The Arch of Septimius Severus (28 m high and 25 m wide) was erected in 203 to mark the 10th anniversary of the accession of the emperor Septimius Severus (r. 193-211).
The inscription tells us that the arch was awarded to the emperor and his two sons, Caracalla (188-217) and Geta (189-211), for having ‘restored the Republic and expanded the dominion of the Roman people’.
The arch was originally crowned with a gilded bronze statue of the emperor and his sons riding in triumph in a chariot drawn by six horses, with foot-soldiers to either side and a cavalryman at each of the corners.
Septimius Severus was born (145) in Leptis Magna, a thriving port in what is now Libya, and grew up speaking Latin with a pronounced provincial accent. He came to power in the so-called Year of the Five Emperors.
Severus had intended that his two sons should rule jointly following his death. But Caracalla, the elder son, had other ideas, and had Geta killed less than a year into their rule.
The original inscription on the arch included Geta's name, but this was eliminated when Caracalla proclaimed his brother in damnatio memoriae. In other words, Geta was written out of history and all references to him were destroyed.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private and
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