ARCH of CONSTATINE ROME
ARCH of CONSTATINE in ROME
The Arch of Constantine Archo di Costantino, is a triumphal arch in Rome dedicated to the emperor Constantine the Great. The arch was commissioned by the Roman Senate to commemorate Constantine's victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in AD 312. Situated between the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill, the arch spans the Via Triumphalis, the route taken by victorious military leaders when they entered the city in a triumphal procession. Dedicated in 315, it is the largest Roman triumphal arch. The arch is constructed of brick-faced concrete covered in marble.
The three bay design with detached columns was first used for the Arch of Septimius Severus in the Roman Forum and repeated in several other arches now lost.
Though dedicated to Constantine, much of the sculptural decoration consists of reliefs and statues removed from earlier triumphal monuments dedicated to Trajan , Hadrian (117–138) and Marcus Aurelius (161–180), with the portrait heads replaced with his own.
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The arch, which was constructed between 312 and 315, was dedicated by the Senate to commemorate ten years of Constantine's reign (306–337) and his victory over the then reigning emperor Maxentius (306–312) at the Battle of Milvian Bridge on 28 October 312, as described on its attic inscription, and officially opened on 25 July 315. Not only did the Roman senate give the arch for Constantine's victory, they also were celebrating decennalia: a series of games that happened every decade during the Roman Empire. On these occasions they also said many prayers and renewed both spiritual and mundane vows. However, Constantine had actually entered Rome on 29 October 312, amidst great rejoicing, and the Senate then commissioned the monument. Constantine then left Rome within two months and did not return until 326.
The location, between the Palatine Hill and the Caelian Hill, spanned the ancient route of Roman triumphs (Via triumphalis) at its origin, where it diverged from the Via sacra. This route was that taken by the emperors when they entered the city in triumph. This route started at the Campus Martius, led through the Circus Maximus, and around the Palatine Hill; immediately after the Arch of Constantine, the procession would turn left at the Meta Sudans and march along the Via sacra to the Forum Romanum and on to the Capitoline Hill, passing through both the Arches of Titus and Septimius Severus.
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During the Middle Ages, the Arch of Constantine was incorporated into one of the family strongholds of ancient Rome, as shown in the painting by Herman van Swanevelt, here. Works of restoration were first carried out in the 18th century, the last excavations have taken place in the late 1990s, just before the Great Jubilee of 2000. The arch served as the finish line for the marathon athletic event for the 1960 Summer Olympics.
There has been much controversy over the origins of the arch, with some scholars claiming that it should no longer be referred to as Constantine's arch, but is in fact an earlier work from the time of Hadrian, reworked during Constantine's reign, or at least the lower part. Another theory holds that it was erected, or at least started, by Maxentius, and one scholar believed it was as early as the time of Domitian
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The arch is heavily decorated with parts of older monuments, which assume a new meaning in the context of the Constantinian building. As it celebrates the victory of Constantine, the new "historic" friezes illustrating his campaign in Italy convey the central meaning: the praise of the emperor, both in battle and in his civilian duties. The other imagery supports this purpose: decoration taken from the "golden times" of the Empire under the 2nd century emperors whose reliefs were re-used places Constantine next to these "good emperors", and the content of the pieces evokes images of the victorious and pious ruler.
On the top of each column, large sculptures representing Dacians can be seen, which date from Trajan. Above the central archway is the inscription, forming the most prominent portion of the attic and is identical on both sides of the arch. Flanking the inscription on both sides are four pairs of relief panels above the minor archways, eight in total. These were taken from an unknown monument erected in honour of Marcus Aurelius.
The general layout of the main facade is identical on both sides of the arch, consisting of four columns on bases, dividing the structure into a central arch and two lateral arches, the latter being surmounted by two round reliefs over a horizontal frieze. The four columns are of Corinthian order made of Numidian yellow marble (giallo antico), one of which has been transferred into the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano and was replaced by a white marble column. The columns stand on bases (plinths or socles), decorated on three sides. The reliefs on the front show Victoria, either inscribing a shield or holding palm branches, while those to the side show captured barbarians alone or with Roman soldiers.
The pairs of round reliefs above each lateral archway date to the times of Emperor Hadrian. They display scenes of hunting and sacrificing: (north side, left to right) hunt of a boar, sacrifice to Apollo, hunt of a lion, sacrifice to Hercules. 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. 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. The reliefs, c. 2 m in diameter, were framed in porphyry; this framing is only extant on the right side of the northern facade. 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 horizontal frieze below the round reliefs are the main parts from the time of Constantine, running around the monument, one strip above each lateral archway and including the west and east sides of the arch. These "historical" reliefs depict scenes from the Italian campaign of Constantine against Maxentius which was the reason for the construction of the monument. The frieze starts at the western side with the Departure from Milan (Profectio). It continues on the southern, face, with the Siege of Verona (Obsidio) on the left (South west), an event which was of great importance to the war in Northern Italy. On the right (South east) is depicted the Battle of Milvian Bridge (Proelium) with Constantine's army victorious and the enemy drowning in the river Tiber. On the eastern side, Constantine and his army enter Rome (Ingressus); the artist seems to have avoided using imagery of the triumph, as Constantine probably did not want to be shown triumphant over the Eternal City. On the northern face, looking towards the city, are two strips with the emperor's actions after taking possession of Rome. On the left (North east) is Constantine speaking to the citizens on the Forum Romanum (Oratio), while to the right (North west) is the final panel with Constantine distributing money to the people