Rome – Triumphal Arch of Constantine

Can you imagine anything more elegant or artistic? The testimony of all beholders of this arch has been that they were fascinated by its beauty and by the strength and harmony of its proportions. While the Arch of Titus is conceded by experts to be the most perfect in existence, to the ordinary beholder this is by far the most attractive. It has stood here for nearly sixteen centuries, having been erected in A. D. 315, to commemorate the victory of the first Christian Emperor, Constantine, over his rival Maxentius. The bas-reliefs of the attic representing the Dacian kings, the eight medallions or circular sculptures above the side arches, the eight fluted Corinthian columns and the greater part of the entablature, were taken from the triumphal Arch of Trajan, which spanned the Appian Way near the Porta Capena. The bas-reliefs which you see on the inside of the middle passage are said to belong to the reign of Gordianus, the Younger. ” The inside of the arch is a conglomerate, being built with a great variety of materials belonging to monuments of the Fabii and Arruntii, the carvings on which are well-nigh perfect. Under the medallions and just above the side arches are bas-reliefs which refer to the con-quests of Constantine, but they are crude and ill-designed. Pope Clement VIII, acting doubtless upon the principle that one good turn deserves another, carried off one of the eight Corinthian columns to finish a chapel in the Church of St. John Lateran.” (Lanciani.)

Because of its striking effect and great beauty, so arranged as to give to the beholder an impression of victory, this arch has always been a favorite subject for painters, and it appears as a background in many famous paintings, notably by Pinturicchio and Botticelli. This family group before us aids in bringing out the magnificent proportions of the arch.

To the right of the fair proportions of this arch we see the monstrous Colosseum, again. In their pristine glory these two structures must have formed a most splendid and impressive approach to the Forum and Capitol. Through and beyond the arch to the left is the Esquiline Hill, and through the smaller opening on the left we see part of the fence surrounding the fountain, Meta Sudans.

This finishes our sight-seeing about the great heart of the ancient city, the Forum with the Capitoline and Palatine Hills and the Colosseum. We pass now to the places of special interest more widely separated. First, we shall go to what is, after the Colosseum, without doubt, the most stupendous ruin in Rome, the Baths of Caracalla. The plan of these baths on the map shows that we are to go over a half mile south of the Colosseum. According to this map plan, we are to see part of the ruins of the northwest peristyle.