.
It was erected by the senate in honour of Constantine, after his victory over
Maxentius, A.D. 312. It consists of three arches, with columns against each
front, and statues on the entablatures over them, which, with the other
sculptured ornaments, originally decorated the Arch of Trajan. It owes its
fame to Trajan's sculptures and its fine state of preservation. (Bellori,
Rome, 1590 ; Fea,
Rome, 1832; Burn, Rome and the
Middleton, Ancient Rome in