The 4 Major Periods in Ancient Rome:
  1. REPUBLIC 509 - 27 BCE
  2. EARLY EMPIRE 27 BCE - 96 CE <<<<<
  3. HIGH EMPIRE 96-192 CE
  4. LATE EMPIRE 192 – 476 CE

    Ancient Rome MAIN PAGE

EARLY EMPIRE 27 BCE - 96 CE [123 total years]
[Emperor, When in power, Total years]

Augustus 27 BCE – 14 CE [41]

The JULIO-CLAUDIANS 14 – 69 CE [55]
  • Tiberius 14 – 37 CE (23)
  • Caligula 37 – 41 CE (4)
  • Claudius 41 – 54 CE (13)
  • Nero 54 – 68 CE (14)

The FLAVIANS 69 – 96 CE [27]
  • Vespasian 69 – 79 CE (10)
  • Titus 79 – 81 CE (2)
  • Domitian 81 – 96 CE (15)

EARLY EMPIRE - important terms
  • return to classicism
  • public structures
  • triumphal arch
  • Pax Romana

Historical background:
  • Murder of Julius Caesar on Ides of March, 15th in 44 B.C. led to civil war lasting 13 years.
  • Octavian (better as Augustus, grand-nephew/adopted son of Caesar) was 17/18 when Caesar assassinated, ruled for 44 years.
  • Caesar's adopted / appointed heir was Octavian Augustus (his great nephew)
  • he inherited Caesars fortune under age 19.
  • Wanted to avenge Caesars death, fought and defeated Mark Anthony. Joined Ant and ally Lepidus siding against Brutus and Cassius, Anthony took east providence, Octavian the west. Used Ant’s entanglement with Queen Cleopatra of Egypt to turn and declare war on his rival. 2 committed suicide and in 30 became province in Roman Empire; Avenged JC's murder = routed Anthony and Cleopatra before age 32.
  • In 27 BCE - the old Roman Republic converted to new Roman Empire when Senate conferred title of Augustus on Octavian.
    • Senate conferred these titles to Octavian: Consul & Imperator
    • Senate considered him the Princeps - "first citizen" of Rome
    • claimed to have "restored the Republic", although Rome was now an "Empire". Augustus was said to have ruled Rome much like a Republic during much of his reign.
    • rule by elders came to end, portraits of youthful head of state begin.
    • youthful portrayals throughout entire reign. Even portraits at 76 shown as handsome youth. Ridiculous today, but few actually saw: all knew by manipulated portraits.
  • 12 BCE made him commander-in-chief; Title: Pontifex Maximus = “high priest” (the Empire's highest religious figure and political leader)
  • help from politically astute 2nd wife - Lydia (outlived him)
  • peace
    • Augustus brought peace and prosperity, known as Pax Romana or Pax Augusta Romana. It simply means "Augustan peace".
    • peace prevailed for 200 years!
    • his story: spared lives of citizens who asked for mercy, preferred to preserve rather than exterminate foreign peoples. Ancestors had made temple in forum to god Janus- doors kept open in times of war and closed in universal peace of land and sea. Only 2X in history had been closed, but when Aug led closed 3X. After I had extinguished civil wars with universal consent and was in control, I transferred power to the senate and people of Rome.
  • encouraged artists and poets, expressed peace and prosperity.
  • Ovid: 3rd great poet, wrote “Art of Love” handbook for art of seduction, sensual view of life and love. Counter to Aug’s moral principles trying to raise moral standards of upper class (the previous year had banished only child Julia for unrestrained sexuality). Ovid tried to placate with Metamorphoses of creation to assasination of JC, who then transformed into a star. As he was finishing, summoned to Rome for interview w/Aug, learned to be banished. Repeated appeals for clemency denied, died in foreign land.

The following chart lists some of the key / major events in Augustus' rule, the corresponding dates and his age (approximate):

44 BCE
JCs assassinated
31 BCE
completed defeat of mark Anthony & Cleopatra (in Actium - NW Greece)
27 BCE
*declared Emperor
30 BCE
Egypt became providence of Roman Empire
20 BCE
Augustus Primaporta created
12 BCE
Senate declared Augustus as Pontifex Maximus (chief priest of state religion)
dedication of Ara Pacis Augustae (on his wife Livia's birthday)
14 CE
Augustus dies

Remarkable reign
Ruled from 27 BCE until 14 CE (41 years!)

