|ARCH OF TITUS
Clara Erskine Clement - The Eternal City - Rome - 1896
The magnificent triumphal arches of Rome, known by the names of certain emperors, have stood through many centuries, imposing witnesses to the prowess and glory of these rulers, while at the same time they so commemorated the triumphs of the Roman arms that the renown of these glorious achievements was constantly in the minds of succeeding generations, exciting in them a national pride in the past and an ambition to rival the illustrious deeds of their ancestors.
At least thirty-eight of these important monuments were erected; many of them were standing at one and the same period, affording an admirable illustration of Roman architecture from a very early date to the latest years of Imperial Rome; in a certain sense, a record in marble and stone of the Republic and the Empire.
L. Stertinius, in 196 B.C., erected the first two triumphal arches of which we have knowledge, out of the treasure which he brought from Spain. One of these stood in the Forum Boarium, the other in the Circus Maximus; and Livy describes them as being surmonted by gilt statues, and adds that L.
Stertinius deposited in the public treasury fifty thousand pounds' weight of silver, all taken by him in Spain. Six years later an arch in honour of Scipio Africanus was erected on the road leading to the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, which was surmounted by seven statues and two horses in gilt bronze. This, like many others, has totally disappeared.
The first arch erected in the Forum Romanum was in honour of Quintus Fabius Maximus, and was dedicated in 121 B.C., in commemoration of his victories over the Gauls.
This arch, spoken of by Horace, marked the southeast extremity of the Forum and spanned the Via Sacra. The remaining fragments of this monument, as I have mentioned in describing the Forum, lie near the Temple of Faustina, and costist chiefly in massive voussoirs, or the stones from the span of the arch. On account of his prowess in his war against the Allobroges, Fabius was given the honorary title of Allobrogicus, or Allobrox. He is also mentioned in history as being the first Roman who possessed silver plate to the value of thousand dollars.
Of the Arch of Augustus, erected in 30 B.C., after the victory of Actium, nothing remains save a part of the foundations, discovered in 1882, which show that it was a triple arch, the central opening being fourteen feet wide. This arch was destroyed by the civilised Vandals of the middle of the sixteenth century; and in our walks in Rome we doubtless admire portions of it in some Renaissance edifice without being aware of what we are approving. The Arch of Fabius was ruined by the same destroyers.
The Arch of Tiberius, erected in 17 A.D., is said by Tacitus to have commemorated the success of Germanicus in recovering the Roman standards which had been lost in Germany by Varus. The historian places it no the slope of the Clivius Capitolinus; and as it was quickly constructed and dedicated - in one year - it could not have been very fine or elaborate. Another arch of Tiberius was erected by Claudius near the Theatre of Pompey; and it is also said that Tiberius dedicated arches to both Germanicus and Drusus in the Forum of Augustus. There are fragments in Rome attributed to the Arch of Tiberius, but Mommsen expresses doubt of their genuineness.
The Arch of Claudius which commemorated his so-called victories in Britain was erected in 43 A.D., and remained untile the seventeenth century in excellent condition, when it was destroyed by Alexander VII. This arch spanned the Via Lata, - now the Corso - and its foundations were discovered about fifteen years ago. In the Villa Borghese are two noble reliefs from this arch, which are, however, badly damaged.
The Arch of Nero, erected in honour of the victory over the Parthians, is only known from the representations of it on coins. Its position on the Capitoline Hill, between the two peaks, was most honourable. From its representations it appears to have been a single arch, very richly decorated with both statues and reliefs. It was surmounted by a triumphal chariot with statues of Victory and Abundance beside it; smaller statues were placed on the corner projections of the entablature, while in a niche on the end stood a colossal statue of Mars. The sides and top of the archway were elaborately decorated with reliefs, and handsome colomns supported each corner. The First Brass of Nero is an unusually interesting coin, and displays all the features of this arch as perfectly as a large drawing could do.
