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Arch of Titus

Arch of Titus

This well-preserved single arch, made of white marble, was erected by Domitian (A.D. 51-96) after the death of Titus (A.D. 39-81) and celebrates his apotheosis. Thus, in the inscription he is called “divus” (“divine”) and under the arch is a relief showing an eagle carrying a bust of Titus to the heavens. One of the two large reliefs on the sides of the arch shows Titus riding his chariot in triumph over the Jews; the panel opposite shows Roman soldiers carrying the treasures from the Temple in Jerusalem during the triumphal parade. The arch stood at a significant spot: it spanned the Sacred Way, over which Titus' triumph progressed; and it was also at the intersection with the Clivus Palatinus, the road rising up the Palatine to the facade of the palace of Titus' brother, the emperor Domitian. Titus also had a triumphal arch, which was erected at the curved (eastern) end of the Circus Maximus.

Arcus Titi

From Samuel Ball Platner, A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, rev. Thomas Ashby. Oxford: 1929, p. 45-47.

Erected in honour of Titus and in commemoration of the siege of Jerusalem in summa Sacra via (Haterii relief, CIL VI.19151; Mem. Accad. di Napoli XXIV. (1906), 227-262, but not finished and dedicated until after his death (CIL VI.945). There is no mention of this arch in ancient literature, though it may be alluded to by Martial (de spect. 2) quoted s.v. Domus Aurea (p167). The theory that it was erected under Nerva and Trajan is improbable (CJ 1915-16, 131-141). In the Middle Ages it formed part of the stronghold of the Frangipani, a chamber was constructed in the upper part of the archway, and the level of the roadway was lowered considerably, exposing the travertine foundations. The injury to the structure was so great that it was taken down in 1822 and rebuilt by Valadier, who restored a large part of the attic and the outer half of both piers in travertine. The frieze and inscription are therefore preserved only on the side towards the Colosseum. The foundations of the arch stand on the pavement of the Clivus Palatinus (q.v.), and therefore it has been thought by some that the arch stood originally farther north and was moved when the temple of Venus and Roma was built (CR 1902, 286; Mitt. 1905, 118; BPW 1908, 1034; Mél. 1908, 247-248).

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Additional source material

  • Ancient Library Sources (from Peter Aicher, Rome Alive: A Source Guide to the Ancient City, vol. 1, Bolchazy-Carducci: 2004) [Works cited]

    57. Arch of Titus. Commentary.

    Of the three triumphal arches remaining in Rome—Severus's, Titus's, and Constantine's—the one in honor of the deified Titus (on the center coffer inside his arch, see him carried aloft by an eagle) is by far the most elegant, even as the surviving literary record provides, in Josephus's history of the Jewish Wars, the fullest and most harrowing account of Rome's destruction of an enemy's capital [11.7].

    The relief-sculpture carved inside the arch on the Palatine-side depicts a scene from Titus's triumph, and includes two of the holiest objects from the Temple of Jerusalem, as described by Josephus below before they became the booty of Rome. In the center is the seven-branched menorah, and to its right the heavy table for the Shew-Bread (the Bread of Presence). The passage by Procopius helps to trace the whereabouts of these objects some five centuries later.

    The inscription on the attic of the Colosseum-side refers to the restoration that Pius VII carried out in beginning in 1822. Giuseppe Valadier, the leading Italian architect of his day who also designed one of the buttresses to shore up the Colosseum, directed this restoration, which involved a complete rebuilding of the arch (with the Arch of Trajan in Beneventum as a model). By substituting travertine stone for missing sections of the original Pentelic marble, Valadier pioneered a technique of restoration that readily distinguishes the original portion of a monument from the reconstructed portion.


    57. Arch of Titus. Sources.

    57.1.

    SENATUS / POPULUSQUE ROMANUS / DIVO TITO DIVI VESPASIANI F(ilio) / VESPASIANO AUGUSTO

    The Senate and People of Rome dedicate this arch to the deified Titus Vespasian Augustus [d. AD 81], son of the deified Vespasian.

    ILS 265 = CIL 6.945


    57.2.

    [An inscription recorded on another arch to Titus, since destroyed, near the Circus Maximus:] The Senate and People of Rome dedicate this arch to the Emperor Titus… because, with the Senate's advice and counsel and with the auguries, he conquered the nation of the Jews [in AD 70] and destroyed Jerusalem, which all of the generals, kings, and nations before Titus had either failed to do or even to attempt.

    ILS 264 = CIL 6.944


    57.3.

    [The temple in Jerusalem was a splendid edifice with numerous parts.] After you passed through the monumental gates you entered the ground floor of the sanctuary. This structure was ninety feet high, ninety feet long, and thirty feet wide. Its length, however, was divided into two parts. The first hall was sixty feet long, and contained three of the world's most incredible and famous works of art: the lampstand, the table, and the incense altar. The lampstand, which branched into seven lamps, symbolized the seven planets; the twelve loaves of bread [the “Shew-Bread,” or “Bread of Presence”] on the table represented the circle of the Zodiac and the year; the altar of incense is kept replenished with thirteen aromatic incenses collected from both land and sea, and from places both inhabited and deserted, thus symbolizing that all creation is of God and for God.

    Josephus, The Jewish War 5.215-18


  • Stanford Digital Forma Urbis Romae Project
  • German Archaeological Institute
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  • Wikipedia

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