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East Short Side of Arch of Constantine

East Short Side of Arch of Constantine

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Triumphal arch

A triumphal arch is a free-standing monumental structure in the shape of an archway with one or more arched passageways, often designed to span a road. In its simplest form a triumphal arch consists of two massive piers connected by an arch, crowned with a flat entablature or attic on which a statue might be mounted or which bears commemorative inscriptions. The main structure is often decorated with carvings, sculpted reliefs, and dedications. More elaborate triumphal arches may have multiple archways.

Triumphal arches are one of the most influential and distinctive types of architecture associated with ancient Rome. Thought to have been invented by the Romans, the Roman triumphal arch was used to commemorate victorious generals or significant public events such as the founding of new colonies, the construction of a road or bridge, the death of a member of the imperial family or the accession of a new emperor.

The survival of great Roman triumphal arches such as the Arch of Titus or the Arch of Constantine has inspired many post-Roman states and rulers, up to the present day, to erect their own triumphal arches in emulation of the Romans. Triumphal arches in the Roman style have been built in many cities around the world, most notably the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the Narva Triumphal Arch in Saint Petersburg, or the Wellington Arch in London.

Triumphal arches should not be confused with memorial gates and arches and city gates such as the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, the Washington Square Arch in New York City, or the India Gate in New Delhi, which although patterned after triumphal arches, were built to memorialise war casualties, to commemorate a civil event (the country's independence, for example), or to provide a monumental entrance to a city, as opposed to celebrating a military success or general.

Triumphal arch is also the name given to the arch above the entrance to the chancel of a medieval church where a rood can be placed. [1]

Introduction to the Arch of Constantine

Rome Reborn® apps present the buildings of the Eternal City at a moment in time, 320 CE, when Constantine was emperor. We get to see buildings that had been in use for centuries and ones that were relatively brand new at the time the apps are set. Today let me introduce you to the Arch of Constantine, the biggest surviving triumphal arch in Rome which you will find in our Colosseum District app.

The arch was dedicated on July 25, 315, three years after Constantine’s victory at the Milvian Bridge. It is situated in the Colosseum Valley between the Caelian and Palatine hills. The most impressive structure in the area was the Flavian Amphitheater or Colosseum. While the amphitheater was used only on special occasions, people still generally frequented the area, which was adjacent to one of the city’s major roads, the Sacred Way. They might also be in the neighborhood to watch gladiatorial training in a nearby facility, shop at numerous businesses, and visit other nearby monuments. So, for a variety of practical reasons the choice to put the Arch of Constantine here is not surprising: a lot of people would see regularly it.

Moreover, like many other triumphal monuments in Rome, it sits along the route of the triumphal parade and so is also in a symbolically laden location. Indeed, the arch’s inscription makes it clear that it served as a reminder of his victory and right to rule alone. In English the inscription, identical on both sides, reads:

To the emperor Flavius Constantine, the Great,

Pious and fortunate, the Senate and People of Rome,

Because by divine inspiration and his own greatness of spirit

On both the tyrant and all his

Faction at once in rightful

Battle he avenged the State,

Dedicated this arch as a mark of triumph.

The unnamed “tyrant” refers to Maxentius, whom Constantine defeated. The “divine inspiration” and “spirit” makes no mention of the cross, a symbol Constantine claimed he saw in a dream and used in battle to gain victory. The arch was dedicated by the Senate, still an overwhelmingly pagan institution, which may explain why the cross, with its Christian associations, was left out.

The size of the arch is similar to that of Septimius Severus in the Roman Forum: the central arch was large enough for a triumphal party to parade through and was flanked by two smaller archways. Examination of the materials that decorate the arch has revealed that it was made from spolia, reclaimed marble and sequential art sections from other structures. It was common to reuse materials from earlier buildings and monuments starting in late antiquity, and it is sometimes claimed that such recycling suggests that Rome itself was on the decline. Be that as it may, Constantine was soon to move the capital of the empire from Rome to his new headquarters in the east, Constantinople, and there is no evidence that he ever returned to Rome to see the arch dedicated to him.

Rome Reborn®’s Colosseum District app will give you a detailed look at each section of the Arch of Constantine so let this essay just give you an idea of what you will encounter. The app’s virtual reconstruction paired with the voiceover will help you to understand the complexities of the monument much better than the mere words of this essay could.

While the bulk of the arch was a grayish white marble, color was used to highlight certain features and decorations. For example, the front and back of the arch had four “giallo antico” (i.e, yellow) shafts on the fluted Corinthian columns (though one was replaced by a pavonazzetto [i.e., purplish] shaft by Pope Clement VIII around 1597). Other examples of color on the Arch of Constantine were the purple-red porphyry around the rondels, and the cipollino (i.e., greenish marble) on the pedestal bases carrying the Dacian prisoner statues.

In addition to the Dacians, friezes are a prominent feature of the arch’s décor, far exceeding in number and import what we find on such other surviving triumphal arches at Rome such as the Arch of Septimius Severus and the Arch of Titus. In the Rome Reborn® app, you can see the restoration of color to the reliefs following precedents known from the few works of Roman official art whose color scheme is well enough preserved to be studied. The so-called “Great Trajanic Frieze” consists of two sections, or four panels, and is on the inside of the main archway and on the top of the two short sides. The images on the frieze also look a lot like those on Domitian’s surviving monuments, so calling these “Trajanic” is more label than absolute proven fact. The head of the victorious emperor in this frieze as well as the others shows signs of being recut to resemble Constantine.

Despite all the recycling of older decorative elements, new friezes were also created specifically for the Arch of Constantine. These begin on the short west side of the arch and continue around the entire structure in the areas immediately above and around the archways. The newly created frieze told the story of Constantine defeating Maxentius from the start of his march from Milan through his triumphal celebration in Rome.

There are ten roundels on the Arch of Constantine. Eight “Hadrianic roundels” are set in pairs on the front and back of the arch. These rondels again show signs of being recut to resemble Constantine and perhaps his father Constantius Chlorus as leaders participating in hunts and sacrifices. The other two roundels are on the east and west sides of the arch and represent the sun and moon, respectively.

Framing the inscription are rectangular reliefs, commonly referred to as the “panel-reliefs of Marcus Aurelius,” which are placed in pairs on the sides of the inscription on both sides of the arch. While scholars agree that these were originally part of a monument dedicated to Marcus Aurelius, they do not know which one and where it was located.

While much of the original reliefs were used, there are signs that some individuals and features were recut to make them more appropriate for Constantine’s life. The south side shows military activity, while northern reliefs show civic duties, reflecting the reality of any emperor’s life. Interestingly, even though scholars argue about when Constantine became Christian, the decorations are all traditionally Roman, with various gods and goddesses.

Today you can go to Rome itself to see the Arch of Constantine. You can also find photos online to see what it looks like close up. But only in the Rome Reborn® app can you walk around it and look at what it may have been like in 320.

Finally, readers of this essay are urged not to overlook the amazing (and free) educational app posted on the Rome Reborn website. It was authored by the talented Indiana University college senior, Gretchen Creekbaum. She has created similar apps for the Museum of London. Her app on the Arch of Constantine can be found here: Keep your eye on Gretchen: she’s destined for great things!

To learn more about the emperor Constantine, read my previous essay on him.


Gothic architecture was at first called "the French Style" (Opus Francigenum). The word "Gothic" was used later during the Renaissance as an insult, relating to the uncivilized ancient Goths.

An Italian writer named Giorgio Vasari used the word "Gothic" in the 1530s, because he thought buildings from the Middle Ages were not carefully planned and measured like Renaissance buildings or the buildings of ancient Rome. He said that, as the barbaric Goths had destroyed the classical world, so this "modern art" had destroyed the architecture of the twelfth century. [1] After Vasari, many other people used the word "Gothic" to describe architecture with pointed arches. [2]

Towns, states and countries Edit

At the end of the 12th century, Western Europe was divided into different states. Many of these were beginning to become the countries that exist today.

The Holy Roman Empire ruled a big part of Europe including the modern countries of Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, eastern France and much of northern Italy, apart from Venice. Emperor Charlemagne began the Holy Roman Empire in 800 AD.