Perhaps the Arch of Titus is more interesting than any other in Rome, on account of the associations with it. Domitian erected it in honour of the conquest of Jerusalem, and the Emperors Vespasian and Titus. The central part of the arch as it stands to-day is a portion of the original monument, and is eighteen hundred and fifteen years old. The sides belong to its restoration in 1823; and the difference between the colour of the new portions and that of the ancient Pentelic marlbe is plainly discernible.
The composite capitals on the engaged columns of this arch are the earliest examples of this style. Two most interesting reliefs on the inner jambs of the arch represent the grand triumphal procession of Titus, which I have described in connection with pagan temples. Titus is represented in his chariot, the horses being led by the goddess Roma, while Victory holds a crown above his head; he is surrounded by lictors, and the procession is passing under a triumphal arch. But the most famous portion of this monument is the opposite relief, in which the spoils of the Temple of Solomon are represented. - the table for the shewbread, the seven-branched candlestick, and the golden trumpets. On this panel are two lovely female heads, crowned with laurel and executed in low relief. From the candlestick this monument has frequently been called the "Arch of the Seven Lamps". On the soffitt of the arch the apotheosis of Titus is represented in the usual way, the Emperor ascending, borne by an eagle. The external frieze has representations of sacrificial scenes, while in various spaces winged Victories, bearing trophies, and reliefs of the goddesses Roma and Fortuna are seen.
The Arch of Titus is of great interest in connection with the Jews in Rome. The horror and grief of this nation excited by the conduct of Titus still survives; and no Jew, trued to the religion and traditions of his race, will pass beneath the fatal arch. Many jews who marched in chains in the triumph of their conquerors were forced to labour on the Colosseum, and even to lay the foundation-stones of this very arch, which, through all the centuries, ha emphasised the fame of the hated Titus.
Vespasian compelled all Jews to pay as much into the Roman treasury as they had given to the Temple, - half a shekel each, - and Domitian drove them out beyond the precints of Rome, where they endured a miserable existence until Alexander Severus permitted them to return to their old quarters, - the Ghetto, recently destroyed.
When the Popes came to be supreme in Rome, they exacted certain observances which were most humiliating to the Jews, especially upon the occasion of the installation of a Pope. On these festivals a deputation of this despised race met the Pope in his triumphal progress, sang songs in his praise, and presented him with a magnificent copy of the Pentateuch , bound in gold, which they offered on their knees, beseeching protection for themselves and their people. His Holiness read a few sentences from the book and replied to their prayers in words like these: "We affirm the law; but we curse the Hebrew people and their exposition of it; for he or whom you said 'he will come', has already come, our Lord Jesus Christ, as is taught and professed by the Church."
This particular cremony was abandoned by Adrianm but, in place of this homage, the Jews wee obliged to cover a protion of the way over which the procession passed with rich and costly stuff. They adorned the steps of the Capitol and the Arch of Septimius Severus when Gregory XIV was installed; but later they were sentenced to adorn the Arch of Titus on these occasions, as well as the road leading from it to the Colosseum. The late William Wetmore Story thus describes these decorations: -
"Those tapestries and hangings bore, upon a gold ground, embroidered
emblems designated by the Pope, with Latin texts taken from the Old and New Testaments. The emblems, generally twenty-five in number, and expressive of every sort of fantastic allegory, were woven by the Jews themselves in thei dirty Ghetto, and doubtless had hatred and indignation eough wrought into their texture to give a jettatura to the Pope who passed over and under them. In course of time these scriptural allegories became confused with pagan devices. The Old Testament and Roman mythology intermarried and gave birth to designs absurd in sentiment and barocco in style, - Apollo, Moses, Minerva, the Virgin, Popes, donkeys, and heraldic animals, grouping amicably together, to illustrate texts from the Bible...Some of these very tapestries, I doubt not, might even now be raked out of hidden chambers in the Ghetto, if any had the will to purchase them."
In the beginning of this present century, Pius VII changed the offering of the Jews, to be made to a new Pope, from the decorations of the Arch of Titus to a book adorned with emblems exquisitely painted, dedicated to the Pope in Latin verses, and bound in a very costly style. The book of Gregory XVI, may now be seen in the Cathedral of Belluno, the birthplace of the Pope; it was als opainted by a native of Belluno, Pietro Paoletti. The books presented to Pis IX, was very beautiful in design and execution, and cost about five hundred and fifteen dollars.
