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Roman Architecture - Town Gateways And Archways

( Originally Published 1921 )

Gateways were erected as entrances to towns or bridges, and formed part of the protective circuit, as in the great walls of old Rome and many other cities, such as Verona.

The Porta Nigra, Treves (A.D. 275) (p. 172 F), was part of the city walls and is one of the best preserved of such gateways. The structure, 115 ft. wide and 95 ft. high at its highest part, has a double archway defended by portcullises and leading to an unroofed court which could be defended against besiegers. The facade has storeys of roughly executed and unfinished Tuscan Orders.

The Porte S. Andre, Autun (p. 172 G), in the ancient fortifications of the town, is an unusual gateway with four archways—two for carriages and two for foot-passengers—surmounted by an arcaded gallery, decorated by Ionic pilasters, connecting the ramparts on either side. There is another gateway in Autun, similar in design except that the pilasters to the arcaded gallery are Corinthian.

The Porte de Mars, Rheims, and the Porta Aurea, Spalato (Palace of Diocletian) are among the best-known gateways, and the walled towns of Roman Britain, such as London, York, Colchester, and Lincoln, must have had similar archways.

The Arch of Janus Quadrifrons, Rome (p. 178 M), built in the Forum Boarium early in the fourth century, is a four-way arch at the junction of four roads. It is of debased work built about the time of Constantine, and has a simple cross-vault (p. 178 I.) with brick groins—probably a prototype of Gothic ribbed vaults.

The Arch of Caracalla, Tebessa (p. 181 x) is a marked feature of this interesting city in Algeria. It formerly stood at the meeting of four roads in the centre of the Roman town, but it is now attached to the city walls built by Justinian in A.D. 535. It occupies a square of 36 ft. with archways 16 ft. wide on each front, flanked by detached Corinthian columns on pedestals, surmounted by an entablature with a frieze of unusual depth for inscription.

There are similar arches at Palmyra, Timgad, and elsewhere in North Africa.

Gateways were sometimes added either at the ends or in the centre of bridges as at the Roman bridge, Alcantara, which has a portal over the central pier.

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