Republic vs. Empire?

Q: So, exactly what makes him the first "emperor"? What is the big difference between the Republic and the Empire?
  • Historians note 27 BCE as transition from "Republic" to "Empire"; However, his rule was essentially a continuation of the Republic (same constitutional offices). In fact, Augustus claimed to have ruled it that way. He claimed to have 'restored the Republic' for the Roman people.
  • Differences:
    • Augustus was recognized as Princepts (1st citizen) by Senate.
    • Augustus occupied all key positions - Consul & Imperator (commander in chief; root word of emperor)
    • Then, in 12 BCE, he was bestowed with the title of Pontifex Maximus (chief priest of all state religion). At this point, these offices gave Augustus control of all aspects of Roman public life.

Peace for the next 200 years!
  • Pax Augusta - how it was known in his day
  • Pax Romana - what people eventually called it
  • *Q: Why is this important for us? A: Because this was a time of great artistic production!

  • Quarries were opened in the second half of 2nd C. BCE.
  • Prior to this, marble had to be imported. Costly, therefore used sparingly.
  • Now, readily available.
  • Augustus famously boasted that he found Rome "a city of brick and made it into a city of marble".

Augustus Primaporta
Q: Explain the political messages inherent in this work
Q: How is the use of verism mixed with classicism ?
Q: Concerning gender, how is the female form used?
Q: How has Augustus established himself as the most legitimate leader for the populous (hint: this was to become the norm for subsequent emperors from now on)?

Orator's pose (he is giving a command, in the role of the general - the Imperator)

Prototype? Greek specifically Polykleitos' Spear Bearer; but, athleticism replaced by political dominance

Placement? Placed throughout empire to serve as a visual reminder to populous...
  • that security was granted for the citizenship
  • that the leadership being depicted was the source of this benevolence

Side note: same head, different bodies
  • sculptors placed portrait heads of important Romans on many types of bodies.
  • the 'type' depended on their respective position(s) and / or the various fictitious guises assumed.
  • this practice extended to the imperial families' wives, and extended families as well.
  • Augustus' portraits include:
    • armed general (as seen here)
    • recipient of civic crown
    • veiled priest
    • toga-clad magistrate
    • traveling commander on horseback
    • heroically nude warrior
    • various Roman gods (Jupiter, Apollo, & Mercury)

Copy made from bronze original (most likely)

  • Today, the Vatican Museums have produced a copy of the statue so as to paint it in the theorized original colors, as confirmed when the statue was cleaned in 1999 : it can be viewed here - link

Laurel or Spear?
  • Many scholars think that he originally held a laurel wreath in his left hand (not a spear).


Cuirass (breastplate worn in battle) < reference to his capabilities as a military leader
  • Parthians returning 2 standards to Rome, an important diplomatic victory; these standards had been lost in war (somewhat of an embarrassment, from a political point of view).
  • note: depiction of Tiberius as one of these figures
  • website containing a line drawing / diagram of the breastplate - link
  • close-up view of breastplate - link

Cupid is riding a dolphin < reference to his divine ancestry and right to rule
  • Cupid - son of Venus riding a dolphin; The dolphin was an animal associated with Venus.
  • Aeneas - son of Venus also (but furthermore, he was a forefather of Octavian Augustus as well). His great uncle, JC made these claims also.
  • Augustus never claimed to have divine status during his reign; but claimed a divine lineage (there is a difference).

Bare feet
1. Posthumous deification?
  • to this point, bare feet was a convention strictly employed in representations of deities.
  • So, was this a reference to Augustus' deification after his death? Maybe.
2. Reference to Mars?
  • Mars was commonly shown with bare feet and leather breastplate.
  • But, there are no directly obvious references to Venus. But wait - maybe the Cupid and dolphin scene served as this reference, substantiating a stronger claim to this work's reference to Mars?
3. Heroism?
  • Many scholars claim that the base feet may have served as a means for portraying Augustus as a hero.
4. Other?
  • Might the base feet indicate a "down to earth" vibe? Despite the trappings of power and rank, might Augustus' lack of footwear incite feelings in the populous that make them feel as if he shares the same connection to the earth?

