Arco di CostantinoTriumphal arch celebrating the victory of Constantine I over Maxentius, 312 CE Rome / Italy
The Arch of Constantine is a triumphal arch, erected c. 315 CE to commemorate the triumph of Constantine I after his victory over Maxentius in the battle at the Milvian Bridge in 312 CE. The arch is located in the valley of the Colosseum, between the Palatine Hill and the Colosseum, along the road taken by the triumphal processions.
The battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 CE was the decisive moment in Constantine's quest for power. He had been proclaimed Augustus by the troops in Britain in 306 CE, after the death of his father in York, and even though he had no legal right to that title, he refused to relinquish it. Likewise, Maxentius claimed the title of Augustus of the western empire. The conflict was finally resolved in the battle of the Milvian Bridge just N. of Rome, when Constantine's army defeated the numerically superior but less experienced troops of Maxentius. Maxentius perished while trying to flee across the Tiber River, as a temporary bridge made of boats collapsed under him and his troops.
Constantine entered Rome victoriously, and the senate awarded him a triumphal arch. Construction began immediately, and the arch was finished in a few years, to be consecrated in 315/316 CE on the tenth anniversary of Constantine's rise to power.
The monument is not mentioned by any ancient source, but it is clearly identified by the inscription. The year of dedication is written on the arch itself: "Votis X".
The Arch of Constantine is a three-way arch, measuring 21m in height, 25.7m in width and 7.4m in depth. The central archway is 11.5m high and 6.5m wide, while the lateral archways are 7.4m×3.4m. Eight detached Corinthian columns, four on each side, stand on plinths on the sides of the archways. The lower part, the arches and supporting piers, is build of white marble in opus quadratum, while the attic is opus latericium covered with marble slabs. The different construction techniques might indicate different construction times for the two parts, as some theories argue.
Sculptures and reliefs
The decorative elements on the monument are from different periods and are generally considered to be spolia, that is, parts taken from earlier monuments. The arch has parts from the reigns of Trajan, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius and Constantine himself. Some of the older, reused parts have been changed to give the images of former emperors the semblance of Constantine.Diagram of the Arch of Constantine. The colours indicate the dating of the decorative elements.
In the following two sections the individual decorative elements are described in detail.Next: Reuse from Older Monuments
This article has been split into 6 separate sections. Use the menu below to jump to another section.
- Reuse from Older Monuments
- Constantinian Art on the Arch
- Why Reuse Parts of Old Monuments?
- Literature and Links
- Antinous - Protege of Emperor Hadrian (c. 110 CE - 130 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Antoninus Pius - Roman Emperor (138-161 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Apollo - The Romans imported the Greek god Apollo (Roman Religion and Mythology, Lexicon)
- Arch of Septimius Severus - Triumphal arch celebrating Septimius Severus victories over the Parthians (Forum Romanum, Rome, Italy)
- Arch of Tiberius - A lost triumphal arch from the time of Tiberus (Forum Romanum, Rome, Italy)
- Arch of Titus - Triumphal arch celebrating the conquest of Jerusalem by Vespasian and Titus (Forum Romanum, Rome, Italy)
- Arches of Marcus Aurelius - Two lost arches dedicated to emperor Marcus Aurelius (Rome, Italy)
- Basilica Julia - Julius Caesar's basilica on the Forum Romanum (Forum Romanum, Rome, Italy)
- Basilica Ulpia (Forum of Trajan, Rome, Italy)
- Colosseum (Rome, Italy)
- Column of Marcus Aurelius (Piazza Chigi, Rome, Italy)
- Commodus - Roman Emperor (180-192 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Constantine I - Roman Emperor (306-337 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Diana - The goddess of wild nature, hunting, chastity and marriage (Roman Religion and Mythology, Lexicon)
- Domitian - Roman Emperor (81-96 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Forum of Trajan (Rome, Italy)
- Forum Romanum - The Roman Forum was the political and religious centre in ancient Rome (Rome, Italy)
- Hadrian - Roman Emperor (117-138 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Hercules - God of vicotry and commercial activities (Roman Religion and Mythology, Lexicon)
- Marcus Aurelius - Roman Emperor (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Maxentius - Roman Emperor (306-312 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Meta Sudans (Rome, Italy)
- Palatine Hill (Rome, Italy)
- Ponte Milvio - Roman bridge on the Via Flaminia crossing the Tiber River (Rome, Italy)
- Rostra - The speakers platform on the Forum (Forum Romanum, Rome, Italy)
- Silvanus - God of uncultivated land, forests, hunting, agriculture and boundaries (Roman Religion and Mythology, Lexicon)
- Trajan - Roman Emperor (98-117 CE) (Romans, Historical Persons)
- Triumphal Arches - The Romans used arches to celebrate military victory (Architecture, Lexicon)
- Victoria - Godess of victory (Roman Religion and Mythology, Lexicon)
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