The Mosaic of Time: Rome’s Arch of Constantine
Arch of Constantine: Origin and Location
The Arch of Constantine is possibly made from the bare materials of a previous arch and is situated near the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. On approach to the Colosseum, the Flavian Amphitheater and the most impressive Triumphal Arch on the square’s side are noticeable.
This arch, built in 315 AD, was a gift from the Senate and the Roman people to Emperor Constantine who defeated his rival Maxentius in the famed battle of Ponte Milvio in 312 AD.
Arch of Constantine: Structure and Design
The grandeur of the arch is prominent along the famous Via dei Trionfi, a road used by triumphant leaders returning from successful wars. Designed with three arches, it mirrors the arch erected in honor of Septimius Severus in the Roman Forum. Its decorations, typical of Roman propaganda monuments, affirm the Constantinian domain. Yet, it is unique because it was constructed using elements from other famous works, like decorations from Trajan’s Markets and ornaments from monuments dedicated to Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius.
Controversies and Theories
Some theories suggest that the arch is a revamped version of an earlier arch honoring Hadrian. Though unproven, it is known that many of the decorations on the Arch of Constantine narrate the military triumphs and failures of the 2nd-century emperors, inspiring Constantine to legitimize his reign over Rome.
Artistic Representation and Interpretations
The emperors’ portraits were replaced with Constantine’s, where he is depicted larger than surrounding figures in the original decorations. These figures lack proportion, realism, or perspective, predicting the future art style. Despite the arch’s monumental stature, the quality of work is generally perceived as subpar. This is evident in the original parts and the inability to construct a monument from scratch.
It is crucial to remember that Constantine aspired to emulate Trajan, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius, renowned for their exceptional administration and military prowess. The original parts of the arch represent the significant events of the battle against Maxentius, portraying the emperor’s virtues like piety, kindness, and generosity, which are depicted in the Latin inscriptions within the central arch.
How to Reach the Arch of Constantine
The Arch of Constantine is located on via di San Gregorio. The nearest Metro station is Colosseo on line B. Buses numbered 51, 75, 81, 85, 87, 117,118, 186, 673, and 810 have stops nearby.