A walk through the ruins of the glorious empire’s centre: a voyage to discover those monuments built for celebration.
(by ThePhotografer, CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons)
That of Titus is the oldest surviving arch, traceable to 80 CE and after more than two thousand years, still stands gloriously on the Via Sacra that led to the Roman Forum. Built under Emperor Domitian, this work, unlike its Constantinian predecessor, is called a “fornix triumphal arch”, that is, with only one arch. This peculiarity denotes its antiquity, for as time went on, Roman engineers increasingly sought to meet the megalomaniac needs of the emperors.
The arch was erected in memory of the Jewish war fought by Titus in Galilee, who was welcomed in triumph upon his return to the capital. We can imagine at this very juncture the parade led by Titus himself, radiant on a chariot gloriously entering Rome and welcomed by the masses. We must remember that where those who won, others perished, so there was obviously occupation, destruction, and death behind every celebration. In those days, conquest and physical confrontation were normal facet-just think of the violence of the spectacles at the nearby Colosseum.
However, in the Middle Ages, the arch was incorporated into a fortress, and as evidence of this second function, they are depicted in numerous prints crowned with brick battlements. Beginning in the 16th century, under the pontificates of Paul II and Sixtus IV, restorations were carried out that resulted in the demolition of some of the surrounding buildings. Later the arch was incorporated into other structures, and it was not until the early 19th century that a proper ‘liberation and preservation intervention began.
Thus, between 1821 and 1823, the Arch of Titus was dismantled piece by piece and separated from the medieval buildings and palaces into which it was incorporated. Restorations at the hands of Raffaele Stern and Giuseppe Valadier enabled its reconstruction into its present form.
Today the arch stands on the northern slopes of the Palatine, in the eastern part of the Forum of Rome, and after millennia it is the subject of photography at the hands of the thousands of tourists who can still observe its splendour every day.