Arch of Titus

Coordinates: 41°53′27″N 12°29′19″E / 41.890717°N 12.488585°E / 41.890717; 12.488585 The Arch of Titus is a 1st-century honorific arch located on the Via Sacra, Rome, just to the south-east of the Roman Forum. It was constructed in c.82 AD by the Roman Emperor Domitian shortly after the death of his older brother Titus to commemorate Titus' victories, including in the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

The Arch of Titus has provided the general model for many of the triumphal arches erected since the 16th century—perhaps most famously it is the inspiration for the 1806 Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France.

Description

The arch is situated on a prominent rise, the Velian Hill, which is a low saddle between the Palatine and Esquiline Hills, just south-east of the Roman Forum. The arch itself is 13.50 metres wide, 15.40 high, and 4.75 deep while the inner archway is 8.30 metres high and 5.36 wide. It is constructed using pentelic marble, arranged in five bays to an ABA rhythm; the side bays are perpendicular to the central axial arch with a single barrel vault. The corners are articulated with a massive order of engaged columns that stand on a high ashlar basement. The capitals are Corinthian, but with prominent volutes of the Ionic order projecting laterally above the acanthus foliage—the earliest example of the composite order, combining both designs. Above the main cornice rises a high, weighty 4.40m high attic on which is a central tablet bearing the dedicatory inscription. The entablatures break forward over the columns and the wide central arch, and the profile of the column shafts transforms to square. The minor frieze on the entablature depicts a line of both military and civil officials, along with sacrificial animals. Flanking the central arch, the side bays now each contain a shallow niche-like blind aedicular window, a discreet early 19th century restoration. There are both fluted and unfluted columns, the latter being a result of 19th century restoration. The spandrels on the upper left and right of the arch contain personifications of victory as winged women. Between the spandrels is the keystone, on which there stands a female on the East side and a male on the West side.

The soffit of the axial archway is deeply coffered with a relief of the apotheosis of Titus at the center. The sculptural program also includes two panel reliefs lining the passageway within the arch. Both commemorate the joint triumph celebrated by Titus and his father Vespasian in the summer of 71.

The south panel depicts the spoils taken from the Temple in Jerusalem. The Golden Candlestick or Menorah (see ) is the main focus and is carved in deep relief. Other sacred objects being carried in the triumphal procession are the Silver Trumpets (see ) and the Table of Shewbread (see ). These spoils were originally gilded with gold, with the background in blue.

The north panel depicts Titus as triumphator attended by various genii and lictors, who carry fasces. A helmeted Amazonian, Valour, is leading the quadriga or four horsed chariot, in which there is Titus. He is being crowned with a laurel wreath by the winged Victory. This is significant because divinities and humans are presented in one scene, together, contrasting the panels of the Ara Pacis where they are separated.

The sculpture of the outer faces of the two great piers was lost when the Arch of Titus was incorporated in medieval defensive walls. The attic of the arch was originally crowned by more statuary, perhaps of a gilded chariot. The main inscription used to be ornamented by letters made of silver or perhaps gold or some other metal.

Inscription

The inscription in Roman square capitals reads:

(Senatus Populusque Romanus divo Tito divi Vespasiani filio Vespasiano Augusto)

which means "The Roman Senate and People (dedicate this) to the divine Titus Vespasianus Augustus, son of the divine Vespasian."

The opposite side of the Arch of Titus received new inscriptions after it was restored during the pontificate of Pope Pius VII by Giuseppe Valadier in 1821. The restoration was intentionally made in travertine to differentiate between the original and the restored portions.

The inscription reads:

(Insigne religionis atque artis, monumentum, vetustate fatiscens: Pius Septimus, Pontifex Maximus, novis operibus priscum exemplar imitantibus fulciri servarique. Jussit anno sacri principatus ejus XXIV)

History

Based on the style of sculptural details, Domitian's favored architect Rabirius, sometimes credited with the Colosseum, may have executed the arch. Without contemporary documentation, however, attributions of Roman buildings on basis of style are considered shaky.

The Frangipani family turned it into a fortified tower in the Middle Ages.

It was one of the first buildings sustaining a modern restoration, starting with Raffaele Stern in 1817 and continued by Valadier under Pius VII in 1821, with new capitals and with travertine masonry, distinguishable from the original. The restoration was a model for the country side of Porta Pia.

Significance

The Arch provides the only contemporary depiction of Temple period artifacts. The seven-branched menorah and trumpets are clearly depicted. It became a symbol of the Jewish diaspora. In a later era, Pope Paul IV made it the place of a yearly oath of submission. Roman Jews refused to walk under it. The menorah depicted on the Arch served as the model for the menorah used on the emblem of the state of Israel.

Architectural influence

Works modeled on, or inspired by, the Arch of Titus include:

  • Facade of the Basilica di Sant'Andrea di Mantova (1462) by Leon Battista Alberti
  • The Arc de Triomphe (1806), Paris, France
  • The National Memorial Arch (1910) at Valley Forge National Historical Park, Pennsylvania, USA
  • The Soldier's and Sailor's arch at Grand Army Plaza, in Brooklyn
  • The arch at Washington Square Park, New York
  • The India gate, New Delhi, India (1931)

Building Activity

  • updated a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via Annotator
  • updated a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com