Roma: Arch of Septimius Severus


Samuel Platner, 1911.

The Arch of Severus. — As the arch of Tiberius stood at the south end of the Rostra, it has been thought probable that another arch stood at the north end; 4 but if so, it must have been removed to make room for the great arch of Severus, which was erected in 203 A.D. in honor of Severus and his two sons, Geta and Caracalla. This dedication is recorded in the inscription l which is repeated on both sides of the attic. The bronze letters have disappeared, but the matrices remain, and it can be seen that the name of Geta was chiselled away after he was murdered by Caracalla. This arch destroyed the symmetry of the Forum, and its architecture and sculpture display the marked artistic decadence of the period. The arch is triple, 2 of Pentelic marble, and stands on a foundation of travertine, the upper part of which was covered with marble facing. The lower courses of this foundation are unfinished, and must have been covered either with earth or by the foundation of the steps that always formed the approach to the arch from the Forum side. The level of the Augustan pavement was preserved in this corner of the Forum until a late period, as is shown by the massive concrete base in front of the arch on which is set the pedestal of the equestrian statue of Constantius, dedicated by Naeratius Cerialis, prefect of the city in 354 A.o. 1 The Augustan pavement on which this base stands is 3 metres below that of the pavement of the arch, and 1.40 below that of the lowest steps to the side arches. The arch is 23 metres high, 25 wide and 11.85 deep, the central archway being 12 metres high and 7 wide, and the side archways 7.80 high and 3 wide. Between the central and side arches are vaulted passages, the ceilings of which are coffered, with rosettes in the coffers. On each face of the arch are four fluted Corinthian columns, 8.78 metres high and 0.90 metre in diameter at the base. These columns stand free from the arch on projecting pedestals, and behind them are corresponding pilasters. An entablature surrounds the arch, and above it is the lofty attic, 5.60 metres in height, within which are four chambers. Over the side arches are narrow bands of reliefs representing the triumphs of Rome over conquered peoples ; and above these bands four large reliefs which represent the campaigns of Severus in the East. 2 In the spandrels of the central arch are winged Victories, and in those of the side arches, river gods. On the keystones of the central arch are reliefs of Mars Victor, and on the pedestals of the columns, Roman soldiers driving captives before them. On top of the arch, in the centre, was originally a chariot in which stood Severus and Victory, escorted by Geta and Caracalla, and on the ends four equestrian figures; but of these statues no traces have been found.

Platner, Samuel. The topography and monuments of ancient Rome. Boston, Allyn and Bacon, 1911.

Arch of Septimius Severus (Photo by Jean-Christophe Benoist)

Back to JW Bailly Lectures

AUTHOR(S) AND LAST UPDATE Stephanie Sepúlveda &John William Bailly  14 April 2018

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: