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Bill Thayer

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 p33  Arco di Portogallo

Article on p33 of

Samuel Ball Platner (as completed and revised by Thomas Ashby):
A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome,
London: Oxford University Press, 1929.

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From an engraving by Alò Giovannoli, 1615 (p33)

Arco di Portogallo: an arch over the via Lata close to the Ara Pacis, which is often called Arcus Hadriani, because of two reliefs of the Hadrianic period that adorned it and are now in the Palazzo dei Conservatori (Helbig, Führer3, 897, 900; Strong, Sculpture 236‑8; SScR 213‑215; PBS IV.258‑263; V.180; Cons. Cat. 36, 266). The keystone is also in the same place (ib. 37). This arch was removed in 1662 by Alexander VII in order that the Corso might be widened.​1 It was known earlier as the arcus Octaviani (PBS III.269‑271), but from the sixteenth century it was called Arco di Portogallo because it adjoined the residence of the Portuguese ambassador, the Palazzo Peretti-Fiano. The foundation of one of the piers has been found beneath the present palace, 2.36 metres below the level of the Corso. Extant drawings of this arch, dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (HJ 466; PBS II.35, and No. 52; LR 507), show a single archway flanked on each side with two columns, and surrounded with a cornice (Ill. 2). The architecture seems to belong to a period later than that of Hadrian, and it is quite possible that the arch itself is of considerably later date — being in fact sometimes assigned definitely to Marcus Aurelius — and that it was decorated with sculpture from earlier monuments, as was the case with the arch of Constantine. Indeed, Hülsen (DAP 2.xi.174) believes it to belong to the fourth or fifth century, and to have been built with fragments of earlier buildings. One of the sides was demolished in the twelfth century, when a fragment of the cornice was removed to S. Maria in Trastevere (HJ 465‑468; BC 1891, 18‑23; 1896, 239‑246; 1915, 333). This is against its having been a 'mediaeval pasticcio' (Cons. 36).

The Authors' Note:

1 An inscription was set up at the time to mark the spot, and may still be seen on the north side of the Corso.

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Page updated: 22 May 20