The triumphal Arch of Constantine commemorates the triumph of Constantine 1 (272-337). It was erected in 315 AD by the Roman Senate to commemorate Constantine I’s victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 AD. Constantine was the last pagan emperor of Rome.
Faced with a much smaller army than Maxentius, Constantine carried the Christian symbol of a cross into battle and had his troops do the same. After his victory, Christianity became the accepted religion across the Roman Empire.
Here are some important facts:
*The arch spans the Via Triumphalis, the way taken by the emperors when they entered the city in triumph.
*The Arch of Constantine is the largest of the three remaining imperial triumphal arches in Rome.
*The arch, decorated with statues and reliefs, has survived the times relatively unscathed.
Above the monument’s arches, there are sculpted panels and an inscription in Latin, a common feature of triumphal arches. The inscription, above the central arch, is a long one and is repeated on both sides of the arch. The letters would originally have been inlaid with gilded bronze. Translated into English it reads:
“To the Emperor Caesar Flavius Constantine, the Greatest, Pius, Felix, Augustus:
inspired by (a) divinity, in the greatness of his mind,
he used his army to save the state by the just force of arms
from a tyrant on the one hand and every kind of factionalism on the other;
therefore the Senate and the People of Rome
have dedicated this exceptional arch to his triumphs. ”
Triumphal arches were erected as permanent commemorative monuments that portray physical manifestations of political power; including France’s Emperor Napoleon I with the Paris Arch de Triomphe du Carrousel.
The pairs of round reliefs above each lateral archway date to the times of Emperor Hadrian. They display scenes of hunting and sacrificing including:
2. On the south side, the left pair show the departure for the hunt (see below) and sacrifice to Silvanus, while those on the right (illustrated on the right) show the hunt of a bear and sacrifice to Diana.
3. The head of the emperor (originally Hadrian) has been reworked in all medallions: on the north side, into Constantine in the hunting scenes and into Licinius or Constantius I in the sacrifice scenes; on the south side, vice versa.
4. The reliefs, c. 2 m in diameter, were framed in porphyry.
5. Similar medallions, of Constantinian origin, are located on the small sides of the arch; the eastern side shows the Sun rising, on the western side, the Moon. Both are on chariots.
The spandrels of the main archway are decorated with reliefs depicting victory figures with trophies (illustrated below), those of the smaller archways show river gods. Column bases and spandrel reliefs are from the time of Constantine.