Arch of Constantine

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The Arch of Constantine is a triumphal arch in Rome, the latest of all the existing triumphal arches in Rome. It is situated between the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill. The arch spans the Via Triumphalis, the way taken in past by the emperors when they entered the city in triumph.

The Arch of Constantine was erected to commemorate Constantine I's victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge on October 28, 312. The arch was dedicated three years later, in 315. From the Christian point of view, it was a major turning point in the history of the western world. According to the historians, Constantine had the Christian vision the night before the battle and he had his soldiers carry the Christian symbol into the battle and they won. Thereafter, Constantine adopted Christianity for himself and declared the religion officially tolerated throughout the Roman Empire.

The Arch of Constantine was modeled after the Arch of Septimius on the Roman Forum. The arch is 21 metres high and 25.7 metres wide. It has three archways, the central one 11.5 metres high and 6.5 metres wide and the side ones 7.4 metres by 3.4 metres. The construction is made of two parts, the upper one is also known as attic. The bottom part was made of marble, the attic is brickwork riveted with marble. Some sources claim that the lower part of the arch is reused from an older monument (from the time of the emperor Hardian). There is a staircase in the arch as well. It is entered from a door at some height from the ground and it ends towards the Palatine Hill.

The decoration of the arch is mainly the one that was used on the older monuments. These decorations are given new meaning in the Constantinian context. Another interpretation of their use is that due to the lack of time the architects used existing artwork instead of creating new one. And the third but the least improbable interpretation suggests that the Romans of the 4th century lacked the artistic skill to produce acceptable artwork so they used the ancient one.

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.
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