The Arch of Titus, Rome

The Arch of Titus, Rome

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The Arch of Titus is a Roman Triumphal Arch which was erected by Domitian in c. 81 CE at the foot of the Palatine hill on the Via Sacra in the Forum Romanum, Rome. It commemorates the victories of his father Vespasian and brother Titus in the Jewish War in Judaea (70-71 CE) when the great city of Jerusalem was sacked and the vast riches of its temple plundered. The arch is also a political and religious statement expressing the divinity of the late emperor Titus.


The arch was constructed using Pentelic marble, with the attic part in Luna marble. The original inscription on the east side of the arch is still in situ, although originally the letters would have been inlaid with gilded bronze. It reads:


(The Senate and People of Rome, to Divus Titus, son of Divus Vespasian, Vespasian Augustus). The use of 'Divo' for Titus indicates that the arch was erected after the death of the emperor in 81 CE. The inscription on the west side describes the refurbishment of the monument by Pope Pius VII in 1821 CE.

Decorative Sculpture

With only a single opening the arch is smaller and more modest in its decoration than other surviving arches such as those of Constantine and Septimius Severus. Also, the decorative sculpture has not survived the ravages of time very well. Nevertheless, one can still see the significance of some of the sculpture scenes, notably, the side panels. These marble reliefs are set either side of the inner arch and measure 2.04 m high by 3.85 m long. One panel shows the start of Titus' 71 CE victory triumph procession as it passes through the Porta Triumphalis to the Forum Boarium with the participants carrying booty from the Temple of Jerusalem after the sacking of the city. The booty includes a seven-branched candelabra (menorah), silver trumpets, and perhaps even the Ark of the Covenant. Some figures carry placards which would have probably indicated the names of the conquered cities and peoples.

The other relief panel is carved in three-quarter view and has Titus riding a four-horse chariot (quadriga) and shows him being crowned by a personification of Victory. The goddess Roma stands in front, holding the bridle of one of the horses. The two figures to the right of the chariot are personifications of the people of Rome (naked torso) and the Senate (wearing a toga).

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The two relief panels are significant in the history and development of Roman art, as they are the first full attempt by Roman sculptors to create the illusion of space. This is successfully achieved in several ways; the figures are portrayed in three-quarter view, the background figures are so rendered that they recede gradually into the distance, the central figures are carved in higher relief than those on the edges, and the whole panel is curved slightly inwards.

Running around the whole arch is a small frieze which depicts the whole triumphal procession, and above the intrados winged victories each stand on a globe and hold banners, trophies, laurel wreaths, and palm fronds. Set in the centre of each side of the archway is a keystone representing Roma and the Genius of the Roman People. The interior vault is coffered with a central representation of the deified Titus (apotheosis) being carried to the heavens by an eagle. Originally, the whole arch was finished off in customary style with a huge bronze quadriga which would have stood on top of the arch.

Later History

The arch was incorporated into fortifications built by the Frangipani family in medieval times and suffered as a consequence. The significant restoration of the monument was carried out in the 19th century CE, in particular, on parts of the piers and attic using Travertine limestone. In fact, the whole arch was dismantled and reassembled piece by piece. In the present day the foundation blocks of the arch are visible, as the original roadway would have been higher.

One Man's Campaign Against the Arch of Titus — and How It Changed Italy's Jews

When in Rome: A bas-relief on the Arch of Titus depicts the Roman conquest of Jerusalem.

Heavy rain was forecast for that blustery Roman morning in December 1996, so I arrived early in order to escape the frenzied traffic and secure a space in the parking lot of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, where I was a division director. The marble-and-travertine-clad buildings of the FAO, originally constructed by Mussolini in the 1930s to house his Colonial offices, were located in the very heart of ancient Rome, diagonally across the street from the Circus Maximus, the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum.

Coming into the near-deserted main building from the side-door entrance, I heard loud, scraping noises and muffled groans. More than a dozen men were laboring heavily to move an enormous white object: a huge plaster wall, more than 3 yards high and 6 yards long, and more than a foot thick. Even in the dim light, I immediately recognized this behemoth — but I hardly believed my eyes.

The straining men were shoving a full-size replica of the bas-relief sculpture on the underside of the Arch of Titus, one of the arches in the ancient Roman Forum, a stone’s throw away from the very building we were in. The arch in the forum was constructed to honor Emperor Titus after he conquered Jerusalem and destroyed its Holy Temple in the year 70 C.E. History records that more than 60,000 of his finest, fully equipped Roman legions battled for more than a year to overcome the 25,000 poorly armed defenders of Jerusalem. In the aftermath, more than a half-million defenseless Jewish civilians were massacred, with the remainder marched to Rome to be sold and used as slaves.

The procession depicted on the arch’s bas-relief is the triumphal march of the victorious Roman legions and their Hebrew slaves back to Rome, carrying the great menorah as well as the other holy artifacts taken from the Temple in Jerusalem. The arch is a monument that celebrates the destruction and pillaging of Jerusalem together with the brutal humiliation and enslavement of a people that dared resist the empire. The Roman Senate had agreed that something had to be built in order to detract from Titus’s wretched performance as a military leader.