The modern countries of France and Spain were each divided into different kingdoms. England was ruled by a king whose family also had a lot of land in France. Norway was influenced by England, while the other Scandinavian countries and Poland were influenced by German states.

Trade between towns and states began to make the towns grow larger. Germany, Holland and Belgium had many big towns that grew peacefully, often trading with each other. Because of the peace and wealth of these towns, they showed their pride by building huge town halls, often with very tall towers.

In England and France, most people did not live in towns. They lived on farms. Rich nobleman or lord owned these farms. The house of the lord was called a manor house. Italy was mostly split up into small city states which often fought each other. Cities often had high walls and many of the houses built at this time were tall, high towers. [2] [3]

The Church Edit

In Western Europe, in the Middle Ages, almost everyone belonged to the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church has one head - the Pope. During the Middle Ages, one language was used in churches all across Europe - Ecclesiastical Latin, sometimes called Church Latin, which had developed from ancient Latin. The churches of each area had a local bishop who came under the Pope. . Each Bishop had a throne where he could sit when priests and people came to him. A church which has a Bishop's throne is called a "cathedral". Cathedrals were usually the biggest and most beautiful churches.

In the early Middle Ages, many monasteries were built all over Europe. A group of holy men lived and worked and prayed there. Monks belonged to different "orders" which had different rules. The biggest number of monasteries were homes to the monks of the Benedictine Order. Their monasteries were generally in towns and they often built very big churches called "Abbeys" for the monks and the townspeople to worship in. Other orders of monks, like the Cistercians, did not live near towns. Nowadays their abbeys are seen as beautiful ruins in the English countryside.

In France, there were also Benedictines, as well as Cluniac Orders. The great monastery at Cluny, built in the Romanesque style, was the biggest in Europe. The abbey and other buildings were very well planned so for hundreds of years other monasteries were influenced by that plan.

In the 13th century St. Francis of Assisi started the Franciscans, who were often called the "Grey Friars" because of their grey-brown robes. The Dominicans were founded by St. Dominic in Toulouse and Bologna. The Dominicans built many of Italy's Gothic churches. [2] [3]

Triumphal Arch - Examples

There remain a great number of triumphal arches erected by the Romans. The most remarkable are those of Constantine, Septimius Severus, and Titus, at Rome of Trajan, at Benevento and at Ancona of Augustus, at Rimini and at Pola of Hadrian, at Athens of Marcus Aurelius, at Orange, and the arch at St. Remy, near Arles.

In all these monuments the piers are decorated with columns, either engaged or detached, which rest upon a comparatively high pedestal the entablature breaks out over the columns, when they are entirely detached, and it supports them. Over each column are statues or emblematic figures, which terminate happily, and seem to give a reason to the rich and vigorous ornamentation. An attic destined to receive the commemorative inscription raises itself above the entablature. The conquerors statue in bronze, standing in a chariot drawn by four or six horses, often crowned the edifice.

The Arch of Trajan, at Benevento, in Campania, reproduces the arrangements and dimensions of that of Titus, but it is richer, having reliefs that occupy all the surface's which are left without ornament in the Roman arch. The other arch named after the famous Spanish Ca?sar is a small but remarkably graceful structure of white marble at the end of one of the piers of the little Adriatic port of Ancona. It was built by the Koman Senate in 112 AD, to commemorate Trajan's munificence in building the breakwater on whioli it stands. With its four engaged Corinthian columns, it is remarkably well preserved, although its bronze decorations have disappeared, only the bolt holes remaining to show where they were fastened to the stone.

Arch of Trajan at Ancona, 18 m high, was erected in 114/115 as an entrance to the causeway atop the harbor wall The arch of Trajan at Ancona, one of the most elegant works of ancient architecture, stands on the pier of the port, at the entrance of the mole, and is decorated with four Corinthian columns on pedestals. It is in excellent preservation, and is almost unequalled in the beauty of its construction, the elegance of its proportions, and its great simplicity.


The arch is 21 m high, 25.9 m wide and 7.4 m deep. It has three archways, the central one being 11.5 m high and 6.5 m wide, the lateral archways 7.4 m by 3.4 m each. The top (called attic) is brickwork reveted with marble. A staircase formed in the thickness of the arch is entered from a door at some height from the ground, in the end towards the Palatine Hill.

The general design with a main part structured by detached columns and an attic with the main inscription above is modelled after the example of the Arch of Septimius Severus on the Roman Forum. It has been suggested that the lower part of the arch is re-used from an older monument, probably from the times of the emperor Hadrian (Conforto et al., 2001 for a defence of the view that the whole arch was constructed in the 4th century, see Pensabene & Panella).

During the Middle Ages, the Arch of Constantine was incorporated into one of the family strongholds of ancient Rome. Works of restoration were first carried out in the 18th century the last excavations have taken place in the late 1990s, just before the Great Jubilee of 2000.

The arch served as the finish line for the marathon athletic event for the 1960 Summer Olympics.

East Short Side of Arch of Constantine - History

Pagan Thug Makes Christian Emperor

He who has ears
Let him hear!

Great &ndash But for Whom?

5-minute enlightenment
for those in a hurry

Remember Trajan!

Diocletian and that famous 'persecution '

"Diocletian had to know the will of the gods for his campaign in Persia, so he banished the Christians .

They were dangerous, in a position to wreck his staging area and keep supplies from reaching his armies during the war."

– F.W. Norris, Christianity - A Short Global History , p35.

The Jews in 115-117 had come close to sabotaging Trajan's Parthian campaign

Persecution – Christianity's heroic origins myth.

Constantine, egotist supreme

Over 8 feet tall and weighing 9 tons, and that's just the head!!

Colossal ‘staring’ statues of Constantine signalled the death of realistic portraiture.

"Our emperor, like the radiant sun, illuminates the most distant subjects of his empire through the presence of the Caesars, as with the far piercing rays of his own brightness.

Invested as he is with a semblance of heavenly sovereignty, he directs his gaze above, and frames his earthly government according to the pattern of that Divine original, feeling strength in its conformity to the monarchy of God.

And surely monarchy far transcends every other constitution and form of government: for that democratic equality of power, which is its opposite, may rather be described as anarchy and disorder."

&ndash Eusebius records his obsequious, anti-democratic drivel.

(The Oration in Praise of Emperor Constantine, 3)


"Constantine did not make Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire, though this is often said of him.

What he did was to make the Christian church the most-favoured recipient of the near-limitless resources of imperial favour."

- Richard Fletcher , The Conversion of Europe, p19.

Chi-Rho – on 3rd century BC Egyptian coin!

Between the Eagle's legs!

Coin issued by Ptolemy III Euergetes ("Benefactor") 246-221 BC.

Just Can't Get the Staff

"Sculpture had fallen so low that in all his empire Constantine could not find a mason capable of decorating his triumphal arch and preferred instead to rob the two-hundred-year-old arch of Trajan."

– Evelyn Waugh

Arch of Constantine
(Rome) 315 AD

Actually, originally dedicated to Emperor Hadrian .

In order to make the triumphal arch his own Constantine replaced certain panels to honour his victory over Maxentius.

But in truth the monument shows fallen Parthians and a panel with the sun god Apollo!


Detail from Arch of Constantine

Would you believe it – the Sun God Apollo drives his chariot across the sky!

Sol Invictus

Constantine shared his gold coinage with the sun god Sol Invictus at least as late as 317.

No Cross Here!

6th century Christian gravestone - no cross but the chi-rho monogram (Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn)

Feeble Policy – Arming Barbarians

Rome's "hired help" soon dispensed with the effete princes that hired them.

Halcyon Days

"In the great days of the second century, with an army of 300,000, the Romans defended an empire of 50,000,000 people living in the Mediterranean basin."

– Arthur Ferrill, The Fall of the Roman Empire, p26.

Lucky Survivor!

Marcus Aurelius on horseback – twice life-size and originally gilded to look like solid gold.

Prized exhibit of the Capitol Museum, Rome, it survived papal melting pots only because ignorant clergy thought it had to be their hero Constantine!