The Arch of Marcus Aurelius, which was destroyed in 1563, was erected in the Via Flaminia, now the Corso. Six sculptured panels taken from it are on the walls of the staircase of the Palazzo dei Conservatori; while still another belongs to the family of the banker, Prince Torlonia. They are most interesting, not only as examples of the art of their era, but for their architectural backgrounds and the typographical information which they afford; as, for example, that in which the emperor offers a sacrifice before the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, in which the temple is admirably shown.
Although the reign of Septimius Severus, beginning in 193 A.C., distinclty marks the period of the rapid decline of art, it was a time of great
activity in building, and the construction of public works. During the reign of the two Africans, Septimius Severus and his son Caracalla, - a period of twenty-four years, - not only an enormous amount of reconstruction of the old was accomplished, on every stone of which apparently affixed their names, but two characteristic monuments, quite their own, perpetuate their fame and afford them the remembrance which they coveted. The Arch of Septimius Severus and the Baths of Caracalla have each proved more enduring than the last palace built on the Palatine with its aspiring Sptizonium, already described.
When Severus had been Emperor nine years, he erected his huge triumphal arch to the glory of himself and his sons, Caracalla and Geta. It was intended to commemorate his Parthians victories, and its inartistic sculptures represent scenes connected with these Eastern wars. This arch has three openings, the central one being much more lofty than the others.
The attic was originally surmounted by a bronze chariot drawn by six horses, in which stood a statue of Severus being crowned by Victory, shile statues of his sons were placed beside the chariot, and an equestrian statue decorated each ange. All these have long since perished.
The four principal reliefs, although most insignificant as works of art, are interesting for their representations of Eastern warfare. They are overcrowded with figures, and instead of being separated and framed with mouldings, they are crowded against the colomns and under the entablature, while the capitals and, indeed, the whole work is in a singularly debased style. The long inscription on the large panel of the attic is repeated on both sies and is most flattering to Severus and Caracalla, who gave himself additional titles to fill in the spaces which have been previously devoted to his brother Geta.
One relic of the work of Severus is far more interesting than his arch, - the marble plan of Rome, now affixed to the wall of the staircase in the Capitoline Museum. One must regret that is is not placed where it could be more conveniently studied. The original plan, made by Vespasian, was partly or wholly destroyed by fire, and was restored by Severus; but, as some portious now remaining are much better executed than others, there is possibility that these are from the original model of Vespasian. The existing remnants wew found at the foot of the wall to which it has been affixed, and the iron clamps which held it are still in place, so that the manner of its arrangement can be perfectly understood.
The marble slabs on which the plan was engraves five feet in height by three and a half in width, and were in nine rows. Many of the fragments of these slabs were found in 1560, and were fortunately copied, as portions of them were afterwards lost; and when, in later excavations, other portions of the plan were discovered, by reproducing in marble, from the copies, the parts were missing, it was possible to recontruct it, as it is now seen. There are more than three hundred fragments, varying from tiny bits to those which are from two to three feet in size, at least. The work is not very fine, and the letters not vell made; but it is filled in with vermilionm and even the smallest parts are clear. If it were in a better position for study, its wort would be much increased; but it of course fixes certain points which could not otherwise be determined, and is most valuable in connection with the study of Roman topography.
It is curious fact that plans of this sort should have been made from the time of Agrippa, the century before the Christian era; and the principal methods followed in making them in those ancient days differed but slightly from those of much more recent date. The ancient wall on which this plan was fixes is now included in the church of SS. Cosma and Damian.
At the corner of the Via di Miranda, where there is a quadrangle with little work-shops and sheds, and a garden, - an humble but attractive scene, - this ancient wall makes one side of the enclosed space. Pope Felix IV made it of use in his monastery; and though
windows have been cut through it in several stories, which, with their little curtains and wondow-gardens, make it to resemble many other walls, - not only in Rome but in other cities, - it is still the original wall that was once decorated with the marble plan of Septimius Severus.