Jews have lived in Rome for more than two millennia. According to an ancient ban placed on the monument by Rome’s Jewish authorities, once a Jewish person walks under the arch, he or she can no longer be considered a Jew. So, from the time the Arch of Titus was first built, no Jew has ever willingly walked under it, unless he or she was oblivious to its significance.

I had a rather strange passing familiarity with the Arch of Titus and its bas-relief from the stories told to me by a close family friend who happened to serve in His Majesty’s Jewish Brigade during World War II. When he and a group of brigade buddies entered Rome, they formed ranks and briskly marched straight under the arch, giving the quintessential Roman gesture: place left hand over the top crook of the right elbow, aggressively swing the right fist straight up — the Roman salute! This was done in defiance of history’s repeated attempts to annihilate the Jewish people. As the saying goes, when in Rome….

But why was a replica of this monument in our building?

In 1996, in anticipation of its 50-year anniversary, FAO had accepted the Italian government’s generous offer of several well-known national works of art, including sculptures and reproductions. The replica on FAO’s wall was commissioned during Mussolini’s time, and it is the only full-size reproduction of the bas-relief from the Arch of Titus ever made. Most contemporary Romans consider the sculpture a brutta figura, an “ugly face,” because it glorifies the ruthless subjugation of a people — the main reason that this replica had been hidden from public view for decades in the maze of formal Roman government buildings. When it was offered to FAO, the staff responsible for building works naively agreed to accept this monument without realizing its full significance.

When I saw these men struggling to place this object in our building, I was shocked and deeply dismayed. FAO is an international diplomatic organization dedicated to improving the lives and protecting the rights and dignity of millions of disadvantaged people throughout the developing world. The Arch of Titus was a testament to massacre, pillage and destruction — the bas-relief was a celebration of sacrilege and enslavement — of my people! How could this thing grace our premises? Perhaps it would have gone over well in Mussolini’s Colonial offices, but not in a United Nations building! It was not an asset reflecting the ideals of our organization, it was a shameless liability.

Before making my way up to my office, I decided to do whatever was necessary to get rid of this abomination. I wrote to the director-general of FAO, the most senior official in the organization, in the hope that this could all be resolved without the need for any further action. I stressed the contradiction between the ideals of our organization and the replica crafted in the midst of Italy’s Fascist era, representing the worst of mankind’s deeds.

By the time I was finishing the final draft, most of the FAO staff had arrived for work. Yoram, an Israeli colleague and close friend who worked in my service, dropped by my office to say hello and peered over my shoulder. “Chief, what are you writing so seriously?” he asked. I told Yoram the story, and ended by describing the age-old Jewish ban on walking under the Arch of Titus.

“Chief, I didn’t know you were not supposed to walk under the Arch of Titus!” he said. “This is a real shame, bringing something like that into this building. I’m going to contact the Israeli Embassy right away!”

At precisely 10 a.m. I had my letter stamped and recorded by our registry. I hand-carried it down to the office of the director-general.

In the early afternoon, Yoram rushed back into my office and said: “Chief, the Israeli Embassy just called back. You know what? They didn’t know you were not supposed to walk under the arch! Can you believe that? What kind of government do we have? Anyway, they just fired off a fax to Jerusalem for advice, but since it’s Friday, we won’t hear anything until Sunday.”

At 4 p.m. I received a call from the office of the director of administration: “Don’t worry, Monsieur Satin, we will definitely do something about this wall. We don’t know exactly what, but we’ll do something. Don’t worry! Relax and enjoy your weekend we’ll definitely do something. And Monsieur, accept my highest considerations and regards!” With that and a few other papers finished, I gladly made my way home in the madcap traffic for a restful weekend in the Eternal City.

Monday morning, bright and early, Yoram rushed into my office. “Chief,” he said, “the Israeli Embassy got the fax back from the Department of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem last night.”

“Yes?” I inquired cautiously. “So, what did they have to say?”

“They didn’t know we’re not supposed to walk under the arch!” Yoram said. “Can you believe that? What can I tell you — government people are the same everywhere! Bureaucrats! Anyway, because this business takes place in Rome, they said the matter should be handled locally. So our embassy will bring the matter up to the chief rabbi of Rome.”

This was not the most encouraging news, so I anxiously awaited the outcome of my letter to the director-general. At 9:45 a.m. I received a call from the director-general’s chef du Cabinet — an individual not known for his liberal views, particularly on any subject, issue or person of a non-Francophone origin. “Monsieur Satin, I wish to tell you that I spent the weekend in the library of the French Embassy at Piazza Farnese in Rome — the entire weekend! Monsieur Satin, vous avez raison — you are correct! In fact, the situation is even worse than you described. Non, Monsieur Satin, we cannot have this horrid wall here!”