Constantine with his bishops at Nicaea &ndash 325

A 9th century view of "the synod of Nicaea where the number of holy fathers was 318 and all subscribed."

(MS CLXV, Biblioteca Capitolare, Vercelli, 9th century)

Preamble: Boys from the 'Hood – The Meritocracy of Diocletian

Diocletian (son of a freed slave) supported by Maximian (son of a shop keeper) – a successful partnership that lasted over twenty years.

Diocletian and Maximian, now supported by two deputy caesars Galerius and Constantius.

It was the son of the least of them – Constantine – who set his sights on restoring absolute and undivided power.

Diocletian – Son of a Slave Makes Good

Diocletian was the product of merit and of the social mobility which was possible in the late third century.

Diocletian ruled the Roman world for over twenty years. Neither mad nor debauched, he (uniquely) retired from power and famously boasted of growing cabbages "with his own hand" in retirement.

Diocletian had recognised that the empire was too vast for one man's autocratic rule and had sensibly divided absolute power between four monarchs. At the same time he put in place a mechanism for orderly succession, with the junior Caesars stepping up to the rank of Augustus and appointing deputy Caesars in turn. Moreover, Diocletian had had the wisdom to choose colleagues and successors on the basis of ability and loyalty, not blood-ties. The tetrarchy provided orderly succession for a generation. The provinces themselves were grouped into a dozen Dioceses, each ruled by a Vicar.

Constantine – Pampered Prince Enters the Ring

As caesar of Britain and Gaul, Constantine's father – Constantius – had been chosen for the most junior post in the tetrarchy. With his promotion, Constantius dismissed his concubine Helena, the mother of Constantine, and made a politically advantageous marriage to the daughter of Diocletian's colleague Maximian. Constantine himself had been obliged to spend his youth at Nicomedia – as 'hostage' in the court of Diocletian.

When the ailing Diocletian stepped down as Augustus after twenty years in 305, Constantine was dismayed that he had been passed over for the position of caesar. Galerius became senior Augustus in the east. Frustrated, and fearful for his life, Constantine fled to Gaul to join his father, and together they campaigned in northern Britain.

Constantius – nicknamed 'Chlorus' because of his pale and sickly complexion – died at Eburacum (York) the following year and Constantine was 'proclaimed' Augustus by the troops in what was the most marginal of frontier provinces. The ambitious prince was now vulnerable to a charge of usurping imperial authority. His unauthorized promotion was a blow against the Tetrarchy which had stabilized the Roman world. The empire had almost collapsed during the 3rd century because of military rebellions and only a generation before, Aurelian had brought to an end fifteen years of secession by the western provinces. Subsequently, Constantine's own father had invaded Britain precisely to end a decade of separate imperium in the province under the rebel emperors Carausius and Allectus.

Constantine immediately left Britain and the legionary fortress where he had been acclaimed to establish a firmer base with the legions of the Rhineland. He moved quickly to establish a court in the northern city of Augusta Treverorum (Trier) &ndash often a secessionist capital &ndash but his sights were on a far bigger prize.

Like his father before him, Constantine abandoned a concubine (the mother of his child) to make a politically useful marriage into the family of the senior Augustus (and rival), Maximian, Diocletian's original colleague, who had returned to imperial politics from an unwelcome retirement. Soon after, Maximian was dead, almost certainly on the orders of his new son-in-law. In the eastern capital an unhappy Galerius reluctantly acknowledged Constantine as a caesar but appointed his own nominee – Severus – as supreme ruler for the west.

In the meantime, Maxentius (son of Maximian and now Constantine's brother-in-law!) had been proclaimed Augustus in Rome by the praetorian guard. Severus lost his life in an unsuccessful attempt to remove the usurper.

Conversion? My Enemy's Enemy is My Friend

In Constantine's day, the eastern provinces were by far the richest and most populous of the Roman world. Some of its cities – Pergamon, Symrna, Antioch and so on – had existed for almost a millennium and had accumulated vast wealth from international trade and venerated cult centres. Through its numerous cities passed Roman gold going east in exchange for imports from Persia, India and Arabia. Flowing west with those exotic imports came exotic 'mystery religions' to titillate and enthrall Roman appetites.

In contrast, the western provinces now ruled by Constantine were more recently colonized and less developed. Its cities were small 'new towns', its hinterland still barbarian. During the crisis decades of the 3rd century many provincial Romans in the west had been carried off into slavery by Germanic raiders and their cities burned. The province of Britain and part of northern Gaul had actually seceded from the empire in the late third century – and had been ruled by its own 'emperors' (Carausius, Allectus) with the help of Frankish mercenaries (286-297).

Constantine had no power-base in the east from which to mount a bid for the throne – but he had been at Nicomedia in 303 when Diocletian had decided to purge the Roman state of the disloyal Christian element. He had also served under Galerius on the Danube and witnessed at first-hand how the favoured Galerius – designated heir and rival – in particular despised the cult of Christ.

The ambitious and ruthless prince, from his base in Trier, immediately proclaimed himself 'protector of the Christians.'But it was not the handful of Jesus worshippers in the west that Constantine had in mind – there had not, after all, been any persecution in the west – but the far more numerous congregation in the east.They constituted a tiny minority within the total population (perhaps as few as 2%) but the eastern Christians were an organised force of fanatics, in many cities holding important positions in state administration. Some held posts even within the imperial entourage.

By championing the cause of the Christians Constantine put himself at the head of a 'fifth column' in the east, of a state within a state.

At first, Constantine honoured the tetrarchy which had stabilized the empire for a generation but Galerius himself died in 311 and Constantine saw his opportunity. In the spring of 312, in the first of his civil wars, Constantine moved against the ill-fated Maxentius to seize control of Italy and Africa, in the process almost annihilating a Roman army near Turin, and another outside of Rome.

A nonsense repeated ad nauseam is the fable of the ‘writing above the sun’ which advised Constantine of his divine destiny. In its worst form, the legend has it that the words ‘In this sign, you shall conquer’ and the sign of the cross were visible to Constantine and his entire army. The words would have been, perhaps, Latin ‘In Hoc Signo Victor Seris’, a bizarre cloud formation unique in the annuls of meteorological observation.

On the other hand, more than one author (e.g. S. Angus, The Mystery Religions, p236) says that the words were in Greek ('En Touto Nika'), which would have left them unintelligible to the bulk of the army. Then, again, perhaps they were in both Latin and Greek, a complete occluded front of cumulus cloud!

Digging below the legend however we discover that the vision was in fact a dream reported some years later by Constantine to his secretary Lactantius (On the Death of the Persecutors, chapter xliv ANF. vii, 318.) The fable was later embellished by the emperor's ‘minister of propaganda’, Bishop Eusebius, in his Life of Constantine (1.xxvi-xxxi). The ‘sign of the cross’ was an even later interpolation (the cross was not a Christian symbol at the time of the battle – nor would be until the 6th century!). Any ‘good luck emblem’ at this date would have been the chi-rho – ambiguously the first two letters of the word Christos, the Greek word for ‘auspicious’ and also Chronos, god of time and a popular embodiment of Mithras!

What is perhaps most significant about this ‘origins’ fantasy is that ‘lucky charms’ had entered the parlance of Christianity. Constantine did not need to be a Christian invoking its symbols was sufficient to win divine patronage. But did he invoke its symbols? Coins issued at the time celebrating his victory showed only Sol Invictus: his triumphant arch, still standing, refers only to ‘the gods’. In truth, Constantine was not a particularly pious man. Famously, he delayed his baptism until he was close to death for fear of further sinning – with good reason: among his many murders was that of his first wife Fausta (boiled alive) and eldest son Crispus (strangled).

End of Praetorians: New Germanic cavalry

In the real world, one consequence of Constantine's victories in 312 was the disbandment of the praetorian guard. The praetorians had had the misfortune to have backed Maxentius and those who had not fallen in the battle (and many had drowned near the Milvian bridge) were demoted and posted to garrisons on distant frontiers.

