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Arch of Titus

Rome, Italy

2000 Q3

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The Arch of Titus serves as the gateway entrance on the Via Sacra, the road that leads to all the Roman Forums from the East, where the Colosseum is. The Romans customarily built arches like this one as ornamental and commemorative (of triumph in battle) portals to forums; at main street intersections; and as a portal entry through the defensive walls protecting the town. This arch was built in 82 AD to commemorate the capture of Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple by the General Titus, a son of Emperor Vespasian Augustus, in 70 AD, and is thus a triumphal arch. Titus became Emperor himself in 79 AD until 81 AD. The arch was actually built by Titus' brother, Domitian, when he became Emperor in 82 AD.

Monumental arches first occurred as a building type of Roman architecture about 200 BC, but few remain today from that period. Most are from the reign of Augustus (27 BC - 14 AD) onward.Usually these arches are adorned with tablets inscribed with praise or titles of dedication of the commemorative event, and bas relief and three dimensional sculptures that tell the story of the triumphant battle. Titus's arch originally had sculptures on top of it of various gods at the four corners (a bronze quadriga) and of Titus himself in the center in his chariot with four horses teamed to pull it. The bas reliefs depict Titus in his chariot again on one facade and the spoils of the Temple of Jerusalem on the other. The keystones are carved with figures of the gods Roma and Fortuna.

This arch has engaged columns at the corners and flanking the center arched opening which are the earliest known example of the Roman Composite Order column capital. In this order, the Romans combined the Corinthian decorative capital with an Ionic scrolled type capital, where the scroll is bent into a three dimensional compound curve shape on the diagonal axes of the capital. The Corinthian decoration is placed below and in between the scrolls. There is only one arched opening with a soffit (exterior ceiling) with deep coffers (recesses) in Titus' arch, while other triumphal arches have three arched openings.

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