At 11 a.m., I wandered down to the large alcove where the now infamous wall had finally been placed. To my surprise, it was covered from top to bottom with a dreadful orange shroud that had originally been used to wrap up the huge red carpets that are regularly pulled out to grace our floors at formal diplomatic receptions. I was astonished at the speed with which a large bureaucratic organization, traditionally known for its inertia, can move when it is motivated. I immediately penned a short note of gratitude to the director-general and the chef du Cabinet.

A few days later, Yoram dropped by and said that the chief rabbi of Rome had told the Israeli Embassy that the original ban was no longer valid, since an independent State of Israel had been established. Unfortunately, no one who knew about the ban had ever been informed of its abrogation! Trying to sound as authoritative as I could, I told Yoram, “Make sure the embassy tells the chief rabbi that the ban may be lifted for him, but for me, it isn’t!”

He replied: “Don’t worry, chief, I’m on it. Things will work out. Don’t worry!” With that, Yoram, my old colleague, dependable friend and agent provocateur, left. That was the last I heard of the matter for several months.

In November 1997, I received a call from a politically connected friend who is affiliated with the American University of Rome. He told me that the hornets’ nest I stirred up had triggered considerable deliberation within Rome’s Jewish community and had spread to the mayor’s office. It appeared that they decided it was time to formally and publicly lift the age-old ban on walking beneath the Arch of Titus. I was invited to attend the ceremony, which was to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the founding of the modern State of Israel. I gladly accepted the invitation, recognizing that sometimes, if you had the chutzpah to mix it up for what you believed in, good things can happen. Yoram was right.

December 23, 1997, was a very mild, starlit night in Rome and a perfect time to celebrate Erev Hanukkah, the lighting of the first candle. The entire Roman Jewish community, along with several politicians and dignitaries, gathered in the ancient Roman Forum by the Arch of Titus. In a beautiful candle-lit ceremony, the 2,000-year-old ban on the Arch of Titus was formally lifted.

Prime Minister Romano Prodi said it was time to remember the tragedy of the Holocaust and reaffirm the rights of people to live in peace and dignity everywhere. The evening’s most inspiring words, however, were spoken by Rome’s marvelous young mayor, Francesco Rutelli. Loosely translated, he said: “When many people look at the sculpture under the arch, they only see the misery inflicted upon a conquered race. But look again. I see not a conquered race, but a monument to one of the greatest modern nations on earth. The conquering Romans are a footnote of history, but the Jewish nation continues to thrive, within and outside the State of Israel. That is what the arch represents to me.”

After the events concluded and the stage props were taken away, it was curious to see a few brave Romans cautiously approach the arch and peer underneath it. But they still refused to walk directly beneath it, despite the lifting of the ban. With time, I expect that more and more Jews will venture fully beneath the arch. History marches on, however hesitantly.

For four years, the grotesque replica remained hidden under the orange shroud, which continued to get more tattered. FAO finally decided to resolve the matter permanently. Without the pitiful shroud ever having been removed, a crew was brought in one weekend and quickly constructed a false wall to remove all overt evidence of its existence. Thus, the infamous Titus bas-relief, verging on resurrection, became damned, like Poe’s poor Fortunato in search of a drop of Amontillado, to suffer eternal immuration. As far as I know, that is where it remains to this day.

Morton Satin is vice president of science and research for the Salt Institute. He has authored seven text books in English and Spanish on the subjects of food safety and food history, as well as his most recent book, “Coffee Talk” (Prometheus Books, 2010).

Arch Of Titus

The Ancient Romans celebrated military victory by holding a triumphus – a parade into the city. The Roman triumph was a civil ceremony and religious rite dating back to Romulus that publicly celebrated and sanctified the success of a military commander who had successfully completed a foreign war. The triumphal parade took the Via Triumphalis from the Circus Maximus and turned left into the Forum and became the Via Sacra. From here the parade entered the forum and continued to the Capitoline Hill where sacrifices were given to the Gods in thanks for the victory. Huge Triumphal Arches were built later to memorialize these triumphs for generations to come.

On the day of his triumph, the general or emperor wore a crown of laurel and a purple, gold-embroidered triumphal toga picta (painted toga) that identified him as near-divine or near-kingly, he was even known to paint his face red with cinnabar (mineral pigment) to resemble Jupiter. He rode in a four-horse chariot with the goddess victory (a slave dressed with wings) through the streets of Rome in a procession with his army (unarmed), captives, and the spoils of his war.

The triumphal parade was a public affair, the whole city gathered to see the victorious emperor and his spoils enter the city . These parades could last for days with gifts, money and food being given out to the crowd. A long train of carriages snaked through the forum displaying the spoils of war – gold, silver and precious objects – statues as well as animals and sometimes even trees taken from foreign lands. The prisoners of war followed in chains, trudged through the forum for all to see, they would soon be on sale at the slave market.