Replacing the praetorians was a special imperial guard – Scholae Palatinae – an elite cavalry regiment of 500, mainly Germans. Diocletian had pioneered a new force of imperial guards (Ioviani and Herculiani) but these had been crack infantry regiments.

"Constantine's fondness for German troops led to the charge that he had barbarised the army." (Farrel, p47)

Constantine's spite left the city of Rome defenseless – and when the Visigoths arrived a century later – the 'mistress of the world' fell to the invader.

Constantine's Ambition Decimates the Legions

"The feeble policy of Constantine and his successors armed and instructed, for the ruin of the empire, the rude valour of the Barbarian mercenaries . the mortal wound so rashly or so weakly inflicted by the hand of Constantine."

Having added Italy and Africa to his realm, Constantine at first made secure his position with the senior augustus in the east – where Licinius had succeeded to the throne of Galerius – by a 'peace pact' and the gift of his sister as a bride. But within a year, Constantine reneged on his agreement with Licinius and plunged the empire into a new civil war.

Two battles in the Balkans – Cibalae (October, 314), Castra Jarba (November, 314) were stalemated with massive casualties on both sides. It seems Constantine unnerved the Christians in Licinius's army by displaying Christian emblems in his own legions.

Licinius – an accommodating and benign emperor – sued for a peace in which he acknowledged Constantine as the senior augustus.

Now titular monarch of the world, for a decade Constantine concentrated on wooing the senatorial class in Rome, marked by a program of public works in a city already in decline.

In the embattled years of the late third century the fortunes of the city of Rome began a downspin, even as Christianity’s star was rising.

By Constantine’s day there were about two dozen Christian meeting houses in the city but the imperial court and its bureaucracy had moved north, first to Milan and Trier, and later, to Ravenna and Arles.

Affected both by civil conflict and the recurring epidemics which came in its wake, the city’s population began to fall. Worse yet, at the very moment of Christian triumph – the consecration of the Lateran Basilica by the ‘first Christian Emperor’ – the great general was already well ahead with plans for a new capital, eight hundred miles to the east.

The Christians had plundered and assimilated much of pagan religious thought and ritual their conquering hero now sequestered the statuary and fabric of the eastern empire to aggrandize his new city on the Bosphorus.

After 326, Constantine never again stepped foot in Rome he personally ‘never liked the city. ' (J. Norwich, Byzantium, p61).

In consequence the Bishops of Rome picked up the mantle of falling grandeur and set the city on a new Christian path to power.

Having built support within the old imperial capital, and with his ambitions still not satisfied, Constantine provoked yet another civil war with Licinius in 324.

Constantine gathered an army of 125,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry, and a fleet of 200 vessels. To meet the threat, Licinius stripped troops from the vulnerable Persian frontier to assemble a force of 150,000 infantry, 15,000 cavalry and a fleet of no fewer than 350 ships. Battle was joined at Adrianople on 3 July and Byzantium was blockaded. The fleets met in the Bosphorus, but Licinius's navy was overwhelmed by a storm, drowning 5000 men in the process. Licinius surrendered on the promise of personal safety six months later he was strangled by order of Constantine.

The pampered prince had at last reached the summit of his ambition. The tough and ruthless Constantine, bastard son of Constantius and a Bithynian barmaid called Helena, had made himself master of the Empire. Christianity’s hour had come.

Yet in his climb to mastery of the Roman world, 'the first Christian Emperor' had brought about the destruction of the heart of the Roman military machine. The huge loss of manpower could be made good only by ever greater recruitment of barbarian detachments, hired as mercenaries to fight Rome's wars for her.

This, of course, is precisely what Constantine did.

Fatal Reorganisation of the Army

At the height of its power, Rome's vast empire had been successfully defended by legions stationed in great fortresses on the frontiers. Its military machine had thoroughly mastered the arts of military support and logistics. Some 33 legions had been sufficient to vanquish barbarians in forest, desert, mountain or marsh.

But the legions had increasingly become the makers of emperors. In the interlude of the tetrarchy, Constantine's father had been chosen by Diocletian for his ability. But Constantine himself had used the Gallic army to stake his own claim for power and he was wary of the legions. Having triumphed by force, Constantine was determined to close the door for any future usurpers.

At the heart of Constantine's new structure for the army was a mobile field force of 100,000 troops, initially withdrawn from the frontier garrisons. Protection of the imperial regime was more important than protection of 'remote frontiers'. A mobile force, near to the person of the emperor, replaced forces scattered along thousands of miles of frontier. Up close and personal, potential rivals in the military could be identified and eliminated.

The new army had a new command structure, based upon personal loyalty to the emperor. At its head were two 'field marshals' for infantry and cavalry (magister peditum, magister equitum), under Constantine's watchful eye. Senators were eliminated entirely from military command.

Yet Constantine's new army proved as disastrous as his new religion.

"The hugh mobile reserve created by Constantine (306-337) fatally weakened the frontier forces and emphasized cavalry at the expense of infantry . Yet in the crucial battles that the legions fought against Goths and Huns it was the clash of foot soldiers – not cavalry – that decided the Empire's fate." (Farrill)

The Greek historian Zosimus, in the early 6th century noted other consequences of Constantine's reforms:

"Constantine abolished security by removing the greater part of the soldiery from the frontiers to the cities that needed no auxiliary forces. He thus deprived of help the people who were harassed by the barbarians and burdened tranquil cities with the pest of the military, so that several straightway were deserted. Moreover he softened the soldiers, who treated themselves to shows and luxuries. Indeed (to speak plainly) he personally planted the first seeds of our present devastated state of affairs." (Historia Nova, II.34)

The weakened and demoralised troops who remained on the frontiers (limitarei and ripenses – 'border' and 'river' guards) were re-grouped into small units of 1000 men (compared to 5000 of the former legions), with limited cavalry support under the command of a 'dux'. These small detachments were stationed in hill-top forts, where, essentially, they avoided any engagement with an enemy they were not expected to defeat.

"The limitanei probably went into immediate & gradual decline – the evidence for their tactical deployment is nearly non-existent."
&ndash Farrill , The Fall of the Roman Empire, p49.

Training for these demoralised and irregularly paid troops seriously declined. Expensive body armour was abandoned, and simple leather caps replaced the iron helmet.

Under such conditions, traditional Roman infantry tactics, driven by harsh discipline and constant training, simply disappeared. The luckless frontier troops, dependent upon payment in rations and only the occasional cash bonus, degenerated into a peasant militia, spending more time in growing food than on the parade ground.

2nd century trooper
5th century trooper

Yet the expensive mobile force was never mobile enough.

"The result was that Rome's effective combatant manpower was drastically reduced, even though the overall army was larger than in the earlier Empire."
&ndash Farrill, The Fall of the Roman Empire . p44.

This larger army required a vastly enlarged bureaucracy of tax-collectors and it had to levy the cities annually for manpower. The military draft and rapacious tax collectors sent many cities into a downward spiral as the citizenry seeped away.

Constantine responded to the crisis – plainly evident in his own day – by a law requiring sons of veterans to serve in the army. Military service (like tax collecting) became hereditary. Not only did this precipitate a collapse of espirit de corps: Constantine laid one of the foundation stones of that insidious form of slavery called serfdom.

With the demise of the old structure of the army, the 'democratic' escalator, whereby a common soldier, moving through the ranks, could enter the imperial entourage and reach for the throne itself, passed away. The stage was now set for 'Lords' on horseback and shoddily equipped conscripts.

Strengthening the Centre, Dividing the Periphery

The wily Diocletian had begun a process (adapted from the Oriental theocracies) which the vainglorious Constantine refined and set as a model for all future monarchs: he surrounded the imperial dignity with a 'halo' of sacredness and ceremonial.

A large court-retinue, elaborate court-ceremonials, and ostentatious court-costume made access to the emperor almost impossible. When he eventually reached 'God's agent on Earth', a 'suppliant' prostrated himself before the emperor as if before a divinity (Augustus had always stood to greet a senator!)

Henceforth, emperors allowed themselves to be venerated as divines, and everything connected with them was called 'sacred'. Instead of imperial, the word 'sacred' had now always to be used.

