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The Significance of the Arch of Constantine

Updated on February 15, 2020
Mark O Richardson profile image

Mark has always loved art. First it was drawing, then art history, and now writing and listening to music.

Arch of Constantine
Arch of Constantine

A Timeless Structure and Symbol of Triumph

Here I will be discussing the Arch of Constantine and its significance.
First its qualities, then significance, which is how long it has been in existence and how it has been a symbol of triumph.
It has been said that the Arch of Constantine marked the passing of the pre-Christian era in architecture, using imperial traditions while at the same time heralding a new consciousness. While it was dedicated in 315 AD, its sculptures vary in date. There are inscriptions on the north and south sides. The Romans erected it after the victory of Constantine over Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge (October 28, 312 AD). It has four columns that are in yellow Numidian marble, except for the brick fill of the attic story. The south side depicts victories with trophies and barbarian prisoners. The North depicts victories writing on shields, and further victories with trophies appear with Genii of the Seasons in the spandrels of the central arch, while river gods occupy those of the side openings. On the west side, six panels illustrate the departure of Constantine’s Army from Milan. The east side has Constantine’s entry into Rome. There Is sculpture even on the inside of the arch.
Sculptures from other Roman emperors (Trajan, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius) were incorporated into the arch, as if to show Constantine’s place in the succession of emperors. The work is realistic and has anti-classical tendencies. The emperors are depicted as symbols, representing wisdom, justice, and alms. Constantine is shown in the middle. It is as if he is removed, isolating him physically and psychologically from his followers, who are incorrectly proportioned. The background is flat, and the architecture does not establish the appearance of three-dimensional space. There is lack of depth. The figures are simple, and their legs appear to be tree stumps. The work from Constantine’s era is not very classical.
So, what makes the arch significant? Is it just a large piece of stone with a walkway cut out of it? No. It is more. Over time, the arch has remained relatively undamaged. Obviously, it has maintained a sense of value and significance to the Roman people and to those who conquered Rome, otherwise it would not be standing today. Art has come a long way and has been explored greatly since the time of the Romans. I have never been to Rome, but if I ever go there, it would be great to be able to see this great arch and see something that has been around so long.
It must have taken time for the sculptures to be completed. Another aspect is how long it has been around, staying intact for hundreds of years. Lastly, it has been a symbol of triumph, especially for the Romans.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Mark Richardson


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