Titus was the son of the Roman emperor Vespasian and they, along with Titus’ brother Domitian, made up the Flavian Dynasty. Vespasian and Titus were sent to Judea by Nero where they succeeded in quelling a revolt in 70 AD. The celebratory triumph held on their return to Rome was like nothing Rome had seen – resplendent with spoils from Judea including furniture and trappings from the Temple of Herod – the most sacred temple of the Jews, destroyed by Titus’ troops. This parade and the spoils can be seen on the reliefs on the inside of the Arch of Titus .

The arch commemorating the victory was erected later by Domitian in 81 AD, he ordered the construction of a triumphal arch to commemorate the victory of his brother and father.

The arch was strategically placed at the summit of the Via Sacra where the triumphal procession entered the forum, and in full view of the Colosseumthe monument constructed by the Flavians with the gold and silver brought back from the war. The Arch of Titus bears an inscription in its upper portion: ‘The Senate and People of Rome / To the Deified Titus Vespasian Augustus / Son of the Deified Vespasian’.

This public dedication was a clever way to cement the Flavian Dynasty – relative newcomers to Roman politics – into the anals of history.

The arch has a single passageway and is decorated with reliefs depicting the triumph of Titus and Vespasian over Judea. One side depicts the parade coming through a triumphal arch into the city with the spoils, including silver and gold tables and sacred trumpets but the most striking image is of the sacred candelabra of the Jewish people – the Menorah (seven-armed candelabra) of solid gold which was over seven foot high. Opposite this, Titus is depicted with Victoria (goddess of Victory) in a four-horse chariot, surrounded by the senate represented by a man in a toga, and ‘the people’ represented by a man with a bare chest.

Neither Vespasian nor Titus ever saw the arch, both were already dead by the time of its construction. In the underside of the arch, Titus can be seen flying on the back of an eagle towards the heavens, this is his apotheosis – the moment he becomes a god.

The Arch of Titus still stands today at the highest point of the Via Sacra . Despite being incorporated into the wall of the Frangipani family in the eleventh century, the badly damaged arch was saved by an architect called Valadier in 1821. Valadier’s restoration was incredibly forward thinking, he took the marble pieces that remained and placed them inside a reconstructed arch of travertine. This careful reconstruction allows visitors to distinguish the original, marble, decoration and the modern travertine.

1 Answer 1

Last year, a team headed by Steve Fine of the Yeshiva University Center for Israeli Studies in New York which had been examining portions of the arch since 2012 announced:

High resolution three-dimensional scans of the Menorah and the deification reliefs were made, and part of the Menorah relief was examined to determine whether any traces of paint decoration were preserved. A Breuckmann GmbH 3D scanner was used for the data capture. UV-VIS spectrometry was employed to detect color on the marble reliefs.

Traces of yellow ochre were found on the arms and base of the Menorah.

There's a short video, ArchOfTitus SpoilsPanel 040717 (4m22secs), which the reconstruction team says "chronicles our methods and progress." According to the article The Arch of Titus’s Menorah Panel in Color

These results aligned with the Jewish historian Josephus’s account of the Roman victory parade, wherein he describes the menorah as being gold.

The team then added color to the rest of the panel—bringing the ancient scene to life. They colored the background sky blue, the tunics off-white, the overgarments reddish-purple, the wreaths green, the laurel berries purple, the sacred vessels gold, the trumpets silver, and the leather and wood brown. They colored the arch (in the far right of the panel) white, black and gold. Further, they added labels to the three signs held by the Roman victors these labels were based loosely on Josephus’s text.

The result can be seen below:

Of course, this is just one part of the arch and as Peter J. Schertz, one of the team members, admits, it is

a hypothetical and extremely speculative reconstruction

However, as Fine explains in a recent article, it wasn't pure guesswork though (my highlighting):

The intensity of the pigments as reconstructed is based upon the color value of the yellow ochre of the menorah, with none of the nuance that would have come with final finishing and the the fading that comes with exposure to the sun. We colored the sky blue following the most common color for such things in wall paintings from Pompeii and Herculaneum. Since military tunics could be wool or linen, and are shown that way on the wall paintings, we decided on a shade of off-white - except for the overgarments, which we made a shade of reddish-purple worn by people of high status. The wreaths worn by the celebrants. are green, the color of the laurel leaves that compose them, while the laurel berries are purplish.

We colored the skin and hair in Mediterranean shades, and the leather and wood in shades of brown. Pillows are shown that support the heavy menorah and the table. We colored them a slightly darker shade to contrast with the linen. The signs, tabulae ansatae, literally "horned tablets," are set in frames, which we colored bronze in contrast with the gold of the sacred vessels.

On restoration, this was probably done for as long as the state could afford it or there were wealthy Romans looking to improve their reputation by paying for it. By the 4th century AD, though, the city and the economy were in serious decline. Wealthy Roman families either died out or moved to Constantinople, while the population declined from over a million during the 2nd century AD to around 30,000 in 550 AD. All this meant less city income from taxation and, inevitably, things began to fall apart as buildings were abandoned and money ran out.