The egotistical Constantine, not content with concentrating absolute (and 'divine') power into his own hands, went on to reduce the authority of provincial governors and generals ('duces', 'comes'). Some of this authority fell into the hands of the nouveau riche bishops, at whose head stood Constantine himself. Constantine hoped thus to prevent any rebellion arising in the provinces – but he did so at the cost of weakening the ability of provincials to resist invasion.

State Church: Christianity Goes Royal

"Nothing is more welcome to a military empire than a religious doctrine that counsels obedience and acquiescence."

&ndash Hyam Maccoby, The Mythmaker, p163.

Constantine's desire to impose upon the Empire a religion that would identify obsequiousness to the deity with loyalty to the emperor found its perfect partner in Christianity – or at least in the Christianity he was to patronize.

In the century before the ignoble alliance of one particular faction with the imperium many christianities had contended. Before Constantine, Christ had, for most Christians, been the ‘good shepherd’, just like Mithras and Apollo, not a celestial monarch or an imperial judge. Nor did the Christian sects dwell on the crucifixion scene:

‘They shrink from the recollection of the servile and degrading death inflicted on their lord, and conceive salvation in the gentle terms of the friendship of Christ, not in the panoply of imperial triumphs.’ (Oxford History, p14)

But with Constantine's absolute monarchy, Christianity acquired its 'panoply of imperial triumphs.' The leading Churchman and propagandist Eusebius hailed the autocrat as a new Moses, a new Abraham. Constantine saw himself, more modestly, as the thirteenth apostle, a saint-in-waiting. At the time, perhaps five per cent of the empire’s population was nominally ‘Christian.’ With imperial encouragement, support, funds and force the Universal Church set about the task of gathering in its flock.

In a number of provinces a serious breach had opened within the Christian churches between those who had 'apostatised' during Diocletian's brief persecution and those who had suffered penalties for their fanaticism. Some churches already had a 'nationalistic' bent, serving as a focus for opposition to the emperor.

Constantine, vexed by all such discord, called for an inclusive 'universal' or catholic faith. Of course all factions regarded themselves as that universal 'orthodox' faith and manoeuvred for preferment. It was inevitable that an autocrat like Constantine would identify with and adopt a church which modelled its organisation not merely upon the Roman State but upon its most authoritarian aspect: the imperial army.

In the Constantinian Church, bishops would rule districts corresponding with military dioceses, would control appointments and impose discipline. Lesser clerics would report through a chain of command up to the local pontiff. ‘Staff officers’, in the guise of deacons and presbyters, would control funds and allocations.

Just as well that in Christian morality there was no place for democracy, only for absolute monarchs, chosen by God. In Christianity there were no human rights (for example, of a slave to his freedom), only obligations (thus a slave should be honest and faithful to his master, because, of course, all would be judged on the day of reckoning) .

Spoils of Victory: Pillaging the Pagans

The alliance of Roman autocracy and Christian intolerance was a marriage made in hell. The Universal Church eyed with envy the pagan temples and shrines which, through centuries, had amassed their own riches. As propagandists for Constantine, the Christians had the ear of the emperor and successfully urged him to confiscate temple treasures throughout the Empire, much of it redirected to the ‘One True Faith.’

The assault upon the values that had sustained the Empire for a thousand years was merciless and relentless. It began with Constantine's denial of state funds to the ancient pagan shrines which had always depended on state sponsorship. Never having had full-time fund raisers like the Christian churches the pagan cults immediately went into decline.

But having given the Christians the world, what Constantine could not anticipate was the ferocity of Christian discord, which was to dog his reign and the reign of all who were to follow him.

The Christian 'community' itself had changed as a consequence of the Constantinian revolution. Official recognition of Christianity, the tax exemptions it gave devotees and state patronage made the Christian faith considerably more appealing to opportunistic pagans. Episcopal posts became highly sought after when, in 319, the clergy were exempted from public obligations and, in 321, priests were exempted from imperial and local taxation. Clerics were even placed outside the jurisdiction of normal courts ('Privilegia Ecclesiastica': Decline of Law).

A flood of new converts, many with little or no religious motivation, swamped the church. Fierce rivalries within the Church multiplied, weakened its power and exposed vulnerabilities in both its doctrine and organisation.

Constantine successfully established the dynastic principle, but it had bitter fruit. His feeble sons, 'born to rule', murdered each other (the survivor died falling from his horse). Worse yet, Constantine’s nephew, Julian, though raised as a Christian, detested the doctrine and, on assuming the throne, reversed many of Constantine’s policies.

Emperor Julian on his uncle Constantine

"As for Constantine, he could not discover among the gods the model of his own career, but when he caught sight of Pleasure, who was not far off, he ran to her. She received him tenderly and embraced him, then after dressing him in raiment of many colours and otherwise making him beautiful, she led him away to Incontinence.

There too he found Jesus, who had taken up his abode with her and cried aloud to all comers: 'He that is a seducer, he that is a murderer, he that is sacrilegious and infamous, let him approach without fear! For with this water will I wash him and will straightway make him clean. And though he should be guilty of those same sins a second time, let him but smite his breast and beat his head and I will make him clean again.'

To him Constantine came gladly, when he had conducted his sons forth from the assembly of the gods."

&ndash Emperor Julian, The Caesars (c.361 AD)

To the alarm of the new Christian 'establishment', the pagan world was not yet ready to die quietly.

Post-Constantine: Lurch into Religious Tyranny

Within three years, Emperor Julian had been assassinated on the Persian front (probably by a disaffected Christian soldier) – but it left the Christians fearful of losing the prize that had fallen so unexpectedly into their laps.

Thereafter, the Christians embraced a ruthlessness hitherto unknown in the world, an intolerance which, in the centuries ahead, would wreak unimaginable horror.

In the closing years of the fourth century, draconian laws prohibiting non-Christian beliefs were enacted by the new hero of the Christians, Emperor Theodosius. Heresy was now equated with treason and thus became a capital offence.

Theodosius 'the Great' presided over the destruction of temples and icons, the burning of books and libraries, and a rampage of murder of pagan priests, scholars and philosophers. The wisdom and finesse of an entire civilization was sacrificed on the altar of the Christian godman and delivered Europe into a dark age of barbarism and crass superstition.

Only the very brave, the very foolish or the very hidden would now deny their Christianity. The prologue to the Dark Age had been written.

Edward Gibbon, The Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire (Penguin, 1960)
Michael Grant, The Roman Emperors (Weidenfield & Nicolson, 1985)
Michael Grant, The Emperor Constantine (Weidenfield & Nicolson, 1985)
Arthur Ferrill, The Fall of the Roman Empire (Thames & Hudson, 1986)
Dan Cohn-Sherbok, The Crucified Jew (Harper Collins,1992)
Arther Ferrill, The Fall of the Roman Empire (Thames & Hudson, 1986)
Leslie Houlden (Ed.), Judaism & Christianity (Routledge, 1988)
Norman Cantor, The Sacred Chain - A History of the Jews (Harper Collins, 1994)
Friedrich Heer, The Fires of Faith (Weidenfield & Nicolson, 1970)
H. A. Drake, Constantine and the Bishops: The Politics of Intolerance (John Hopkins, 2000)
Paul Stephenson, Constantine, Unconquered Emperor, Christian Victor ((Quercus, 2011)


An arch is a pure compression form. [4] [5] [6] [7] It can span a large area by resolving forces into compressive stresses, and thereby eliminating tensile stresses. This is sometimes denominated "arch action". [8] As the forces in the arch are transferred to its base, the arch pushes outward at its base, denominated "thrust". As the rise, i. e. height, of the arch decreases the outward thrust increases. [9] In order to preserve arch action and prevent collapse of the arch, the thrust must be restrained, either by internal ties or external bracing, such as abutments. [10]

Fixed versus hinged arches Edit

The most common kinds of true arch are the fixed arch, the two-hinged arch, and the three-hinged arch. [11]

The fixed arch is most often used in reinforced concrete bridges and tunnels, which have short spans. Because it is subject to additional internal stress from thermal expansion and contraction, this kind of arch is considered statically indeterminate. [10]

