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Roman Architecture - Triumphal Arches

( Originally Published 1921 )



Triumphal arches erected to emperors and generals had either one or three openings and the piers were faced with Corinthian or Composite columns. They were adorned with statuary and bas-reliefs relating to the victorious campaigns which they commemorated, and were usually surmounted by an attic storey for the dedicatory inscription.

The Arch of Titus, Rome (A.D. 81) (p. 178), of the single-arch type, commemorates the capture of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. On each side are semi-engaged columns with three-quarter columns at the angles, and these are the earliest known examples of the Roman Composite Order. The soffit of the archway is ornamented with deeply recessed coffers, and a relief in the centre represents the apotheosis of Titus. On one side of the opening is a carved relief of the Emperor in a triumphal car, and on the other is a representation of the spoils taken from the Temple at Jerusalem. The keystones, which project considerably to support the main architrave, are also richly carved and are faced with figures of Roma and Fortuna (p. 178 A). The attic storey, with the dedication, was originally surmounted by a bronze quadriga (p. 178 F).

The Arch of Trajan, Ancona (A.D. 113) (p. 181 J), was erected astride a causeway in honour of that emperor, who had made the harbour. It is of marble and is well preserved, although most of its bronze enrichments have disappeared. It is approached by a flight of steps and has a high podium with an archway 10 ft. wide, flanked on both sides by pairs of fluted Corinthian columns on pedestals, supporting an entablature and attic stage for inscriptions. The total height is 61 ft:

The Arch of Trajan, Beneventum (A.D. 114) (p. 310 D), is one of the best-preserved Roman structures in South Italy ; it somewhat resembles the Arch of Titus, Rome, and forms a story in marble of Traj an's life and policy. Some of the sculptures are in the British Museum.

There are arches of this type at Pola, Susa (B.C. 7), Aosta, Rimini (A.D. 27), and Athens. The archways in London at Hyde Park Corner and Constitution Hill are modern examples of the single-arch type.

The Arch of the Goldsmiths, Rome (A.D. 204) (p. 178 H, J, K), erected in honour of Septimius Severus, is not a triumphal arch, nor is it of arched construction, for the opening is spanned by a horizontal entablature ; while the workmanship is poor and over-elaborated. It adjoins the Campanile of the Church of S. Giorgio in Velabro, and with it shows the continuity of successive periods of architecture.

The Arch of Septimius Severus, Rome (A.D. 204) (pp. 181 AG, 310 E), is of the triple-arch type and was dedicated to the Emperor and his two sons to commemorate their Parthian victories. It is of white marble, and the three archways rest on piers, in front of which are detached composite columns on pedestals. The central archway, with a richly coffered semicircular vault, has lateral openings to the side archways. A staircase in the south pier leads to the summit, on which were statues of the Emperor and his two sons, Caracalla and Geta, in a quadriga or four-horse chariot, with soldiers on either side.

The Arch of Constantine, Rome (A.D. 312) (p. 181 H), built in honour of Constantine's victory over Maxentius, is of fine proportions. It has eight monolithic detached Corinthian columns supporting an entablature returned back to the wall, and on the attic storey was a quadriga. Many of the reliefs were brought from the arch of Traj an and represent incidents of his reign.

The Arch at Orange, in France, which is one of the finest triumphal arches outside Italy, has Corinthian half-columns between the arches and three-quarter columns at the angles. The Marble Arch, London, is a modern instance of the triple-arch type.



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