If restoration work had been done in previous centuries, it most likely ceased in the 4th century or perhaps the early 5th century, but we don't really know. It is unlikely that it ceased because of Titus' reputation as Wikipedia notes,

Titus's record among ancient historians stands as one of the most exemplary of any emperor.

It is possible, though, that as Christianity spread in the late western empire, Titus' reputation suffered, but it was the early 19th century Pope Pius VII who initiated restoration work at that time.

Although further research is ongoing, the ravages of time, the Arch's use as part of a medieval fortification and the 19th centruy restoration work have all contributed to some of the orginal stonework being lost, thus making it less likely that more colours will be detected by modern science.

The Arch of Titus, Rome - History

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff and Friends,

I am pleased to present to you this Guide to our plans for the upcoming fall semester and reopening of our campuses. In form and in content, this coming semester will be like no other. We will live differently, work differently and learn differently. But in its very difference rests its enormous power.

The mission of Yeshiva University is to enrich the moral, intellectual and spiritual development of each of our students, empowering them with the knowledge and abilities to become people of impact and leaders of tomorrow. Next year’s studies will be especially instrumental in shaping the course of our students’ lives. Character is formed and developed in times of deep adversity. This is the kind of teachable moment that Yeshiva University was made for. As such, we have developed an educational plan for next year that features a high-quality student experience and prioritizes personal growth during this Coronavirus era. Our students will be able to work through the difficulties, issues and opportunities posed by our COVID-19 era with our stellar rabbis and faculty, as well as their close friends and peers at Yeshiva.

To develop our plans for the fall, we have convened a Scenario Planning Task Force made up of representatives across the major areas of our campus. Their planning has been guided by the latest medical information, government directives, direct input from our rabbis, faculty and students, and best practices from industry and university leaders across the country. I am deeply thankful to our task force members and all who supported them for their tireless work in addressing the myriad details involved in bringing students back to campus and restarting our educational enterprise.

In concert with the recommendations from our task force, I am announcing today that our fall semester will reflect a hybrid model. It will allow many students to return in a careful way by incorporating online and virtual learning with on-campus classroom instruction. It also enables students who prefer to not be on campus to have a rich student experience by continuing their studies online and benefitting from a full range of online student services and extracurricular programs.

In bringing our students back to campus, safety is our first priority. Many aspects of campus life will change for this coming semester. Gatherings will be limited, larger courses will move completely online. Throughout campus everyone will need to adhere to our medical guidelines, including social distancing, wearing facemasks, and our testing and contact tracing policies. Due to our focus on minimizing risk, our undergraduate students will begin the first few weeks of the fall semester online and move onto the campus after the Jewish holidays. This schedule will limit the amount of back and forth travel for our students by concentrating the on-campus component of the fall semester to one consecutive segment.

Throughout our planning, we have used the analogy of a dimmer switch. Reopening our campuses will not be a simple binary, like an on/off light switch, but more like a dimmer in which we have the flexibility to scale backwards and forwards to properly respond as the health situation evolves. It is very possible that some plans could change, depending upon the progression of the virus and/or applicable state and local government guidance.

Before our semester begins, we will provide more updates reflecting our most current guidance. Please check our website, for regular updates. We understand that even after reading through this guide, you might have many additional questions, so we will be posting an extensive FAQ section online as well. Additionally, we will also be holding community calls for faculty, students, staff and parents over the next couple of months.

Planning for the future during this moment has certainly been humbling. This Coronavirus has reminded us time and time again of the lessons from our Jewish tradition that we are not in full control of our circumstances. But our tradition also teaches us that we are in control of our response to our circumstances. Next semester will present significant challenges and changes. There will be some compromises and minor inconveniences--not every issue has a perfect solution. But faith and fortitude, mutual cooperation and resilience are essential life lessons that are accentuated during this period. And if we all commit to respond with graciousness, kindness, and love, we can transform new campus realities into profound life lessons for our future.

Deeply rooted in our Jewish values and forward focused in preparing for the careers and competencies of the future, we journey together with you, our Yeshiva University community, through these uncharted waters. Next year will be a formative year in the lives of our students, and together we will rise to the moment so that our students will emerge stronger and better prepared to be leaders of the world of tomorrow.

The Arch of Titus, Rome - History

The Arch of Titus, built to commemorate Roman triumph in the Jewish War of 66-74 CE, has stood as a touchstone of Western civilization for nearly 2000 years. This exhibition explores the shifting meaning and significance of this monument – for the victorious Romans, for the defeated Jews, and for both Christians and Jews over the subsequent millennia.

Built on Rome&rsquos Via Sacra, the &ldquoSacred Road,&rdquo around 82 CE, the Arch of Titus features sculptural reliefs depicting Titus&rsquos triumphal procession into the Eternal City in July, 71 CE. Painfully for Jews, the sacred vessels of the Jerusalem Temple are shown being carried into Rome by victorious Roman soldiers. At the center of the representation of the Spoils of Jerusalem is the seven-branched golden menorah, which, since 1949, has been used as the emblem of the State of Israel.