The two-hinged arch is most often used to bridge long spans. [10] This kind of arch has pinned connections at its base. Unlike that of the fixed arch, the pinned base can rotate, [12] thus allowing the structure to move freely and compensate for the thermal expansion and contraction that changes in outdoor temperature cause. However, this can result in additional stresses, and therefore the two-hinged arch is also statically indeterminate, although not as much as the fixed arch. [10]

The three-hinged arch is not only hinged at its base, like the two-hinged arch, yet also at its apex. The additional apical connection allows the three-hinged arch to move in two opposite directions and compensate for any expansion and contraction. This kind of arch is thus not subject to additional stress from thermal change. Unlike the other two kinds of arch, the three-hinged arch is therefore statically determinate. [11] It is most often used for spans of medial length, such as those of roofs of large buildings. Another advantage of the three-hinged arch is that the pinned bases are more easily developed than fixed ones, which allows shallow, bearing-type foundations in spans of medial length. In the three-hinged arch "thermal expansion and contraction of the arch will cause vertical movements at the peak pin joint but will have no appreciable effect on the bases," which further simplifies foundational design. [10]

Forms Edit

The many forms of arch are classified into three categories: circular, pointed, and parabolic. Arches can also be configured to produce vaults and arcades. [10]

Rounded, i. e. semicircular, arches were commonly used for ancient arches that were constructed of heavy masonry. [13] Ancient Roman builders relied heavily on the rounded arch to span great lengths. Several rounded arches that are constructed in-line and end-to-end in a series form an arcade, e.g. in Roman aqueducts. [14]

Pointed arches were most often used in Gothic architecture. [15] The advantage of a pointed arch, rather than a circular one, is that the arch action produces less horizontal thrust at the base. This innovation allowed for taller and more closely spaced openings, which are typical of Gothic architecture. [16] [17]

Vaults are essentially "adjacent arches [that] are assembled side by side." If vaults intersect, their intersections produce complex forms. The forms, along with the "strongly expressed ribs at the vault intersections, were dominant architectural features of Gothic cathedrals." [13]

The parabolic arch employs the principle that when weight is uniformly applied to an arch, the internal compression resulting from that weight will follow a parabolic profile. Of all forms of arch, the parabolic arch produces the most thrust at the base yet can span the greatest distances. It is commonly used in bridges, where long spans are needed. [13]

The catenary arch has a different shape from the parabolic arch. Being the shape of the curve that a loose span of chain or rope traces, the catenary is the structurally ideal shape for a freestanding arch of constant thickness.

Forms of arch displayed chronologically, roughly in chronological order of development:

Round or semicircular arch

Shouldered flat arch (see also jack arch)

Trefoil or three-foiled cusped arch

Bronze Age: ancient Near East Edit

True arches, as opposed to corbel arches, were known by a number of civilizations in the ancient Near East including the Levant [ contradictory ] , but their use was infrequent and mostly confined to underground structures, such as drains where the problem of lateral thrust is greatly diminished. [18] An example of the latter would be the Nippur arch, built before 3800 BC, [19] and dated by H. V. Hilprecht (1859–1925) to even before 4000 BC. [20] Rare exceptions are an arched mudbrick home doorway dated to circa 2000 BC from Tell Taya in Iraq [21] and two Bronze Age arched Canaanite city gates, one at Ashkelon (dated to c. 1850 BC), [22] and one at Tel Dan (dated to c. 1750 BC), both in modern-day Israel. [23] [24] An Elamite tomb dated 1500 BC from Haft Teppe contains a parabolic vault which is considered as one of the earliest evidences of arches in Iran.

Classical Persia and Greece Edit

In ancient Persia, the Achaemenid Empire (550 BC–330 BC) built small barrel vaults (essentially a series of arches built together to form a hall) known as iwan, which became massive, monumental structures during the later Parthian Empire (247 BC–AD 224). [25] [26] [27] This architectural tradition was continued by the Sasanian Empire (224–651), which built the Taq Kasra at Ctesiphon in the 6th century AD, the largest free-standing vault until modern times. [28]

An early European example of a voussoir arch appears in the 4th century BC Greek Rhodes Footbridge. [29]

Ancient Rome Edit

The ancient Romans learned the arch from the Etruscans, refined it and were the first builders in Europe to tap its full potential for above ground buildings:

The Romans were the first builders in Europe, perhaps the first in the world, to fully appreciate the advantages of the arch, the vault and the dome. [30]

Throughout the Roman empire, their engineers erected arch structures such as bridges, aqueducts, and gates. They also introduced the triumphal arch as a military monument. Vaults began to be used for roofing large interior spaces such as halls and temples, a function that was also assumed by domed structures from the 1st century BC onwards.

The segmental arch was first built by the Romans who realized that an arch in a bridge did not have to be a semicircle, [31] [32] such as in Alconétar Bridge or Ponte San Lorenzo. They were also routinely used in house construction, as in Ostia Antica (see picture).

Ancient China Edit

In ancient China, most architecture was wooden, including the few known arch bridges from literature and one artistic depiction in stone-carved relief. [33] [34] [35] Therefore, the only surviving examples of architecture from the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) are rammed earth defensive walls and towers, ceramic roof tiles from no longer existent wooden buildings, [36] [37] [38] stone gate towers, [39] [40] and underground brick tombs that, although featuring vaults, domes, and archways, were built with the support of the earth and were not free-standing. [41] [42]

Roman and Chinese bridges in comparison Edit

China's oldest surviving stone arch bridge is the Anji Bridge, built between 595 AD and 605 AD during the Sui Dynasty it is the oldest open-spandrel segmental arch bridge in stone. [43] [44]

However, the ancient Romans had virtually all of these components beforehand for example, Trajan's Bridge that was built between 103 AD and 105 AD, had open spandrels built in wood on stone pillars. [45]

Gothic Europe Edit

The first example of an early Gothic arch in Europe is in Sicily in the Greek fortifications of Gela. The semicircular arch was followed in Europe by the pointed Gothic arch or ogive, whose centreline more closely follows the forces of compression and which is therefore stronger. The semicircular arch can be flattened to make an elliptical arch, as in the Ponte Santa Trinita. Parabolic arches were introduced in construction by the Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí, who admired the structural system of the Gothic style, but for the buttresses, which he termed "architectural crutches". The first examples of the pointed arch in the European architecture are in Sicily and date back to the Arab-Norman period.

Horseshoe arch: Aksum and Syria Edit

The horseshoe arch is based on the semicircular arch, but its lower ends are extended further round the circle until they start to converge. The first known built horseshoe arches are from the Kingdom of Aksum in modern-day Ethiopia and Eritrea, dating from ca. 3rd–4th century. This is around the same time as the earliest contemporary examples in Roman Syria, suggesting either an Aksumite or Syrian origin for the type. [46]

India Edit

Vaulted roof of an early Harappan burial chamber has been noted from Rakhigarhi. [47] S.R Rao reports vaulted roof of a small chamber in a house from Lothal. [48] Barrel vaults were also used in the Late Harappan Cemetery H culture dated 1900 BC-1300 BC which formed the roof of the metal working furnace, the discovery was made by Vats in 1940 during excavation at Harappa. [49] [50] [51]

In India, Bhitargaon temple (450 AD) and Mahabodhi temple (7th century AD) built in by Gupta Dynasty are the earliest surviving examples of the use of voussoir arch vault system in India. [52] The earlier uses semicircular arch, while the later contains examples of both gothic style pointed arch and semicircular arches. Although introduced in the 5th century, arches didn't gain prominence in the Indian architecture until 12th century after Islamic conquest. The Gupta era arch vault system was later used extensively in Burmese Buddhist temples in Pyu and Bagan in 11th and 12th centuries. [53]

Corbel arch: pre-Columbian Mexico Edit

This article does not deal with a different architectural element, the corbel arch. However, it is worthwhile mentioning that corbel arches were found in other parts of ancient Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. In 2010, a robot discovered a long arch-roofed passageway underneath the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl, which stands in the ancient city of Teotihuacan north of Mexico City, dated to around 200 AD. [54]

Since it is a pure compression form, the arch is useful because many building materials, including stone and unreinforced concrete, can resist compression, but are weak when tensile stress is applied to them (ref: similar to the AL-Karparo [8:04]). [55]

An arch is held in place by the weight of all of its members, making construction problematic. One answer is to build a frame (historically, of wood) which exactly follows the form of the underside of the arch. This is known as a centre or centring. Voussoirs are laid on it until the arch is complete and self-supporting. For an arch higher than head height, scaffolding would be required, so it could be combined with the arch support. Arches may fall when the frame is removed if design or construction has been faulty. The first attempt at the A85 bridge at Dalmally, Scotland suffered this fate, in the 1940s. [ citation needed ] The interior and lower line or curve of an arch is known as the intrados.

