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Bill Thayer

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 p45  Arcus Titi

Article on pp45‑47 of

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

Black-and‑white images are from Platner; any color photos are mine © William P. Thayer

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Arcus Titi: erected in honour of Titus and in commemoration of the siege of Jerusalem in summa Sacra via (Haterii relief, CIL VI.19151; Mem. Accad. di Napoli XXIV. (1906), 227‑262,​1 but not finished and dedicated until after his death (CIL VI.945). There is no mention of this arch in ancient literature, though it may be alluded to by Martial (de spect. 2)  p46 quoted s.v. Domus Aurea (p167). The theory that it was erected under Nerva and Trajan is improbable (CJ 1915‑16, 131‑141). In the Middle Ages it formed part of the stronghold of the Frangipani, a chamber was constructed in the upper part of the archway, and the level of the roadway was lowered considerably, exposing the travertine foundations. The injury to the structure was so great that it was taken down in 1822 and rebuilt by Valadier,​a who restored a large part of the attic and the outer half of both piers in travertine. The frieze and inscription are therefore preserved only on the side towards the Colosseum. The foundations of the arch stand on the pavement of the Clivus Palatinus (q.v.), and therefore it has been thought by some that the arch stood originally farther north and was moved when the temple of Venus and Roma was built (CR 1902, 286; Mitt. 1905, 118; BPW 1908, 1034; Mél. 1908, 247‑248).

It is, however, far more likely that the pavement belongs to the pre-Neronian period, and that the position of the arch was the only one possible, given the existence of the vestibule of the domus Aurea. The arch was constructed of Pentelic marble, and is 13.50 metres wide, 15.40 high, and 4.75 deep. The archway is 8.30 metres high and 5.36 wide. Above it is a simple entablature, and an attic 4.40 metres in height, on which is the inscription, which is preserved only on the east side. On each side is an engaged and fluted Corinthian column, standing on a square pedestal. The capitals of these columns are the earliest examples of the Composite style. On the inner jambs of the arch are the two famous reliefs (PBS III.276‑279; V.178; Strong, cit.), that on the south

The two active areas are the 7‑branched candlestick, and the triumphal arch at the far right.

representing the spoils from the temple at Jerusalem, the table of shewbread, the seven-branched candlestick, and the silver trumpets, which are being carried in triumph into the city; and that on the north

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representing Titus standing in a quadriga, the horses of which are led by Roma, while Victory crowns the emperor with laurel as he passes through a triumphal arch. In the centre of the ceiling of the archway, which is finished in soffits (lacunaria), is a relief of the apotheosis of Titus, representing him (or rather his bust) as being carried up to heaven by an eagle. The frieze​2 contains a procession of various personages both civil and military, and of animals being led to sacrifice; we may recognise a personification of the river god of the Jordan in a recumbent figure, carried by three men. In the spandrels are the usual winged Victories; while on the keystones are figures of Roma (or Virtus) towards the Colosseum, and the Genius populi Romani (or Bonus Eventus​3 or Honos) towards the Forum. In type the arch is the simplest of those existing in Rome; the sides of the piers, which are not adorned with sculpture, were adorned with niches like windows (PAS II.47‑49; LR  p47 201‑203; HC 247‑250; HJ 15‑16 and reff.; Rossini, Archi Trionfali 31‑37; D'Espouy, Fr. I.95; II.80; SScR 105‑118; DR 448‑454; RE Suppl. IV.479; ASA 116, 117; HFP 52).

The Authors' Notes:

1 In this article the relief is assigned to the Flavian period (so also SScR 120, 130‑131); but the appearance in it of the goddess Roma, which one would otherwise suppose to be an allusion to the neighbouring Templum Veneris et Romae (q.v.), then becomes difficult to explain (HF 1193). The question has become more important since an attempt has been made to draw conclusions as to the state of the Amphitheatrum Flavium (q.v.) at the time of the accession of Titus. This, however, we have no right to do; for the arch of Titus certainly appears in it, and was equally certainly not erected until after his death.

2 For a drawing at Windsor (Inv. 8182) which may represent a lost section of this frieze, see AJA 1914, 479‑483.

3 Not Fortuna, because the figure is male.

Thayer's Note:

a French-born Italian architect Giuseppe Valadier was a man of exceptional classical taste perfectly suited for the job. For a handsome example of his work in a rather unusual setting, see the Leo XII Chapel at Frasassi near Genga.

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