The Arch of Titus has undergone many physical changes over the course of its long history. Featured in the exhibition is a life-size carved replica of the existing Spoils of Jerusalem relief panel from the interior passageway of the Arch, based on three-dimensional and polychrome scanning conducted under the direction of Yeshiva University&rsquos Arch of Titus Project in 2012. (The replica and projected reconstruction have been developed and produced by VIZIN: The Institute for the Visualization of History together with Neathawk Designs, of Williamstown, MA.)

Stretching from the Roman era to the present, The Arch of Titus – from Jerusalem to Rome, and Back explores the image and symbolism of the Arch from various vantage points – from emperors and popes to Jews and Christians, who re-interpreted the meaning of the Arch in modern times. Rare artifacts from collections in Italy, Israel and the United States illuminate the monument&rsquos vibrant history, as the Arch itself went from monumentalizing victory to falling into ruination and, eventually, to being restored in the modern era.

An international conference presented in partnership with the Yeshiva University Center for Israel Studies will take place on October 29, 2017.

The exhibition is complemented by The Rome Lab, a learning space dedicated to Roman Jews, to the formative centuries of Western Judaism and to the over 2000-year-old relationship between Rome and Jerusalem, co-presented by Centro Primo Levi and the Jewish Museum of Rome.

This exhibition is made possible, in part, through the generous support of the Leon Levy Foundation, The Slomo and Cindy Silvian Foundation, the Leon Charney Legacy Fund of the Yeshiva University Center for Israel Studies, George Blumenthal and by Friends and Donors of Yeshiva University Museum.

Tag: arch of titus

History of Roman Arches

The arch was first used in the Mediterranean world by those in Mesopotamia, Greece, Persia, and ancient Italy. While these cultures had the arch, they rarely used it except for underground tunnels and drainage systems, where the force of the earth around it provided natural buttressing, or reinforcement. The Romans learned the arch from the Etruscans of Tuscany and were the first people in the world to really figure out how to use it. Romans in the first centuries BC discovered how to use arches in the construction of bridges, aqueducts and buildings. The Roman arch is largely responsible for the expansion of infrastructure across the Roman Empire. The Roman arch became a foundational aspect of Western architecture and generated new systems of building across Europe.

Basic Construction of Arches

An arch is an architectural form that controls the pressure from the weight of a building in a specific way. The arch directs pressure downwards and outwards, creating a strong passage underneath it that has the ability to support heavy structures. This is called compressive stress, because the pressure of the weight is compressed by the shape of the arch. Because the stress is directed both down and outwards, walls or other structures were often required to reinforce the arch. The arch allowed ancient builders to make larger, more complex buildings that could hold more space and people. The central feature of an arch is the keystone, or the wedge-shaped stone at the very top of the arch. It is the last stone placed during construction, and it locks all the other stones of the arch into position. The keystone bears almost no weight, but is the center of redirecting the weight of the structure down and outwards. The Romans used arches with circular tops, called rounded arches, which were made of stone. A series of rounded arches side by side is called an arcade.

Arch’s construction.

Use by the Romans

  • Bridges and Aqueducts, one of the foremost uses of the arch in building was for bridges and aqueducts. When roads or pipes needed to cross an area without level terrain, say a valley or river, an arcade of arches gave them the support they needed to sustain their weight off the ground. This was extremely important in the development of Rome. Without bridges to connect their roads, the Roman army would not have been able to march across Europe, expanding the Empire.

Ponte Sant’Angelo, Rome.

  • Theatres & Amphitheatres, the Roman theatre was of course inspired by the Greek version, but the orchestra was made semicircular and the whole made using stone. The Romans also added a highly decorative stage building (scaenae frons) which incorporated different levels of columns, projections, pediments, and statues. Amphitheatres were used for various types of public events. Ancient Roman amphitheatres were circular or oval in shape, and used for events such as gladiator combats, chariot races, venationes (animal slayings) and executions. About 230 Roman amphitheatres have been found across the area of the Roman Empire. The earliest Roman amphitheatres date from the middle of the first century BC, but most were built under Imperial rule, from the Augustan period (27 BC-14 AD) onwards. Imperial amphitheatres were built throughout the Roman empire the largest could accommodate 40,000-60,000 spectators. The best-known amphitheatre in the world is the Roman Colosseum, which is more correctly termed the Flavian amphitheatre (Amphitheatrum Flavium), after the Flavian dynasty who had it built.

Theatre of Marcellus, Rome.

  • Triumphal Arches, the triumphal arch, with a single, double, or triple entrance, had no practical function other than to commemorate in sculpture and inscription significant events such as military victories. Early examples stood over thoroughfares – the earliest being the two arches set up by L.Stertinius in Rome (196 BCE) – but later examples were often protected by steps. Topped by a bronze four-horse chariot, they became imposing stone monuments to Roman vanity. The Arch of Constantine (c. 315 CE) in Rome is the largest surviving example and is perhaps the last great monument of Imperial Rome.

