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Arch of Titus

Occasion of its Construction

Following the death of Emperor Titus in AD 81, Domitian raised this arch to honor Titus and Vespasian for their victories in the Judean War, namely the conquest of Jerusalem. Made of pentelic marble, the arch stands 50 feet (15.4 m) high, 43 feet (13.5 m) wide, and 15 feet (4.75 m) deep, and is surrounded by composite columns of the Corinthian order.

Its History

The arch was not left untouched through Rome’s later history. The Frangipani family used it as part of their castle in the 12th and 13th centuries. It remained that way until Sixtus IV cleared away the surrounding buildings in the late 15th century AD, the remains of which were obliterated not long afterward.

Its Reconstruction

Early in the 19th century, Stern and Valadier took apart the decrepit arch and reconstructed it with travertine, carefully making the changes obviously different from the original. This makes it easy for modern visitors to distinguish the ancient fragments from the replaced sections.

Dedicatory Inscription

The inscription reads: “Senatus Populusque Romanus Divo Tito Divi Vespasiani Filio Vespasiano Augusto,” which is translated as “The Roman Senate and People to Deified Titus, Vespasian Augustus, son of Deified Vespasian.” Indeed, there is a panel on the underside of the arch depicting Titus flying on an eagle, meant as a symbol of divinity.

Spoils of Jerusalem

Domitian raised this arch to honor Titus and Vespasian for their conquest of Jerusalem. This relief depicts the subsequent triumphal procession in AD 71. One can see the table of showbread, the menorah, and the silver trumpets being carried in the victory march toward the triumphal gate (depicted on the far right), to be brought to Vespasian’s Temple of Peace.

Titus's Procession

Here Titus himself can be seen in a quadigra (chariot) with the goddess of Rome at his side and the goddess of victory crowning him with a wreath. The man standing behind the horse represented the spirit of the Roman people. Behind him stood a figure wearing the toga, which depicted the Senate.

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Related Websites

The Arch of Titus (Khan Academy). A helpful article with lots of pictures. They also have a video about the arch.

The Arch of Titus, Rome (Ancient History Encyclopedia). Another overview, this one with an analysis of Roman artistic style.

Arch of Titus Project (Yeshiva University). YU has an entire project dedicated to studying the Arch of Titus. This page offers lots of information about their work.

The Arch of Titus’s Menorah Panel in Color (BAS). Part of Yeshiva University’s work has been trying to reconstruct how the arch would have looked with its original paint job. This article covers their colorized version of the arch’s most famous relief.