Forever Young - an anti-aesthetic?
  • Despite fact that many of these figure sculptures were made well after his middle age years, Augustus is eternally frozen in time as youthfully smooth and vigorous. Youth and athleticism were now prizes now.
  • (From Wikipedia): a shift from the Roman Republican era iconography where old and wise features were seen as symbols of solemn character. Therefore the Primaporta statue marks a conscious reversal of iconography to the Greek classical and Hellenistic period, in which youth and strength were valued as signs of leadership, emulating heroes and culminating in Alexander the Great himself. Such a statue's political function was very obvious - to show Rome that the emperor Augustus was an exceptional figure, comparable to the heroes worthy of being raised to divine status on Olympus, and the best man to govern Rome.
  • Compare Augustus' presentation / appeal to the more recent political campaigns run by those seeking to gain office and / or the respect of the people in their midst - link to images

Relevant Links:
  • In this video clip Kenny Mencher discusses the stark differences that exist between the mode of portraiture favored in the Early Empire [ namely found in the Augustus Primaporta ] & the previous portraiture of leadership created during the Roman Republic (those being the Senators) - link
  • Video clip about the Augustus Primaporta (SmartHistory / Khan Academy) - link
  • Video clip about the Head of Augustus (SmartHistory / Khan Academy) - link

Ara Pacis Augustae (overall view of the work) 13 - 9 BCE

Q: Who commissioned this work?
Q: What makes this procession significant?
Q: How is this different from a Greek Classical procession?
Q: Why is this commission significant?
Q: How does this work embody the Early Empire?
Q: What does this portrait say about Augustus?
Q: Do any of these terms help in answering (human body, classicism, power, political propaganda, heroic ancestry)?

  • Means "Altar of Augustan Peace"
  • Celebrates Augustus’ dedication towards establishment of peace.
  • Augustus had just made peace with the Gauls and returned to Rome.
  • Dedicated on Livia’s birthday in 9 BCE
  • Material - marble (from Carrera)

  • East & West ends
    • upper panels (4 panels total) - depict carefully selected mythological subjects
    • West side: Aeneas (founder of Rome) making sacrifice; Aeneus (forefather of Augustus); Note: Vergil wrote his Aeneid during rule of Augustus; text states: "the epic poem glorified the emperor by celebrating founder of Julian line".
    • lower panels - the vine-scrolls serve a decorative purpose, encircling the entire exterior.
  • North & South ends (upper panels)
    • show procession at the founding led by Augustus, participants (from imperial family) as portraits, including children in mini togas.
  • Inner walls garlands of flowers from ox skulls surrounding alter, symbolize sacrificial offerings. (Garlands w/ plants from every season = represents continual peace throughout the year).

EXTERIOR - looking more closely...

Tellus (EAST SIDE)
  • Seated matron with babies, called Tellus (Mother Earth) or called Pax, Ceres (goddess of grain) or Venus - who it is really does not matter.
  • Flanked by 2 personifications of the wind (or air and water).
  • Pax nurtures Roman people, represented by 2 chubby babies.
  • Sea wind shows domination over Mediterranean, fresh water and vegetation suggest fertility of farms.
  • Flowers, domesticated animals. Sacrifices of bull, ram, and pig.
  • Basically, this is referred to as the Pax Augusta - celebrating the Augustan peace on Earth resulting from Augustus’ efforts.

Procession of Imperial family (NORTH and SOUTH sides)
  • Greek-inspired, namely by the Panatheniac Procession on Parthenon (Ionic frieze)
  • specific event (however); inaugural ceremony recognizable historical people shown:
    • Man at left is Marcus Agrippa, youngster is son Gaius Caesar, woman may be Livia, followed by Tiberius. His sister Octavia rebuking her daughter who is talking to her husband.
    • Children are shown - and depicted as children (not little adults) misbehaving, etc. (the very fact that children are represented indicated this as a specific event in time / space)
  • other differences:
    • crowded, more naturalistic
    • handling of drapery - much more lively
  • underlying message(s):
    1. Peace will continue through the lineage of the children.
    2. Promotion of children within families. Concern about decline in birthrate among Roman nobility, had series of laws to promote marriage, including tax relief for large families. Wanted to expand the Roman empire in number - far and wide.
  • whatever the message, this is yet another form of propaganda. Using art to further one's political and social agendas - molding people's opinion (lack of objectivity)... the "new Pericles"!