Another so-called Arch of Severus, in the Forum Boarium, is , in fact, a much-decorated gateway which led from the forum into the Velabrum. Besides certain conventional rosettes and ornaments, of that sort, it has reliefs; and from one of them, which originally represented Caracalla and Geta offering a sacrifice, the figure of Geta has been cut away, as his name has been from the inscription. There is another relief with a portrait of Severus, one with soldiers conductiong Oriental prisoners, and several small representations of sacrifices, all in the debased manner in which the sculptures of Severus were executed. After his accession no meritorious sculpture was produced in Rome ,and the rapidity of the decline seems inexplicable when we remember the exquisite work of the time of Hadrian, only a little more than half a century earlier.
This gateway was erected by the silversmith
or bankers and merchants of the Forum Boarium, in 204 A.D., in honour of Septimius Severus, Julia Domna, his wife, and his sons Caracalla and Geta.
The Arch of Constantine, completed about 315 A.D., to commemorate the victory over Maxentius at the Pons Milvius in 312, is the most perfect triumphal arch remaining in Rome, and is, for many reasons, of extreme interest. It is probably copied from the Arch of Trajan in the general design and proportion, which are unusually fine. The original sculptures, belonging to the fourth century, are coarse and unworthy of their position in every respect, bearing witness as they do to the degraded condition of all art in Rome at the date when they were made.
The inscription is interesting for several reasons. A part of it may be translated, "as he has reigned ten years, so may he reign twenty." The use of the title "Maximus" proves that his reign had reached the above-named limit, as it occurs on no coin of Constantine's until after his tenth year; and the expression, "by divine inspiration", which replaces the customary reference to Jupiter as "the greatest and best", indicates that the Emperor desired thus publicly to acknoledge his adoption of the new faith. There is a question made by some authors as to whether this inscription has not been changed since originally made; but of this they give no proof.
Clement VIII removed one of the columns of giallo antico to the lateran at the close of the sixteenth century; but the white marble with which it was replaced has taken on the general colour of the whole, so that the difference in original tone and in variety is not easily distinguished. Clement XII restored the arch with marbles from the ancient Temple of Neptune, and the heads of the Dacian captives o the architrave - which were at one time knocked off - have been carefully replaced; but these circumstances show that, while the barbarians and the spoilers have shown unusual respect for this monument, it has suffered abuses.
There is but one bit value
in the sculptures on this arch belonging to the fourth century, which is a long tablet on the northern side of the arch; on this the Forum Romanum is represented as it existed at that time, and the value of the sculpture is historical rather than artistic. The utter decadence of Roman art is all the more noticeable here by reason of the beauty of the older reliefs, which were taken from the Arch of Trajan, and are placed in close contrast with the later sculptures. The intrinsic merito and brauty of the earlier works and their excellent preservation entitles them to be numbered with the finest examples of Graeco Roman sculpture, although they are as the second century of our era, when the decline in art is already apparent.
The sacrificial scenes in the circulae medallions are especially beautiful, and were rarely surpassed at any age; and if one can overcome his indignation at th mutilation of the fine frieze, which has been cut into four parts, he will find it well worthy of his attention. It must have been most satisfactory when in its original form. It represents an attack on the Dacian by
the Roman cavalry; the figure of the Emperor Trajan is more than once represented; and when this frieze with its continuos subject-all the figures being life-size - was in its proper place, and no doubt in the midst of appropriate surroundings, it was a noble momorial of the prowess of Trajan and his soldiers. It very probably made a portion of the decoration of the Temple of Trajan.
The four medallions on the north side of the arch represent, first, the Emperor and two attendants, all mounted, hunting a boar. Second, Trajan pouring a libation on to an altar before a statue of Apollo, a graceful laurel-tree making the background of the upper portion of the circle; one attendant stands behind the Emperor, and another holds his horse. This is a different subject for the circular space devoted to it, and is most skilfully managed. Third, Trajan and a number of attendants stand beside a lion that has been killed, probably by the Emperor. Fourth, Trajan in sacrificial dress and weiled head, pours a libation on to an altar; the usual two attendants are near him, as well as a small statue of Minerva, while Jupiter appears in the clouds above him.
