Titus, Arch of

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(1) A triumphal arch commemorating *Titus' victory over the Jews and his conquest of Jerusalem, erected in 80 c.e. during his reign as emperor, apparently at the eastern end of the Circus Maximus in Rome. This arch, no longer extant, is known from its inscription, which was copied in the Middle Ages. Dedicated by the senate and the Roman people in honor of Titus, the inscription enumerates his virtues and refers to the submission of the Jews and the destruction of Jerusalem as a feat unparalleled among the achievements of former kings and commanders.

(2) At a later stage, during the reign of Titus' brother Domitian, another triumphal arch was either erected or completed to commemorate this victory. This arch, which is extant, was set up at the western end of the Via Sacra. While it may have been started before the time of Domitian, it was definitely completed after Titus' death, since the inscription refers to him as divine (Divo Tito). Regarded as an architectural masterpiece, it influenced the architecture of the following period. It has a dedicatory inscription and various bas-reliefs, the best known being the one on the inner wall of the arch which shows the Temple vessels carried in a triumphal procession as spoils. These consist of the table of shewbread, the trumpets, the censers, and the seven-branched candlestick, which is especially conspicuous, being carried aloft by the victors. The design of the candlestick has raised many problems and much has been written on it, the authenticity of the base in particular being called in question, as it consists of two hexagons, the one superimposed on the other, on whose sides dragons are depicted. Some regard this design as authentic, others as the fruit of the artist's imagination (see *Menorah). On the inner wall, opposite the bas-relief of the Temple vessels, Titus is portrayed as the victor riding in a chariot drawn by four horses and being garlanded by the goddess of victory. The arch of Titus, symbolizing and glorifying the victory of Rome, has been for the Jews the symbol of their defeat and tragedy consequent on the failure of the war against Rome and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. During the Middle Ages no Jew was allowed to, or would, pass under the Arch, paying instead a fee to be allowed to go through a neighboring house.


Pauly-Wissowa, Suppl. 4 (1924), 479f. no. 9; S.B. Platner, Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (1929), 45–47; cah, 11 (1936), 787f.; S. Reinach, in: rej, 20 (1890), lxv–xci.

[Uriel Rappaport]