Relevant links:
  • Ara Pacis (Ancient Art Podcast 46 / c/o Scarab Solutions) - link

Maison Carree 1-10 CE
(located in southern France, Ancient Gaul)
  • built just after Forum of Augustus
  • referred to as the "Square House"
  • Jefferson used this bldg for model of state capitol in Richmond VA.

Pont-du-Gard ca. 16 BCE
(located in Nimes, France )
Q: How did the Pont-du-Gard , roads and bridges serve to expand and control the Roman Empire?
  • Romans actually began building aqueducts during 3rd Century BCE.
  • this is a huge aqueduct-bridge, known as the Pont-du-Gard.
  • commissioned by Marcus Agrippa to bring water to Nimes, from natural spring 30 miles away.
  • much of the aqueducts run below ground; visible here, as it crosses gorge of Gard(on) River; the 3-story bridge maintains the necessary height of water channel to allow water to travel via gravity; the uppermost structure contains the water channel
  • as the Roman empire spread throughout the Mediterranean, there was a tremendous need to instate structures such as: aqueducts, roads, bridges
  • testifies to the skill of Roman hydraulic engineers
  • this aqueduct provides 100 gallons of water a day for each inhabitant
  • large arches span 82 feet from un-cemented blocks up to (2 tons each); voussoirs - weigh up to 2 tons each
  • continuous tunnel vaults, so thrust is distributed to end buttresses
  • ratio: 3 to 1 (small arches: large arches) – both functional (practical) & harmonious (aesthetically).
  • still used as a bridge for pedestrians today
  • to the ancient Romans, this was an example of how the authorities maintained provisions for the inhabitants of their great Empire.

Porta Maggiore ca. 50 CE
Rome, Italy

NOTE: Click on the image on right, for explanation on "trunk roads" (courtesy of Wikipedia); note that the image is merely an example of a trunk road, not an Ancient Roman site.
  • commissioned under Emperor Claudius (r. 41-54 CE)
  • basically, a grand double-gateway
  • built where 2 water lines converged and 2 intercity trunk roads converged
  • the huge attic (uppermost story) actually conceals the 2 aqueducts (one placed atop the other)
  • this is a good example of "rusticated masonry"
  • rusticated = rough (unlike precisely shaped blocs)
    • even the engaged columns (pilasters) are rusticated
    • the combination of smooth (crisply carved pediments - above) & rusticated surfaces = exciting, if not eccentric in character in the facade
    • a form of propaganda?

Life under Emperor Nero - 64 CE (Nero r. 54-68 CE)
  • executed anyone who was against him
  • great fire came through Rome, he sang and played lyre while burned (refer to the phrase: "he fiddled while it burned to the ground")
  • some think he wanted to rebuild a grander Rome and therefore caused fire.
  • Nero actually blamed the fire on the Christians and persecuted them.
  • fire destroyed large sections of capitol
  • structures rebuilt to new code - requiring greater fireproofing, used more concrete.
  • his lifestyle of the 'rich and famous' lasted only so long, as almost everyone around Nero ended up hating / resenting his eccentric behavior / decisions (lack of reason) and general 'out-of-touch' disposition with those serving under him.
  • he was ultimately forced to commit suicide (in 68 CE), due to his outrageous behavior; this ended Julio-Claudian dynasty

Golden House of Nero - background
  • Nero asked architects (Severus and Celer) to build grand imperial palace called the Golden house (Domus Aurea) on fire-ravaged land near the Forum Romanun.
  • a luxurious country villa in heart of Rome (once inhabited by the general populous) << [a fact with which many took issue]
    • visitors first saw colossal bronze statue of emperor - 120 feet high.
    • mile-long portico, artificial lake surrounded by buildings to look like city, fields with pastures, woods, wild and domestic animals.
    • parts decorated with gold and stones
    • dining room ceiling - wooden dome decorated with stars and astral symbols (revolved so visitors could follow constellations)
    • Also had panels in banquet room that could slide back, allowing for flowers or perfume to drop upon guests
  • When complete, Nero said "Good, now I can at last begin to live like a human being".
  • Eventually, this became buried under later imperial projects. Being excavated, great number of rooms with uncertain purpose, more important rooms on south side facing lake; traces of rich decorations.