The Round Arch in the world

The Romans were undoubtedly the first people to build large and lasting bridges. Testament of the building techniques of Ancient Rome can be witnessed even today with hundreds bridges still standing.

Coloring in the the troubled history of a renowned Roman arch

ROME (RNS) It’s one of the most enduring symbols of the Roman conquest of Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago, and millions of tourists are drawn to see it in Rome every year.

The Arch of Titus, a marble monument in the heart of the Roman Forum, commemorates the general and later emperor Titus’ triumph over the Jews in 70 A.D. It also recalls one of the most dramatic events in Jewish history, the sacking of the Second Temple of Jerusalem, which is still mourned by Jews every year during the Tisha B’av fast.

The white marble monument depicts the Romans’ victory procession with spoils including a menorah, the sacred seven-branched candelabra used in the Jerusalem temple, and a ceremonial showbread table removed from the shrine.

But Steven Fine, professor and cultural historian at New York’s Yeshiva University, said the arch as it stands today is a washed-out version of the original.

/> The Arch of Titus, a marble monument in the heart of the Roman Forum, commemorates the general and later emperor Titus’ triumph over the Jews in 70 A.D. RNS photo by Josephine McKenna /> A team of experts scans areas of the Arch of Titus for traces of color, using ultraviolet spectrometry to measure wavelengths of reflected light, and identifies minute traces of paint before using laser technology to create a detailed 3-D version of the panel. Photo courtesy of Yeshiva University, Arch of Titus Project /> The Arch of Titus scene commemorates the victory parade that took place after the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and sacked the Temple in 70 A.D., in one of the decisive events of the First Jewish War (66-74 A.D.). RNS photo by Josephine McKenna /> Arch of Titus panel showing the victory parade after the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and sacked the Temple in 70 A.D. Image courtesy of Yeshiva University, Arch of Titus Project /> Experts have used state-of-the-art technology to re-create the original colors of the ancient Roman Arch of Titus. Built in honor of the general and later emperor Titus, it is one of the features in the Roman Forum and commemorates the Roman conquest of Jerusalem during the First Jewish War (66-74 A.D.). Image courtesy of the Institute for the Visualization of History Inc. /> The Arch of Titus, a marble monument in the heart of the Roman Forum, commemorates the general and later emperor Titus’ triumph over the Jews in 70 A.D. RNS photo by Josephine McKenna

In 2012 Fine set to work with an international team of scientists, art historians and other experts, including Peter J. Schertz from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and Donald H. Sanders from the Institute for the Visualization of History in Massachusetts, to identify the arch’s true colors.

They scrutinized the monument’s sculptured details and for the first time used state-of-the-art technology to colorize its famous panel in the way it once was.

“Viewing the colored panel, one can imagine the vibrancy of the triumphal parade that had taken place a decade before the arch was built,” said Fine, professor of Jewish history and director of Yeshiva’s Center for Israel Studies.

“Through technology, we can imagine the original colors of the arch – and of the Jewish war itself – before they began to fade away into the grays and shadows of historical memory.”

Schertz stressed that the team’s use of color was “a hypothetical and extremely speculative reconstruction” that he hoped would lead to further study.

Fine said few people realize that ancient Rome was a virtual “carousel of color” and not the bland white stone that we see among so many ancient ruins today. Laser lighting was recently used to show how Rome’s Ara Pacis or Altar of Peace monument looked when it was unveiled in a blaze of color in 9 BC, and marble statues were usually painted in ancient times.

In partnership with Rome’s cultural superintendency, the team traveled to the Roman Forum and found traces of yellow paint on the menorah in the monument relief.

“The only piece of color we had was the yellow on the menorah, which was not a surprise because the Bible describes it as a golden lampstand,” Fine said.

The academics scanned deeply carved areas of the monument for traces of color, using ultraviolet spectrometry to measure wavelengths of reflected light, and identified minute traces of paint before using laser technology to create a detailed 3-D model of the panel.

“We began reconstructing selected elements of the arch spoils relief,” said Fine. “Once we brought in the 3-D scan data of the panel, we could manipulate it, zoom in and see it from angles that you can’t see even when close up.”

Experts have used state-of-the-art technology to re-create the original colors of the ancient Roman Arch of Titus. Built in honor of the general and later emperor Titus, it is one of the features in the Roman Forum and commemorates the Roman conquest of Jerusalem during the First Jewish War (66-74 A.D.). Image courtesy of the Institute for the Visualization of History Inc.

In their re-creation, the menorah is colored a vibrant yellow and borne by soldiers in cream linen tunics wearing green wreaths on their heads.

“Scholars of our generation, reared on the transition from black-and-white to color television, have rediscovered the true colors of the ancient world,” said the historian.

Drawing on observations and terminology used by the ancient Jewish Roman historian Flavius Josephus, Fine and his colleagues also added Latin text to the signs in the panel.