Old arches sometimes need reinforcement due to decay of the keystones, forming what is known as bald arch.

In reinforced concrete construction, the principle of the arch is used so as to benefit from the concrete's strength in resisting compressive stress. Where any other form of stress is raised, such as tensile or torsional stress, it has to be resisted by carefully placed reinforcement rods or fibres. [56]

A depressed arch is one that appears "squashed" down at the top from the full arched shape. In pointed-arch styles, where there is a central point at the top of the arch, it may be a four-centred arch or Tudor arch.

A blind arch is an arch infilled with solid construction so it cannot function as a window, door, or passageway. These are common as decorative treatments of a wall surface in many architectural styles, especially Romanesque architecture.

A special form of the arch is the triumphal arch, usually built to celebrate a victory in war. A famous example is the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France.

Rock formations may form natural arches through erosion, rather than being carved or constructed. [57] Structures such as this can be found in Arches National Park. Some rock balance sculptures are in the form of an arch.

The arches of the foot support the weight of the human body.

Blind arches on the Church of San Tirso in Sahagún, León, Spain

A rock balance sculpture in the form of an arch

Arch of Constantine, Rome, commemorating a victory by Constantine I in 312 AD (2007)

The Arc de Triomphe, Paris a 19th-century triumphal arch modelled on the classical Roman design (1998)

Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri a sculpture based on a catenary arch (2011)

Anji Bridge over the Xiaohe River, Hebei Province, China (2007)

The dry stone bridge, so called Porta Rosa (4th century BC), in Elea, Province of Salerno, Campania, Italy (2005)

Bridge in Český Krumlov, Czech Republic (2004)

Pont de Bercy over the River Seine, Paris, carrying the Paris Métro on its upper deck and a boulevard extension on its lower deck (2006)

Ludendorff Bridge over the Rhine River, Remagen, Germany, showing damage before collapse during the Battle of Remagen in World War II (1945)

Lianxiang bridge over the Xiang River, Xiangtan, Hunan Province, China (2007)

Arch supporting the Eiffel Tower, Paris (2015)

The second Wembley Stadium in London, built in 2007 (2007)

The first San Mamés Stadium, in Bilbao, arch built in 1953, demolished 2013 (2013)

Lucerne railway station, Switzerland (2010)

Stonework arches seen in a ruined stonework building – Burg Lippspringe, Germany (2005)

Arches in the Casa-Museo del Libertador Simón Bolívar in Havana, Cuba (2006) [58]

Arches in dining hall at Kings College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England (2007)

Arches in throne room of Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany (1886 photochrom print)

Arches inside the North Gallery, Court of the Myrtles, Alhambra, Granada, Andalusia, Spain (2010)

Arches in the nave of the church in monastery of Alcobaça, Portugal (2008)

Arches in choir of Chartres Cathedral, Chartres, France (2013)

Arches inside the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey (1983)

Arches inside the western upper gallery, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey (2007)

Interior arches in the Masjid al-Haram, Mecca, Saudi Arabia (2008)

Roof of Masjid al-Haram, Mecca, Saudi Arabia (2008)

Arches in Sculpture Gallery, West Building, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (2007)

Arches in Pavilion Hall, Small Hermitage, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia (2015)

Arches in Salle du Manège, Louvre Palace, Paris (2007)

Multifoil arches inside the Aljafería Palace, Zaragoza, Spain (2004)

Catenary arches inside the Casa Milà in Barcelona, Spain by Antoni Gaudí (2010>

Main façade of the Itamaraty Palace in Brasília, Brazil, decorated with many arches (2005)

Arches inside the National Building Museum (formerly Pension Building), Washington, D.C. (2007)

Crypt of the Popes in the Catacomb of Callixtus, Rome (2007)

Chinese Eastern Han Dynasty (25–220 AD) tomb chamber, Luoyang (2008)

Shah Abbas Arch Dam (Tagh E Shah Abbas), Tabas County, South Khorasan Province, Iran (2011)

ARC 110 History of Architecture I - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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HISTORY CORNER: The Roman Emperor and battle that changed history

The Roman Empire during the reign of Emperor Constantine (306-337 A.D.).

Statue of Emperor Constantine at Basilica of Maxentius in Rome.

The Battle of the Milvian Bridge painting (1520-24) by Giulio Romano.

Gérard Audran etching and engraving after a painting by Charles Le Brun (1619-1690) of Milvian Bridge over the Tiber River collapsing under Maxentius troops being slaughtered by Emperor Constantine’s legions in 312 A.D.

Depiction of Emperor Constantine’s dream seeing the Christian cross and the words “In hoc signo vinces” — or “In this sign, you shall conquer.”

Ponte Milvio over the Tiber River in Rome today, site of the 312 A.D. battle that changed history.

A tradition of lovers attaching a padlock to the Milvian Bridge and throwing the key into the river was adopted from a novel to symbolize eternal love, but is now banned by authorities who have removed the locks, considering them vandalism.

Pendant owned by Holland-born American priest Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin (1770-1840), believed to contain a fragment of the true cross on which Jesus was crucified that was discovered by Roman Emperor Constantine’s mother, Helen.

St. Helena, Emperor Constantine’s mother who went to the Holy Land to preserve sacred sites, and is credited with discovering the true cross.

During Roman Emperor Julian’s short reign (361-363 A.D.), the last imperial reign to persecute Christians, pagans martyred virgin Christian women at Heliopolis (now a suburb of Cairo, Egypt).

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre sits on the site of the pagan temple ordered destroyed by Roman Emperor Constantine in 4th century A.D. (photo c. 1905).

Three centuries after Christ’s crucifixion, Roman Emperor Constantine was crossing the Alps to battle co-emperor Maxentius who controlled Rome when he and his troops saw a cross of light above the sun with the inscription In Hoc Signe Vinces — “With this symbol you shall conquer.”

That night he dreamt that he was commanded to mark the shields carried by his troops with a sign “denoting Christ.”

Constantine immediately had the Greek letters Chi and Rho — the first two letters in “Christ” — painted on the shields.

All of this was reported by the great Roman historian Eusebius who heard the story directly from Constantine who told it under oath.

A more likely version of the story however is from early Christian author Lactantius, “the Christian Cicero,” as described in his Vision of Constantine:

"At length Constantine, with steady courage and a mind prepared for every event, led his whole forces to the neighborhood of Rome, and encamped them opposite to the Milvian bridge. The anniversary of the reign of Maxentius approached… and the fifth year of his reign was drawing to an end.

“Constantine was directed in a dream to cause the heavenly sign to be delineated on the shields of his soldiers, and so to proceed to battle. He did as he had been commanded, and he marked on their shields the letter X, with a perpendicular line drawn through it and turned round thus at the top (P), being the cipher of CHRISTOS. Having this sign, his troops stood to arms.”

Those were complicated times in Roman history. There were emperors and sub-emperors called “Caesars” controlling different parts of the Roman Empire that then stretched from Britain to the Middle East.

Constantine was born Flavius Valerius Constantinus around 280 A.D. in what is now Niš, Serbia.

His father, Flavius Valerius Constantius, was an officer in the Roman army, and his mother Helena was either his wife or concubine. She would later play a huge role in the history of Christianity after being abandoned by Constantius for another woman — the stepdaughter of Maximian, the Western Roman emperor who later promoted him to deputy emperor.