Related links
  • View a short animation depicting how Nero's "Golden House" most likely appeared - video link
  • Lecture #11 - Notorious Nero and His Amazing Architectural Legacy (c/o YaleCourses / Prof Diane Kleiner) - video link

Octagonal Hall (of Domus Aurea) 64-68 CE
  • an octagonal (eight-sided) room that modulates into a hemispherical dome above
  • it rises towards the dome, which contains an oculus
  • the octagonal room radiates outward into:
    • five (5) sides (facing interior of structure) >> smaller rectangular rooms [one actually had a waterfall!]
      • three (3) covered by barrel vaults
      • two (2) covered by groin vaults (earliest known concrete groin vaults)
    • the other three (3) sides (directly or indirectly -- face the outside)
  • lighting = created by void between vaulted ceilings of outer rooms & exterior of central dome; this was ingenious on their part, as they thought of walls and vaults as “shaping “space (not limiting it); breaking beyond the rectilinear forms with concrete!
  • oh, the 'malleable nature of concrete'
    • under the reign of Caligula, the recipe for concrete was altered. The heavy stones removed; replaced with yellow porous stone - tufa and pumice (light, resembles cork).
    • the large span of this dome would not have been possible without this!
  • incrustation: original veneer is gone, but the concrete shell seen today had once once been covered by precious stucco and marble material.

  • Seneca was a leading intellectual, appointed by Claudius as tutor to his son Nero, became advisor to him when 16 years old.
  • Seneca retired as Nero claimed more power, later accused of conspiracy against Nero; was ordered to commit suicide, which he did.
  • Seneca opposed all gladiatorial contests: When he goes home, a person crueler and less humane through having been in contact with human beings. What we have is murder pure and simple, combatants with nothing to protect them, no helmets and shields, the only exit is death.

Keeping it in perspective…
  • Nero commits suicide in 68 CE - end of Julio-Claudian Dynasty
  • Civil strife ensues (just as it did after death of Julius Caesar)
  • Vespasian emerged; had served as general under last two emperors; (r. 69-79 CE) - [family name = Flavius]
  • 2 sons - who ruled over one-quarter C.
    • Titus (r. 79-81 CE)
    • Domitian (r. 81-96 CE)
  • With Vespasian, there was a return to verism. This represented his desire to distance himself from Nero's misrule. Portraits show simpler taste, records receding hairline and aging leathery skin. Skeptical of emperor worship, as dying said “Dear me, I must be turning into a god.”

note: click on Vespasian's head to view more detailed versions of his imperial portraiture.
  • Once a general of Nero, Vespasian fled for life after caught sleeping during emp’s song recital.
  • the historian Seutonius wrote about him: “Paraded his humble origins, always had strained expression on his face. Perfect health, nearly always good natured, cracked jokes frequently. Son Titus complained of Vespasian’s tax on city urinals: Vespasian handed him a coin from 1st days proceeds and said Does it smell bad, my son? No Father! That’s odd, it comes straight from the urinal.”
  • Vespasian had secured throne, turned to ending Jewish rebellion.
  • Judea had been Roman province since 6 CE, but Jews had privileges like being exempt from military service.
  • Resented rule of foreigners as offense to religion, open revolt when rebels drove Roman garrison from Jerusalem.
    • Sent Titus to finish rebellion, laid siege: people resisting under famine, finally conquered; destroyed city, burned temple.
    • Most victims been peaceful citizens, weak and unarmed, butchered wherever caught. Heaps of corpses higher and higher around altar, down sanctuary steps a river of blood and bodies slithered down to the bottom.
    • Titus ordered leaders of prisoners to take 700 in best stature and physique to display in his triumphal procession.
    • Rome gave welcome, masses of silver, gold, ivory flowing like river, hangings of crimson. Captives wearing beautiful garments, any disfigurement hidden from view. Parade float 3-4 stories high showing successive stages of war with commander of captured town just as had been, followed by ships.Last of spoils from temple: golden table, menorah, Jewish law. Finally, Vespasian with Titus behind and Domitian beside.