One reads “Sacra Iudaeorum” (“Holy Objects of the Jews”), the second reads “Candalabrum Iudaeorum” (“Lampstand of the Jews”) and the third “Leges Iudaeorum” (“Laws of the Jews”— meaning a scroll of the Pentateuch).

Fine said the monument is a potent symbol in Jewish history. It first demonstrated the power of the Roman Empire and was later used by the Catholic Church to symbolize the victory of the church and its dominance over the Jews.

“For Jews, it was often a painful reminder of their exile and continued servile status,” said Fine, who added that the arch menorah was chosen as a symbol of modern Israel in 1949.

Angelokastro is a Byzantine castle on the island of Corfu. It is located at the top of the highest peak of the island"s shoreline in the northwest coast near Palaiokastritsa and built on particularly precipitous and rocky terrain. It stands 305 m on a steep cliff above the sea and surveys the City of Corfu and the mountains of mainland Greece to the southeast and a wide area of Corfu toward the northeast and northwest.

Angelokastro is one of the most important fortified complexes of Corfu. It was an acropolis which surveyed the region all the way to the southern Adriatic and presented a formidable strategic vantage point to the occupant of the castle.

Angelokastro formed a defensive triangle with the castles of Gardiki and Kassiopi, which covered Corfu"s defences to the south, northwest and northeast.

The castle never fell, despite frequent sieges and attempts at conquering it through the centuries, and played a decisive role in defending the island against pirate incursions and during three sieges of Corfu by the Ottomans, significantly contributing to their defeat.

During invasions it helped shelter the local peasant population. The villagers also fought against the invaders playing an active role in the defence of the castle.

The exact period of the building of the castle is not known, but it has often been attributed to the reigns of Michael I Komnenos and his son Michael II Komnenos. The first documentary evidence for the fortress dates to 1272, when Giordano di San Felice took possession of it for Charles of Anjou, who had seized Corfu from Manfred, King of Sicily in 1267.

From 1387 to the end of the 16th century, Angelokastro was the official capital of Corfu and the seat of the Provveditore Generale del Levante, governor of the Ionian islands and commander of the Venetian fleet, which was stationed in Corfu.

The governor of the castle (the castellan) was normally appointed by the City council of Corfu and was chosen amongst the noblemen of the island.

Angelokastro is considered one of the most imposing architectural remains in the Ionian Islands.

Additional source material

57. Arch of Titus. Commentary.

Of the three triumphal arches remaining in Rome—Severus's, Titus's, and Constantine's—the one in honor of the deified Titus (on the center coffer inside his arch, see him carried aloft by an eagle) is by far the most elegant, even as the surviving literary record provides, in Josephus's history of the Jewish Wars, the fullest and most harrowing account of Rome's destruction of an enemy's capital [11.7].

The relief-sculpture carved inside the arch on the Palatine-side depicts a scene from Titus's triumph, and includes two of the holiest objects from the Temple of Jerusalem, as described by Josephus below before they became the booty of Rome. In the center is the seven-branched menorah, and to its right the heavy table for the Shew-Bread (the Bread of Presence). The passage by Procopius helps to trace the whereabouts of these objects some five centuries later.

The inscription on the attic of the Colosseum-side refers to the restoration that Pius VII carried out in beginning in 1822. Giuseppe Valadier, the leading Italian architect of his day who also designed one of the buttresses to shore up the Colosseum, directed this restoration, which involved a complete rebuilding of the arch (with the Arch of Trajan in Beneventum as a model). By substituting travertine stone for missing sections of the original Pentelic marble, Valadier pioneered a technique of restoration that readily distinguishes the original portion of a monument from the reconstructed portion.


The Senate and People of Rome dedicate this arch to the deified Titus Vespasian Augustus [d. AD 81], son of the deified Vespasian.

[An inscription recorded on another arch to Titus, since destroyed, near the Circus Maximus:] The Senate and People of Rome dedicate this arch to the Emperor Titus… because, with the Senate's advice and counsel and with the auguries, he conquered the nation of the Jews [in AD 70] and destroyed Jerusalem, which all of the generals, kings, and nations before Titus had either failed to do or even to attempt.

[The temple in Jerusalem was a splendid edifice with numerous parts.] After you passed through the monumental gates you entered the ground floor of the sanctuary. This structure was ninety feet high, ninety feet long, and thirty feet wide. Its length, however, was divided into two parts. The first hall was sixty feet long, and contained three of the world's most incredible and famous works of art: the lampstand, the table, and the incense altar. The lampstand, which branched into seven lamps, symbolized the seven planets the twelve loaves of bread [the “Shew-Bread,” or “Bread of Presence”] on the table represented the circle of the Zodiac and the year the altar of incense is kept replenished with thirteen aromatic incenses collected from both land and sea, and from places both inhabited and deserted, thus symbolizing that all creation is of God and for God.

Josephus, The Jewish War 5.215-18

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