On the south side are, first, Trajan, who is about to start for the chase, standing near his horse; among his attendants is a youth whose beauty reacalls that of Antinous. Second, Trajan offers a sacrifice before a statue of Hercules. Third, the Emperor and his attendants pursue a bear. Fourth, Trajan pours a libation at an altar, before a statue of Diana, a thank-offering for success in hunting.
The rectangular reliefs on the attic, on the north side, towards the Colosseum represent, first, the Emperor received at the gates of the city by a stately figure of the goddess Roma. An arched gateway, decorated with flowers, and a temple are in the background, probably representing the Porta Capena and the Temple of Mars.
The second scene is probably outside the Porta Capena. Trajan is looking down on a half-nude youth reclining on the ground and holding a wheel; near by a man dressed as a civilian; while on one side are some armed men, one of whom holds a horse. This is a most interesting commemoration of the making of a road over the Pontine marshes in 110 A.D.. The reclining youth with the wheel is the usual symbol of a road; the civilian is probably the engineer of the undertaking, perhaps Apollodorus himself.
The third relief is also noteworthy. Trajan is seated on a throne on a lofty platform, and is surrounded by attendants; the Emperor is addressing a group of people who are standing below him. Among them is a woman with a child, and the scene apparently commemorates the establishment in 99 A.D., of an institution for te benefit of the children of the poor. Such a relief as this, or one in which Trajan raises a kneeling woman who symbolises a province, probably made the foundation of Dante's lines in the tenth Canto of the Purgatory:
There was storied on a rock
The exalted glory of the Roman Prince,
Whose mighty worth moved Gregory to earn
His mighty conquest, Trajan the Emperor.
A widow at his bridle stood, attired
In tears and mourning. Round about them troop'd
Full throng of knights; and overhead in gold
The eagles floated, struggling with the wind.
The wretch apperar'd amid all these to say:
Grant vengeance, Sire! for woe beshrew his heart,
My son is murderer'd. He replying seem'd:
Wait now till I return. And she, as one
Made hasty by her grief: O Sire! if thou
Dost not return? Where I am, who then is
May right thee. What to thee is other's good,
If thou neglect thy own? Now confort thee,
At length he answers. It beseemeth well
My duty be perform'd ere I move hence:
So justice wills, and pity bids me stay.
The fourth scene on this side presents a foreign prince offering his homage to Trajan, who is on his throne, while a number of Roman soldiers, bearing standards and eagles, are behind. This prince is probably the King of Armenia, who was conquered in 115 A.D.
On the south side the first relief again represent Trajan enthroned receiving a barbarian potentate. The second shows the Emperor receiving Decebalus, the Dacian king, and a number of Dacian captives, who are conducted by roman soldiers. The third scene shows Trajan on a platform addressing the army; and in the fourth Trajan is about to offer a sacrifice; he is surrounded by soldiers and standard-bearers, while a bull, a ram, and a board are being led forward toward a tripod altar.
There are few objects remaining in Rome so suggestinve of questioning as is the Trajan-Constantine arch, which convtributes to the glory of the former, greatly to the disadvantage of the latter. Why did Constantine take the role of the spoiler before all ages? and why fill it in so poor a fashion? There are in Rome slight remains of other arches, like those of Gratian and Gallienus, but nothing about them demands or repays a visit. The Arch of Dolabella, as it is called, is, in fact, a gateway, which, as the inscription states, was erected in 10 A.D., but for what reason or purpose, originally, is not known. It is on the Caelian Hill, an the portion of the Claudian aqueduct which Nero built passes over it. It is a plain arch built of blocks of travertine, and may have opened into that Campus Martialis which was used for games when the Campus Martius was flooded.
ABOUT THE ARCH
HISTORY OF TITUS
The Siege of Jerusalem Brief History of Rome 1885
1. Description of Roman Armies, &c - Josephus
2. How Titus Marched to Jerusalem - Josephus
3. The Destruction of the City - Collier
4. The Triumphant Return of Titus - Josephus