Colosseum 70 - 80 CE

  1. What made the Colosseum such an engineering marvel?
  2. What impact did the Colosseum have on the general public?

  • the Colosseum was known as- & referred to- as the Flavian Amphitheater in its day
  • decision to build it in its existing site was politically shrewd on the part of Vespasian; site was Nero’s artificial lake, drained for purpose, had built in drainage for washing away gore of combat. Reclaiming land for public that Nero had confiscated for private. Made largest arena for gladiatorial combats ever constructed.
  • its name comes from its location beside Colossus of Nero at entrance to villa; Vespasian decapitated statue and put new head on body naming it after sun god, Colossus.
  • Vespasian didn’t live to see it in use
  • to mark its opening, games lasted for the first 100 days (at which time some 9,000 wild beast & some 1,000 gladiators were said to have lost their lives)
  • the highlight – flooding to stage naval battle with over 3000 participants
  • extreme loss of life: many thousands of lives lost in gladiatorial and animal combats.
    • up to 40 gladiators per day died.
    • early elevators raised hundreds of starving lions to attack unarmed Christians or slaves.
    • slaves using whips with lead weights on lashes drove fleeing men on beasts back.
    • at half time >> shows involving execution of criminals, followed by man vs. wild beast contests
    • to celebrate one victory, Trajan sacrificed 11,000 lions, leopards, ostriches, and antelopes.
    • to disguise the odor of the stables, slaves sprayed perfume at distinguished spectators, and sprinkled red powder on arenas sand to make blood stains less conspicuous.
  • the wondrous, malleability of concrete: it simply could not have been built without concrete.
  • vaulting design / construction: seating area sustained by radial and concentric corridors with barrel vaults. The entrances were also created using barrel vaults. When these intersected, a groin vault was formed
    • one of the first major, successful uses of concrete groin vaulting, beyond Nero's Golden House
    • certainly, it's the first successful large-scale concrete groin vaulted amphitheater
  • today - a mere skeleton: centuries after fall of Rome = it became a convenient quarry for material
    • almost all marble seats are gone.
    • people also took bronze plugs to melt down and use for other purposes
    • the substructures are now showing >> e.g. vomitorium: the waiting rooms for gladiators, animal cages, and machines to raise and lower stage.
  • once had velarium (canopy), as did the Pompeian Amphitheater (to shield spectators from the elements)
  • capacity: holds 50,000 spectators
  • shape defined as elliptical: 615 x 510 feet x 160 feet high (modern 16 story building).
  • time taken: construction was completed under a decade
  • crowd control / organization:
    • ingress and egress: 76 numbered entrances, related to tiers of seats - so that each spectator had seat number corresponding to a certain gate
    • cheap seats vs. VIP? seating proximity corresponded to social hierarchy.
  • cavea – term used in reference to the main seating area (think “cavity” - open or hollow space)
  • EXTERIOR - comprised of 4 horizontal bands
    • first 3 bands: pierced with large arched openings; Standard Roman column sequence – Doric / Tuscan (appears strongest) Ionic, then Corinthian.
    • uppermost band: Corinthian pilasters (slightly projecting) w/ small square windows; also, between these pilasters, we can still see the metal brackets for the wooden poles (that once supported the velarium)
    • originally, gilded bronze shield shaped ornaments (cartouches) adorned the exterior of this space; framed openings with engaged columns and lintel; unifies whole facade with horizontals & verticals.
  • The Colosseum: Building the Arena of Death (BBC) - link
  • Video clip about the Colosseum (SmartHistory / Khan Academy) - link
  • Rome: Engineering an Empire [5 of 10 - featuring the Colosseum; c/o the History Channel] - link

