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Arch of Constantine

Arch of Constantine

Erected by the senate in honor of Constantine the Great (A.D. 272?-337) to commemorate his victory over the usurping emperor Maxentius in A.D. 312. The arch is well preserved and stands in the plaza to the west of the Colosseum. It is decorated with reliefs and statues reused from earlier imperial monuments (spolia) as well as with reliefs dating from the age of Constantine. The victory of Constantine gave a strong impetus to the Christianization of the Empire, but no reference to Christianity is to be found on the arch.

Arcus Constantini

From Samuel Ball Platner, A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, rev. Thomas Ashby. Oxford: 1929, p. 36-38.

Erected by the senate in honour of Constantine to commemorate his victory over Maxentius in 312 A.D., as the inscription in the attic (CIL VI.1139) records. The date of its completion is fixed to 315-316 A.D. by the mention of the decennalia in the inscriptions of the side arches; and Grossi-Gondi decides for 316 because the consulship is omitted, whereas in 315 he held it for the fourth time. It is not mentioned by any of our literary sources. It stands at the beginning of the road which traverses the valley between the Palatine and the Caelian from the Colosseum to the south-east end of the circus Maximus, and which is often (though without warrant) called via Triumphalis. The road did not, however, run through it, and indeed lay at a somewhat lower level, though not so low as to necessitate steps for foot-passengers to pass through (Mitt. 1891, 92). The archways and the space round the arch are paved with travertine. The arch is built of white marble; it is 21 metres high, 25.70 wide, and 7.40 deep; the central archway is 11.50 high and 6.50 wide, and the two lateral arches are 7.40 metres high and 3.36 wide. Between the archways and at the corners were eight fluted Corinthian columns of giallo antico, one of which has been removed to the Lateran, while the other seven still remain: they were doubtless removed from other buildings. The sculptures with which it is decorated belong to several different periods (Ill. 5).

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Additional source material

  • Ancient Library Sources (from Peter Aicher, Rome Alive: A Source Guide to the Ancient City, vol. 1, Bolchazy-Carducci: 2004) [Works cited]

    71. Arch of Constantine. Sources.

    71.1.

    IMP(eratori) CAES(ari) FL(avio) CONSTANTINO MAXIMO / P(io) F(elici) AUGUSTO S(enatus) P(opulus)Q(ue) R(omanus) / QUOD INSTINCTU DIVINITATIS MENTIS / MAGNITUDINE CUM EXERCITU SUO / TAM DE TYRANNO QUAM DE OMNI EIUS / FACTIONE UNO TEMPORE IUSTIS / REM PUBLICAM ULTUS EST ARMIS / ARCUM TRIUMPHIS INSIGNEM DICAVIT

    To the Emperor Caesar Flavius Constantinus Maximus Pius Felix Augustus the Senate and the Roman People dedicate this arch [in AD 315] as a memorial to his military triumphs, who by the inspiration of divinity and his own genius avenged, with righteous arms in one instant, the Republic against the tyrant [Maxentius] and his faction.

    ILS 694 = CIL 6.1139

    [More primary sources and commentary]

  • German Archaeological Institute
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