Arch of Titus
Triumphal arch with inscriptions & sculptures honoring the military victories of Emperor Titus. Visitors to Rome can see the Arch of Titus as they explore the Roman Forum, and it stands as a testament to the grandeur and symbolism of Roman triumphal architecture. The Arch of Titus (Italian: Arco di Tito; Latin: Arcus Titi) is a 1st-century AD honorific arch, located on the Via Sacra, Rome, just to the south-east of the Roman Forum. It was constructed in c. AD 81 by Emperor Domitian shortly after the death of his older brother Titus to commemorate Titus’s official deification or consecratio and the victory of Titus together with their father, Vespasian, over the Jewish rebellion in Judaea.
The arch contains panels depicting the triumphal procession celebrated in AD 71 after the Roman victory culminating in the fall of Jerusalem, and provides one of the few contemporary depictions of artifacts from Herod’s Temple. Although the panels are not explicitly stated as illustrating this event, they closely parallel the narrative of the Roman procession described a decade prior in Josephus’ The Jewish War.[
It became a symbol of the Jewish diaspora, and the menorah depicted on the arch served as the model for the menorah used as the emblem of the state of Israel.
The arch has provided the general model for many triumphal arches erected since the 16th century. It is the inspiration for the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. It holds an important place in art history, being the focus of Franz Wickhoff’s appreciation of Roman art in contrast to the then-prevailing view.
The Arch of Titus is an ancient Roman triumphal arch located on the Via Sacra, just to the southeast of the Roman Forum in Rome. Here are some key details about the Arch of Titus:
- Construction: The arch was built in AD 81 by the Roman Emperor Domitian, shortly after the death of his older brother Titus, who was the emperor from AD 79 to AD 81. The arch commemorates Titus’ victories, particularly the Siege of Jerusalem in AD 70.
- Architectural Style: The Arch of Titus is a single arch with a single passage. It follows the typical Roman triumphal arch design, characterized by a large central arch for pedestrian and chariot passage, flanked by two smaller side arches.
- Decorative Features: The arch is adorned with reliefs that depict scenes from Titus’ military campaign, including the Siege of Jerusalem. Notably, the reliefs depict the spoils taken from the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, including the menorah (seven-branched candelabrum) and other sacred objects. The depiction of these spoils makes the arch an important historical and cultural artifact.
- Inscription: An inscription on the attic of the arch dedicates it to the deified Titus and his deified father, Vespasian. The inscription translates to “The Senate and People of Rome [dedicate this] to the divine Titus Vespasianus Augustus, son of the divine Vespasian.”
- Later History: Over the centuries, the Arch of Titus suffered from natural disasters and the passage of time. It underwent several restorations, with parts of it being rebuilt or repaired.
- Symbolism: The arch symbolizes the military victories of Titus and the military power of Rome. The depiction of the spoils from Jerusalem also serves as a powerful reminder of the conquest of the city.
- Modern Significance: The Arch of Titus remains one of the best-preserved triumphal arches from ancient Rome. It is an important archaeological and historical site, providing insights into the military achievements of the Flavian dynasty.