Flavian Portraiture

Q: How is Flavian portraiture important?
  • Flavian portraits of all ages preserved, not only elder males
  • this example is of a Flavian woman: probably member of Flavian dynasty (princess)
  • Textures of hair and flesh >> soft
  • Flavian coiffure (hairstyle), corkscrew curls made using drill (will get larger role in sculpture); back of head intricate basket weave of braids.
  • The notable point: that while hairstyles change as time progresses, the ageless face remains the same

Arch of Titus 81 CE
  1. Explain how this arch represents a "triumphal arch".
  2. What specific events are being depicted?
  3. What stories are being told?
  4. What is the impact of this?

  • Titus died after being emperor 2 years
  • his brother, Domitian, succeeded him and erected the arch in 81 CE
  • this is a triumphal arch, commemorating Titus’ victory over Jerusalem in 70 CE
  • arches were traditionally placed on main thoroughfares
    • victorious emperors or generals paraded through city w/ troops, captives and booty. Many times, this procession was followed by respective prisoners.
    • sometimes, this was done to celebrate building projects, as well.
    • note: triumphal arches were normally temporary, used in processions upon completion of military victory, etc.; the triumphal procession traversed through them, much like the winners of the World Series would process through their respective city’s streets with great fanfare. This particular arch is a more permanent representation of this notion.
      It's function >> to serve as a commemorative monument (but, in 2 distinct ways):
      • remembering the victory Titus celebrated over Jerusalem;
      • and, in recognition of the fact that both Titus and his father, Vespasian (inscription on the attic) were deified after their deaths


The inscription, in Roman square capitals, reads:
(Senatus Populusque Romanus divo Tito divi Vespasiani filio Vespasiano Augusto)

This means: "The Roman Senate and People (dedicate this) to the divine Titus Vespasianus Augustus, son of the divine Vespasian."

  • height of arch is 50 feet; it's basically, a ‘free-standing gateway’
  • constructed of concrete & faced with marble (veneer)
  • passage - barrel vault
  • composite columns that are engaged (pilasters)
  • attic inscription - declares that the Senate & Roman people erected monument to honor Titus (& Vespasian)
  • symbolism: the menorah (seven-armed candlestick from Jewish land); note the appropriation of another culture's iconography on their art
  • interior of arch [and above]: Eagle - carries Titus skyward; therefore, Titus is deified upon his death; this act is called an "apotheosis"
  • on the spandrels - area b/t curve of arch, entablature, and framing column - contain relief sculpture of personified deities (winged-women) [a Greek art influence]

Misc links:
  • Video clip about the Arch of Titus (SmartHistory / Khan Academy) - link
  • A Wikipedia link about "Roman triumphs" - link

Spoils of Jerusalem
  • Roman soldiers carrying spoils, 7-branched menorah from the Temple in Jerusalem (& possibly the Ark of the Covenant)
  • read a passage from Seutonius' Life of Titus - link
  • to note: the illusion of movement, rapid marching; from left to right; the people are heading through an oblique triumphal arch
  • Side note: C/C noise, movement, hustle and bustle of this celebration march to Harvester Vase.

Triumph of Titus
  • this is the panel located on opposite side
  • Titus rides in triumphal chariot (note: a 4-horsed chariot is called a quadriga)
  • riding with Victory, who is placing wreath on his head
  • the horses:
    • guided by goddess Roma
    • shown in strict profile (chariot not)
  • Below Victory: bare-chested youth representing Honor, leading is female personification of Valor.
  • First time in which divine beings interact with humans on an official Roman historical relief (public monument).
    • Note 1: We have seen previous examples of intermingling (Villa of Mysteries, Ara Pacis – Tellus & Aeneas), but not interaction like this.
    • Note 2: This was erected after Titus’ death (after his so-called “deification”); in future Roman work however, we will see this integration become standard – even in relation to a mortal who is currently living.
  • This is a perfect example of artistic narrative.

Other general questions (Early Empire):
Q: Explain the nature and purpose of sculpture in the Roman Empire under Augustus.
Q: Summarize the side bar titled, Role Playing in Roman Portraiture. What does it say about the Roman view of the person to role play for the artist?