Arch of Titus

The Arch of Titus (Italian: Arco di Tito; Latin: Arcus Titi) is a 1st-century AD honorific arch,[1] located on the Via Sacra, Rome, just to the south-east of the Roman Forum. It was constructed in c. 81 AD by the 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.[2] The arch contains panels depicting the triumphal procession celebrated in 71 AD after the Roman victory culminating in the fall of Jerusalem,[2] and provides one of the few contemporary depictions of artifacts of Herod's Temple.[citation needed] 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.[3]

The arch has provided the general model for many triumphal arches erected since the 16th century—perhaps most famously it is the inspiration for the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France.[4]

Based on the style of sculptural details, Domitian's favored architect Rabirius, sometimes credited with the Colosseum, may have executed the arch. Without contemporary documentation, however, attributions of Roman buildings on basis of style are considered shaky.[citation needed]

The medieval Latin travel guide Mirabilia Urbis Romae noted the monument, writing: "the arch of the Seven Lamps of Titus and Vespasian; [where Moses' candlestick is having seven branches, with the Ark, at the foot of the Cartulary Tower"].[5][6]

During the Middle Ages, the Frangipani family added a second story to the vault, converting it into a fortified tower;[7] beam holes from the construction remain in the panels.[8] Pope Paul IV (papacy 1555–1559) made it the place of a yearly oath of submission.[citation needed]

It was one of the first buildings sustaining a modern restoration, starting with Raffaele Stern in 1817 and continued by Valadier under Pius VII in 1821, with new capitals and with travertine masonry, distinguishable from the original marble. The restoration was a model for the country side of Porta Pia.[7][9]

At an unknown date, a local ban on Jews walking under the arch was placed on the monument by Rome's Chief Rabbinate; this was rescinded on the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948, and at a Hanukkah event in 1997 the change was made public.[10][11][12] The arch was never mentioned in Rabbinic literature.[13]

The arch is large with both fluted and unfluted columns, the latter being a result of 19th-century restoration.[14]

The Arch of Titus measures: 15.4 meters (50 ft) in height, 13.5 meters (44 ft) in width, 4.75 meters (15.5 ft) in depth. The inner archway is 8.3 (27 ft) meters in height, and 5.36 (17.5 ft) in width. [15]

The spandrels on the upper left and right of the arch contain personifications of victory as winged women. Between the spandrels is the keystone, on which there stands a female on the east side and a male on the west side.[14]

The soffit of the axial archway is deeply coffered with a relief of the apotheosis of Titus at the center. The sculptural program also includes two panel reliefs lining the passageway within the arch. Both commemorate the joint triumph celebrated by Titus and his father Vespasian in the summer of 71.

The south inner panel depicts the spoils taken from the Temple in Jerusalem. The golden candelabrum or Menorah is the main focus and is carved in deep relief.[16] Other sacred objects being carried in the triumphal procession are the Gold Trumpets, the fire pans for removing the ashes from the altar, and the Table of Shewbread.[14] These spoils were likely originally colored gold, with the background in blue.[14] In 2012 the Arch of Titus Digital Restoration Project discovered remains of yellow ochre paint on the menorah relief.[17]

The north inner panel depicts Titus as triumphator attended by various genii and lictors, who carry fasces. A helmeted Amazonian, Valour, leads the quadriga or four horsed chariot, which carries Titus. Winged Victory crowns him with a laurel wreath.[14] The juxtaposition is significant in that it is one of the first examples of divinities and humans being present in one scene together.[14] This contrasts with the panels of the Ara Pacis, where humans and divinities are separated.[14]

The sculpture of the outer faces of the two great piers was lost when the Arch of Titus was incorporated in medieval defensive walls.[14] The attic of the arch was originally crowned by more statuary, perhaps of a gilded chariot.[14] The main inscription used to be ornamented by letters made of perhaps silver, gold or some other metal.

The original inscription is attached to the east side of the Arch. It is written in Roman square capitals and reads:

(Senatus Populusque Romanus divo Tito divi Vespasiani filio Vespasiano Augusto),[18] which means

"The Senate and the Roman people (dedicate this) to the deified Titus Vespasian Augustus, son of the deified Vespasian."[19]

The opposite side of the Arch of Titus received new inscriptions after it was restored during the pontificate of Pope Pius VII by Giuseppe Valadier in 1821. The restoration was intentionally made in travertine to differentiate between the original and the restored portions.


(Insigne religionis atque artis, monumentum, vetustate fatiscens: Pius Septimus, Pontifex Maximus, novis operibus priscum exemplar imitantibus fulciri servarique iussit. Anno sacri principatus eius XXIV), which means

(This) monument, remarkable in terms of both religion and art,
had weakened from age:
Pius the Seventh, Supreme Pontiff,
by new works on the model of the ancient exemplar
ordered it reinforced and preserved.

Works modelled on, or inspired by, the Arch of Titus include, chronologically: