1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Triumphal Arch

TRIUMPHAL ARCH, the term given to arches erected to commemorate some special victory, but here extended to include those built as memorial arches to some benefactor of the Roman Empire, such as those at Rimini, Ancona and Benevento; arches erected as monumental entrances to towns, as at Nîmes and Autun; arches on bridges, as at Chamas in France and Alcantara in Spain; and lastly those which preceded the entrance to a forum or sacred enclosure, or formed part of a colonnaded street, as in Syria. There is every reason to suppose that in early times in Greece and Etruria temporary erections, such as those of the present day, were set up on the occasion of the public entry, after a great victory, of some emperor or general; but the Romans would seem to have been the first to erect such structures in stone or marble, to enrich them with sculpture, and to raise aloft on their summit the quadriga or four-horsed chariot with statues and trophies. The time involved in the construction of such a memorial, and more especially that which would be required for its enrichment with sculpture, rendered it impossible that they should be set up on the occasion of the triumphal entry itself, and it is known that the arch of Titus was not erected till some time after his death by his successor Domitian. There is always some difficulty in deciding between triumphal and memorial arches, as they were virtually similar in design, equally enriched with sculpture, generally surmounted with a quadriga and statues, and as a rule were isolated structures. The earlier arches were pierced with a single arch and were comparatively simple in design, being decorated by pilasters or semi-detached columns only; the existence of chariots and statues on their summit is known only from coins or gems, on which such features are always shown. The arch of Titus in Rome (fig. 4), A.D. 81, is the first one enriched with bas-relief sculpture, in this case representing the triumphs of Titus with the seven-branched candlestick and the golden table brought from Jerusalem. The next sculptural arch of triumph is that built at Benevento (fig. 2) in South Italy (A.D. 112) by Trajan, recording the Dacian victories. The triumphal arch (fig. 5) of Septimius Severus (A.D. 203) has a central and two side arches, the bas-reliefs on it representing the Parthian victories; and the last important arch in Rome is that of Constantine (fig. 6), which had also three arches, and was embellished with bas-reliefs, representing the Dacian victories, which were taken from the arch of Trajan on the Via Appia and others of Constantine's time, representing the conquest of Maxentius.

Passing to other countries, we have the triumphal arches at St Remy and at Orange (fig. 8); those at Carpentras and Cavaillon, also in France, which were probably of later date, as possibly also the triple arch at Reims. The triumphal arch with three arches at Fano in Italy is said to have been commenced by Augustus, but completed by Constantine, who probably added the two side arches and decorated it with inferior sculpture. At Timgad (Thamugada) in North Africa is a triumphal arch with central and two side arches, probably of Hadrian's time, and one with triple arches at Sbeitla (Suffetula), also in North Africa, and another example at Saintes in France, built on a bridge.

Of memorial arches the earliest are the examples of Rimini (fig. 7) and Aosta, erected to Augustus, and later the arch at Ancona (fig. 3) erected to Trajan (A.D. 112) as a record of the construction of the port there. At Pola, in Istria, is an archway erected in memory of the Sergii. Of less important examples in Rome are the arches of Dolabella (A.D. 10), Drusus (A.D. 23), Gallienus (A.D. 262), the silversmith's arch (A.D. 204); in Verona, the Porta dei Borsari and the Porta de Leoni, erected by Gallienus (A.D. 265); at Aix-les-Bains in France, an arch of late 3rd century; and at Lambessa, in North Africa, the arches of Commodus (A.D. 187) and of Septimius Severus (A.D. 200). In Spain there are two monumental arches erected by Trajan at Alcantara, in the centre of the bridge built by him (A.D. 108), and the arch of Santiago at Merida; a third example exists in the Arco di Bara at Tarragona.

Quadriportal archways are those which were built in the centre of four cross roads, such as the arch of Janus in Rome, built by Constans (A.D. 350), the arch of Caracalla at Tebesse (Thevesti) in North Africa, and many examples in Syria, of which the arch at Ladikiyah (Laodicea ad Mare) is in perfect preservation.

The colonnaded streets in Syria were entered through magnificent archways, of which the finest examples are those at Palmyra and Gerasa. As entrance gateways to towns there are many examples which were sometimes built as memorial arches, but formed part of the city walls, such as the entrance gate at Susa in Italy, erected in memory of Augustus (8 B.C.), decorated with reliefs of the Suovetaurelia (sacrifices); the Porte d'Avroux and Porte St André at Autun, and the Porte d'Auguste at Nîmes, in France; the Porte d'Auguste at Perugia in Italy and the Porta Nigra at Treves in Germany; to these should be added the three entrance gateways to the palace of Spalato (A.D. 303), one of these, the Porta Aurea, or Golden Gate, showing in its enriched design certain decadent forms which led to the Byzantine and Renaissance styles; lastly there are the arched entrances to sacred or civil enclosures, such as the example at Sbeitla (Suffetula) in North Africa, the arch of Hadrian at Athens (fig. 1), built to his memory by his successors, and the archway of the Propylaea at Damascus.

The triumphal arch found no place in medieval architecture, but in Renaissance works there are many examples, of which the triumphal entrance arch of King Alfonso at Naples (A.D. 1470) comes first. Of isolated structures, there are in Paris the Porte St Martin (1647), St Denis (1684), arch of Carrousel in the Tuileries (1808), and the Arc de l'Étoile in the Champs Élysées, completed in 183O; in Berlin the Brandenburger Thor (1790); in Munich the Siegesthor (1843) and Metzger Thor (1880); in Milan the Arch of Peace, commenced by Napoleon in 1807 and completed in 1857 by the Austrians (an interesting example, as it still preserves the chariot and horses and statues which formerly crowned all triumphal arches); and in London the Marble Arch, originally built in front of Buckingham Palace, but removed to the north-east angle of Hyde Park in 1843, and the Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner, without the statue of the duke on horseback, afterwards set up at Aldershot.  (R. P. S.) 

Plate I.
 Photo, Bonfils.  Photo, Alinari.
 Photo, Alinari.  Photo, Anderson.

Plate II.
 Photo, Anderson.  Photo, Brogi.
Fig. 5.—Arch of Septimius Severus, Rome. Fig. 6.—Arch of Constantine, Rome.
 Photo, Alinari.  Photo, Neurdein.
Fig. 7.—Arch of Augustus, Rimini. Fig. 8.—Arch at Orange