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Annotated Bibliography: Arch of Constantine


The Arch of Constantine is the subject being analyzed in all three sources. They explain how to mark Constantine’s win over his opponent, Maximus, a triumphal arch made of travertine stones mined near Tivoli was constructed. Political symbolism had a significant impact on Roman life and architecture. The arch, which served as a city entryway with views of important structures and extensive usage of “Spoila,” epitomized the political goals of the day. All of the monument’s components are interdependent, in keeping with the ideas of Italian architect Vignola; there is no room for tolerance around the arch. Finally, the structure is geometrically harmonious due to the recurrence of arches.


Though all articles are based on the Arch of Constantine, each article talks about a different concept from the others. According to the “Symbiosis and civil war: The audacity of the Arch of Constantine,” the Arch of Constantine is the subject of this analysis in this study. Notable for its use of spolia and as a symbol of Constantine’s political and religious reforms, it is one of the most well-known ancient Roman buildings (Popkin, 2016). The innovative component of this book is its depiction of the civil war between Constantine and Maxentius. This article delves into the background of this pivotal moment in Roman art history. By comparing the architectural form, topography, epigraphy, and sculptural decoration of the Arch of Constantine to other imperial monuments, the argument is made that the Senate and Constantine knowingly thwarted the traditional conventions of an imperial victory arch by projecting the effects of the Roman victory onto Constantine’s civil war triumph over Maxentius (Popkin, 2016). The arch’s revolutionary civil war imagery was reportedly a joint effort of the Senate and Constantine, who both wanted to reject the Tetrarchy for different reasons. The Senate wanted to restore Rome and the empire’s former prominence, while Constantine wanted sole authority.

The remarkable depiction of the civil war of Constantine with Maxentius is examined in this article, together with the arch’s geography, architectural design, and epigraphy. One of the most groundbreaking features of the Arch of Constantine is its representation of the American Civil War, which merits more attention than they have gotten. Neither the arch nor the earliest instance of the so-called late antique style in Roman art was the first imperial monument to reuse previous reliefs (Popkin, 2016). However, it was the first state monument whose sculptural embellishment expressly depicted the American Civil War.

The article expands on earlier works by making an argument that only by examining the relief décor and dedicatory inscriptions together, in relation to other victory arches in Rome and the specific historical setting of Rome at the time of the arch’s building works, can we fully comprehend the motivation for and meaning of the civil war representations on “the Arch of Constantine.” A contrast with the Arch of Septimius, after which the Arch of Constantine was based, demonstrates how the Arch of Constantine defies epigraphic and decorative norms for the so-called victory arches. The Arch of Constantine expertly incorporates the imperial triumphal arch’s semantic links to apply the triumphant implications of Rome to a civil war victory. According to Popkin (2016), the groundbreaking portrayal of the civil war on “the Arch of Constantine” is the result of a shared desire between the senatorial elite in Rome and Constantine to dismiss the Tetrarchy’s form of government in order to further their own goals: Constantine to establish a monarchy, and the Senate to reestablish Rome as the core of the empire.

In the article Poll: Religious Place (V1) the Arch of Constantine Status of Participants, the author explores the situation of the monument geographically. It explains the topography of the region where the monument is. The monument stands in the town of Rome, indicating a low attitude. The author has explored the possibility of the presence of artificial features within the vicinity of the structure (Rodríguez, 2018). He states the features as water features, Flavian Amphitheater, and several temples. The article illustrates the absence of a boundary between the monument and the urban (Rodríguez, 2018). There is also an analysis of the reasons why the monument was made. Concerning the construction, the article states that the monument was built by specific people, such as enslaved people, mostly men. This article gives detailed information on the origin and purpose of the monument to enhance a proper understanding of the feature.

In contrast, the article “Reconsidering the frieze on the Arch of Constantine” looks into the frieze of the Arch of Constantine. According to this article, the bulk of the beautifully carved frieze on “the Arch of Constantine” in Rome, which has usually been dated to the reign of the emperor Constantine, was recycled from a celebration edifice constructed by Diocletian after the completion of his Vicennalia in 303 CE (Rose, 2021). These differences show that a sizeable chunk of the sculpture was taken from a different building erected in honor of a different master. Diocletian is the only ruler whose history is compatible with iconography (Rose, 2021). According to the report, the bulk of the frieze blocks has been dated to the Diocletianic era, casting doubt on our existing knowledge of the arch’s spolia and its history. This article unlike the other two thoroughly explains the monument’s construction and the physical components of the structure.

The artistic technique shown in the frieze, in particular, the independently carved heads of the emperor on four of the frieze slabs, as well as the absence of numerous other figures’ legs and feet, serve as the foundation for the thesis (Rose, 2021). These irregularities imply that a large portion of the frieze was stolen from another monument that previously honored a different person, whose pictures were changed to those of “Constantine” during the construction of his arch (Rose, 2021). In conclusion, Rose (2021) reconstructs the Diocletian monument. It explains the reason for the construction of the monuments. It also explains the differences between the Diocletian monument and the Arch of Constantine. The simplicity with which the Diocletianic frieze was converted into a biography of “Constantine” shows the remarkable pliability of “Late Antique” iconography, where the Vicennalia of one man might become another one’s Decennalia simply with a portraits’ change. No one seeing the scenes from ground surface would be aware of the anomalies though the sculptors who altered the frieze left a number of obvious indications of its previous usage, most notably the separately created heads and the lacking feet and legs.


Popkin, M. L. (2016). Symbiosis and civil war: The audacity of the Arch of Constantine. Journal of Late Antiquity9(1), 42-88.

Rodríguez, G. (2018). Poll: Religious Place (V1) the Arch of Constantine Status of Participants.

Rose, C. B. (2021). Reconsidering the frieze on the Arch of Constantine. Journal of Roman Archaeology34(1), 175-210.


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