A triumphal arch is a commemorative monument in the form of a single arch or a trio of arches of which the central one is larger than the outer two.
Triumphal arches originated with the Roman practice of building temporary arched structures for festivals in the second century BC. By the end of the next century, arches were erected in stone as permanent monuments.
Triumphal arches generally honored emperors and commemorated achievements such as military victories like Constantine's defeat of Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge or civic projects like Trajan's building of the Via Traiana in Benevento.
Many of the triumphal arches erected in the provinces commemorated visits by Roman emperors.
Inscriptions, which were usually placed on attic stories, noted the contributions of the emperors responsible for the achievements. Mention was often made of their divinity and important relatives. The dedication of the Arch of Titus, for instance, includes a reference to Titus' father, Vespasian, who was emperor when Titus sacked the city of Jerusalem, the event commemorated.
Bronze, which has long since been removed, was placed within the incised letters to make the inscription stand out.
Division into Stories
The subjects of the reliefs were related to the persons or events being commemorated.
Unfortunately, the quadrigas made for triumphal arches have long-since been melted down, but an idea of the horses can be visualized from the four bronze horses decorating San Marco in Venice. They are commonly believed to be late Roman copies of Greek originals that had been brought to Constantinople by the late Roman emperor Theodosius II (408-450), who had them set up in the city's hippodrome as a quadriga. Reproductions now stand outside the cathedral, and the originals are displayed in the Marciano Museum.
In the Neoclassical period, which began in the second half of the eighteenth century, triumphal arches were replicated and dedicated to contemporary leaders and events. A number were commissioned by Napoleon.
In the twentieth century, the Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen re-created the triumphal arch in a modern idiom and on an unprecedented scale in St. Louis with the Gateway Arch (1948-68).
Number to Survive
Although eroded by time, their blockish shape and solidity has favored the survival of triumphal arches, and about 125 have survived.
Many of the surviving monuments lie in cities around the Mediterranean.
|♦||Arch of Augustus, Rimini, 27 BC|
|♦||Arch of Augustus, Rome, 19 BC|
|♦||Arch of Tiberius, Orange, France, AD 21|
|♦||Arch of Titus, Rome, AD 81|
|♦||Arch of Trajan, Benevento, AD 114|
|♦||Arch of Septimius Severus, Rome, AD 203|
|♦||Arch of Constantine, Rome, AD 315|
Arch of Titus, Rome, AD 81