Arch of Titus Rome

The Arch of Titus is a monument between the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill in Rome. It is one of only three antique triumphal arches that are still standing. It was built in the 1st century AD, after the emperor Titus had conquered Jerusalem. It consists of a single arch on a square foundation. Its decorations refer to the emperor and his victories and to religious themes.

Arch of Titus Rome

History and description

Arch of Titus Rome
Arch of Titus

The Arch of Titus (Arco di Tito, in Italian) was constructed to celebrate the emperor’s victory in Jerusalem in the year 70 AD. Construction began in the year 81, when Domitian was emperor, and finished in the year 100. It was the Roman Senate who had decided to have the monument erected.

The arch was the entrance to the Roman Forum from the Colosseum side. The inscription on that side says “The Senate and the Roman People to the divine Titus, son of the divine Vespasian, Vespasian August” (Senatus populusque romanus divo Tito divi Vespasiani filio Vespasiano Augusto).

Titus, who had died in the year 80, was Domitian‘s brother and his predecessor as emperor. Titus’ triumphal parade after having quenched the Palestinian rebellion in the year 71 is depicted on the monument, together with inscriptions describing the spoils he managed to carry home.

The arch is made of marble and measures 13,5 by 5 meters. It stands 15,5 meters tall and was probably crowned by a statue depicting Titus in a chariot pulled by elephants.

The bronze letters the inscription was made of have disappeared, but the holes where they were attached are still visible.

The reliefs on the inside of the monument depict the triumphal parade through the Porta Trionfale. The ones on the south side show troops carrying the spoils of victory, including the seven-armed chandelier, that were taken from the Temple of Jerusalem. The ones on the north side show Titus himself on his quadriga. He is preceded by the lictors (a sort of bodyguard) carrying the fasces, rods with axes that symbolized their power. The fasces would later give their name to fascism. The Goddess Roma is holding the horses, while the emperor is crowned by the goddess of victory. The allegorical figures behind the quadriga symbolize the people (bare-breasted) and the Senate (with the toga).

Titus is depicted again in the central part of the vault, this time seated on an eagle. The bird flies him up into the sky, which symbolizes his deification.

The keystones depict the figures of Roma and Genius, the latter being the protective God of Roman houses.

The figures above the architrave depict flying Victories with banners on top of globes.

During the middle ages the Arch of Titus was known as the Portico delle Sette Lucerne (“of the Seven Lamps”). This name came from the depiction of a candelabrum, which was supposed to have been brought to Rome from Jerusalem. The carriers of this candelabrum had an argument while crossing the Ponte Quattro Capi and the object fell into the Tiber.

It was believed that Jews never walked underneath the arch, because of Titus’ victory in Jerusalem, which was supposed to be a black page in the history of their people.

The inscription on the western side states that Pope Pius VII had the arch restored in 1821. The reason the arch was still standing is that the Frangipani family has incorporated it in a fortress.

Pope Clemens VII was responsible for an earlier restoration, in 1716.

The architect responsible for the last restoration was Valadier. In order to do this he had the monument completely disassembled and then put back together. Only the central part was still intact when he started the work. For the missing pieces he used travertine marble.

Location Arch of Titus

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