Of the thirty-six triumphal arches that are recorded as standing in Rome in the fourth century only three survive.
The oldest is the Arch of Titus, which was erected shortly after the emperor's death in 81 CE. Titus had died the year before at the age of fifty, having reigned for only two years. The arch was erected to honour the victories of Titus, and his father Vespasian, in the Judaean War, which ended with the sack of Jerusalem in 70 CE.
The two badly-worn reliefs on the inside of the arch depict scenes from the triumph that Titus celebrated with his father on their return to Rome. One shows the goddess Roma guiding Titus's chariot, while the other shows the triumphal procession bearing the spoils of war. In the centre of the arch vault is an image of the deified emperor mounted on an eagle.
The arch was originally crowned with an elaborate bronze statuary group displaying Titus (and his father Vespasian) in a quadriga (four-horse chariot).
Over time the arch was incorporated into other buildings as can be seen in an engraving by Piranesi. On the orders of Pope Pius VII (r. 1800-23), these structures were demolished and the Roman architect Giuseppe Valadier (1762-1839) was commissioned to dismantle the arch and reconstruct what it originally looked like. Valadier used travertine instead of marble to make it clear which parts were original and which were not, as the inscription on the west face records.
Blogging about Rome:
its art, history and culture.
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
small-group walking tours