Constantine himself was assigned to the court of the cruel Emperor Diocletian, ruler of the Eastern Roman Empire. It was there that Constantine learned Latin and Greek — and likely also witnessed Christians being persecuted.

Maximian abdicated in 305 A.D. and Constantine's father became Emperor Constantius I. Constantine then fought alongside his father in military campaigns as far away as Britain.

When his father died in today’s Yorkshire, England, his troops declared Constantine emperor, but he would have to fight in a Roman civil war to make the title official.

Standing in his way was Maxentius who controlled Italy, Sardinia, Corsica, the Iberian Peninsula and half of Mediterranean North Africa.

Constantine controlled Britain and Gaul.

They would meet in mortal combat on the Milvian Bridge over the Tiber River near Rome on Oct. 28, 312 A.D.

Before that, Constantine led his troops south from the Rhineland, headed for Rome, crushing Maxentius forces at Turin and Verona along the way.

Maxentius was provisioning Rome for a fortress stand but changed his mind — based on favorable pagan omens — and waited for Constantine at the Tiber. He partially destroyed the Milvian Bridge so it couldn’t be used by the enemy and built a pontoon bridge for his own troops.

Maxentius had a larger force — probably between 40,000 and 80,000 — but no one knows the exact numbers.

With the Christian symbols Chi-Rho on their shields, Constantine’s men attacked, with the cavalry and infantry pushing Maxentius’ troops back to the river. Realizing the battle was lost, Maxentius called for a retreat — hoping to continue the fight closer to Rome and reinforcements.

His panicked soldiers overloaded the pontoon bridge, causing it to collapse under the weight. The men stranded on the north bank were taken prisoner or killed, and Maxentius drowned while trying to swim to safety.

Constantine quickly captured Rome, solidifying his position as emperor.

They fished Maxentius’ body out of the river, decapitated it and paraded the head through the streets in a victory celebration. Then it was sent to Carthage in North Africa as proof that Constantine was their new emperor.

The battle was a victory for Constantine and for Christianity.

The following year, Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, legalizing freedom of worship throughout the Roman Empire.

But trouble was brewing with Licinius, emperor in the eastern part of the empire. The two emperors jockeyed for power for about 10 years, a period interspersed with military confrontations and peace — no doubt a nervous time for Licinius’ wife Flavia Julia Constantia, Constantine’s half-sister.

Finally, in 324 A.D. Constantine caught Licinius at Thessalonica fleeing to the Goths and had him hanged for allegedly raising troops from among the barbarians.

Constantine was then sole emperor of a reunited empire.

Then he founded Constantinople in Byzantium (Istanbul in today’s Turkey), and appointed his mother Helena as Augusta Imperatrix, before sending her to Palestine with unlimited access to the imperial treasury to find relics of the Christian tradition.

During that trip from 326 to 328 A.D., she was responsible for the construction or beautification of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem where Christ was born, and the Church of Eleona on the Mount of Olives, where Jesus taught and is believed to be the site of His ascension.

Helena is credited with discovery of the true cross on which Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem, and may also have built a church in Egypt to identify the Burning Bush of Sinai.

Three crosses were found during an excavation of a site of a former pagan temple in Jerusalem. To determine if any one of them was the true cross, Helena had a woman near death touch all three. On touching the third cross, she immediately recovered.

On that site, Helen ordered the building of today’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, identified as both the place of Christ’s crucifixion and tomb.

Helena died around 330 A.D., with her son Constantine at her side and is buried in the Mausoleum of Helena outside Rome on the Via Labicana.

In the years that followed, Constantine stayed strong to his new Christian faith, while strengthening his regime by reorganizing his army to face increasing attacks by outside tribes including the Visigoths and the Sarmatians.

While Constantine was visiting Helenopolis, now in Turkey by the Black Sea, planning a campaign against Persia, he fell ill. Then as he was heading back to Constantinople, his condition grew worse, forcing him to stop.

He had been delaying his baptism into the Christian faith, but because of his deteriorating health delayed it no further.

The great Emperor died on May 22 in 337 A.D. in Ancyrona, near Nicomedia in Turkey around the age of 57 and was buried in Constantinople at the Church of the Holy Apostles.

In 380 A.D. — 68 years after the Battle of Milvian Bridge — Emperor Theodosius issued the Edict of Thessalonica, establishing Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire.

It was not an altogether smooth transition, however. The official religion was Nicene Christianity. All other Christian sects were considered heretical and therefore illegal, with the state confiscating their property.

Nicene Christianity emerged after the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., where the Nicene Creed was created and adopted as a statement of faith used in Christian liturgy. After later changes, the Creed has since been accepted by most Christian denominations.

As persecuting Christians was ending in the Roman Empire, doctrinal conflicts within the growing Christian Church would sadly create its own persecutions.

Near the Coliseum in Rome stands the Arch of Constantine commemorating his victory at Milvian Bridge. An inscription in Latin says:

“To the Emperor Caesar Flavius Constantinus, the greatest, pious, and blessed Augustus because he, inspired by the divine, and by the greatness of his mind, has delivered the state from the tyrant and all of his followers at the same time, with his army and just force of arms, the Senate and People of Rome have dedicated this arch, decorated with triumphs.”

Those triumphs changed the course of Western civilization — and by extension, world history.

It all started with a vision and a dream.

Contact Syd Albright at [email protected]

In Constantine’s time…

“Christianity also got its social structure right. Not only did they appeal to the vital lower middle classes, but they also provided what we might call social services – support for widows and orphans, and for unmarried ladies who were always a problem in Roman society. The Christian built up an extremely effective network of bishops: a bishop was not just a holy man, but very much a practical organiser who would organise his flock and once Constantine had recruited them to the services of the state, they soon provided an alternative, and indeed additional support for the municipal authorities.”

– Andrew Selkirk, editor-in-chief, Current Archeology and Current World Archeology

Helen and the True Cross…

When Constantine’s mother Helena returned to Rome, she brought with her large parts of the True Cross and other relics, which are now stored in the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem in Rome.

Emperor orders a Sabbath…

Constantine decreed on March 7, 321 A.D. that Solis Invicti (sun-day) would henceforth be a day of rest in the Roman Empire. "Let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country however persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits because it often happens that another day is not suitable for grain-sowing or vine planting lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost."

First Christian nation…

Armenia became the first country to adopt Christianity as its state religion in 301 A.D., while it was still illegal in the Roman Empire until 380 A.D., when the Empire under Emperor Theodosius also adopted it as the official state religion.

Love locks continue elsewhere…

Rome authorities removed all padlocks from the Milvian Bridge because their weight collapsed parts of the bridge. Violators are now fined €50 for attaching locks to the bridge. However, the love lock tradition has since spread around Italy, Europe and across the globe.


The Roman Empire during the reign of Emperor Constantine (306-337 A.D.).

Statue of Emperor Constantine at Basilica of Maxentius in Rome.

The Battle of the Milvian Bridge painting (1520-24) by Giulio Romano.

Gérard Audran etching and engraving after a painting by Charles Le Brun (1619-1690) of Milvian Bridge over the Tiber River collapsing under Maxentius troops being slaughtered by Emperor Constantine’s legions in 312 A.D.

Depiction of Emperor Constantine’s dream seeing the Christian cross and the words “In hoc signo vinces” — or “In this sign, you shall conquer.”

Ponte Milvio over the Tiber River in Rome today, site of the 312 A.D. battle that changed history.

A tradition of lovers attaching a padlock to the Milvian Bridge and throwing the key into the river was adopted from a novel to symbolize eternal love, but is now banned by authorities who have removed the locks, considering them vandalism.

Pendant owned by Holland-born American priest Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin (1770-1840), believed to contain a fragment of the true cross on which Jesus was crucified that was discovered by Roman Emperor Constantine’s mother, Helen.

St. Helena, Emperor Constantine’s mother who went to the Holy Land to preserve sacred sites, and is credited with discovering the true cross.

Watch the video: Arch of Constantine (June 2022).


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