The Arch of Constantine was built in 315 to
celebrate the victory of Emperor Constantine over his rival
Maxentius. Legend has it that Constantine had a dream before the
battle, where he saw a Christian symbol that led him to victory. He
forced his soldiers to draw this symbol on their shields and won.
This sign consisted of the letters "X" and "P", the first two
letters of the word "Christ" in Greek. However, when he built the
arch of a single Christian cross or the name of Jesus Christ he did
not inflict. Later, he nonetheless issued a Milanese decree in 313,
which made Christianity a legitimate religion and tolerant within
the empire. It will be several decades before the new faith becomes
the official religion of the state. An interesting feature of the
monument is that most of it was stolen from older buildings and
monuments. In some reliefs of the Arch of Constantine, you can see
the scenes of Emperor Trajan, who conquers the Dacian tribes of
Romania. On other fragments you can see the image of Marcus
Aurelius, who distributes bread to the poor.
The Arch of Constantine is 21 m high, 25.9 m wide and 7.4 m deep. It has three arches, the central one is 11.5 m high and 6.5 m wide, and the side arches are 7.4 m at 3 4 m each. Above the arch of Constantine is a structure consisting of brickwork, lined with marble. The staircase in the arch has its entrance at a certain height above the ground, on the west side, opposite the Palatina Hill. The overall design with the main part and with the main inscription above is modeled after the Arch of Septimius Sever on the Roman Forum.
The arch was dedicated by the senate to
commemorate the victory of Constantine I against Maxentius in the
battle of Ponte Milvio (28 October 312) and inaugurated in 315 on
the occasion of the ten years of the emperor's reign; the location,
between the Palatine and the Celio, was on the ancient route of the
The arch is one of the three surviving triumphal arches in Rome: the other two are the arch of Titus (c. 81–90) and the arch of Septimius Severus (202–203). The arch, as well as that of Titus, is almost completely ignored by ancient literary sources and the information that is known largely derives from the long inscription of dedication, repeated on each main face of the attic.
Despite the hagiographic tradition of the appearance of the Cross during the battle of Ponte Milvio, at the time of the construction of the arch Constantine had not yet made public any sympathy for Christianity; the emperor, who had reaffirmed freedom of worship to the populations of the Roman Empire in 313, only took part in the council of Nicaea in 325. Despite the controversial phrase instinctu divinitatis ("by divine inspiration") on the inscription, it is likely that at the time Constantine maintained at least a certain equidistance between religions, also for reasons of political interest. Among the reliefs of the arch there are in fact scenes of sacrifice to various pagan divinities (in the Hadrianic tondi) and busts of divinities are also present in the side passages, while other pagan divinities were depicted on the keys of the arch. Significantly, however, among the panels recycled from a monument from the time of Marcus Aurelius, the very ones referring to the triumph and sacrifice of the Capitoline (which today are in the Capitoline Museums) were omitted in reuse, thus representing the highest ceremony of the religion of Pagan state.
In 1530 Lorenzino de 'Medici was expelled from Rome for having cut off the heads on the reliefs of the arch for fun, which were partially reinstated in the 18th century.
In 1960, during the Games of the XVII Olympiad in Rome, the Arch of Constantine was the spectacular goal of the legendary marathon won barefoot by the Ethiopian Abebe Bikila.
Discussions about dating
On the basis of excavations carried out in the foundations of the arch, on one of the sides, the hypothesis has been proposed that the monument was built at the time of Hadrian and subsequently heavily remodeled in the Constantinian era, with the displacement of the columns outwards, the reconstruction of the entire attic, the insertion of the Great Trajan frieze on the internal walls of the central passage, and the execution of the reliefs and decorations recognized from the Constantinian era, both by reworking the blocks already inserted in the masonry, and with the insertion of new items. Hadrian's Tondi belong to the original decoration of the monument.
The arch is built in square work of marble in the pillars, while the
attic, which houses an accessible space, is made of masonry and concrete
covered on the outside with marble blocks. White marbles of different
qualities were used indifferently, reused from more ancient monuments,
and most of the architectural elements and sculptures of its decoration
were also reused. The arch measures 21 meters high (with the attic),
25.70 wide and 7.40 deep. The central fornix is 6.50 meters wide and
11.45 meters high.
The architectural structure closely resembles that of the arch of Septimius Severus in the Roman Forum, with the three arches framed by protruding columns on high plinths; some decorative themes, such as the Victories of the pendentives of the central arch, are also taken from the same model.
The frame of the main order is made up of reused rectilinear elements (dated to the Antonine or early-Severian age), supplemented by Constantinian copies for the protruding elements above the columns, more accurately carved on the front than on the sides. Still reused are the Corinthian capitals (also from the Antonine period), the rudent shafts in ancient yellow marble and the bases of the columns (capitals and bases of the rear pilasters are Constantinian copies, while the shafts of the pilasters, probably reused, were almost all replaced in the eighteenth-century restorations). From the Domitian period, but with subsequent reworking, it is also the crowning of the central archway.
The archivolts of the central archway and the smooth elements (crowns and bases, frieze, architrave and bases of the main order, archivolts and tax crowns of the lateral arches), on the other hand, are from the Constantinian period, which often have simplified moldings and with a not precisely aligned trend.
In the center of the attic there is the following inscription:
"To the Emperor Caesar Flavius Constantine Maximus Pius Felix Augusto, the Senate and the Roman people, since by divine inspiration and by the greatness of his spirit he avenged the State at once with his army, by means of a just war, both by the tyrant and by each of his factions, they dedicated this distinguished arch for triumphs. "
«IMP(eratori) · CAES(ari) · FL(avio) · CONSTANTINO · MAXIMO · P(io) · F(elici) · AVGUSTO · S(enatus) · P(opulus) · Q(ue) · R(omanus) · QVOD · INSTINCTV · DIVINITATIS · MENTIS · MAGNITVDINE · CVM · EXERCITV · SVO · TAM · DE · TYRANNO · QVAM · DE · OMNI · EIVS · FACTIONE · VNO · TEMPORE · IVSTIS · REM-PUBLICAM · VLTVS · EST · ARMIS · ARCVM · TRIVMPHIS · INSIGNEM · DICAVIT ·»
On the inscription of the attic the phrase instinctu divinitatis ("by
divine inspiration"), in the third line, has caused long discussions
among scholars, in relation to the position of the emperor towards the
Christian religion and to the story of the historian Eusebius of
Caesarea , which relates the episode of the apparition of the cross to
Constantine before the battle against Maxentius. It is probable that the
allusion is deliberately obscure: the emperor in this epoch, despite
having an attitude of benevolence towards the monotheistic religion,
which he saw as a possible ideological basis of imperial power, and
similar in this sense to the dynastic cult of the Sol Invictus, still
maintains a certain equidistance.
Other inscriptions are present on the internal walls of the central archway (LIBERATORI · VRBIS and FVNDATORI · QVIETIS) and above the lateral archways (on the north facade: VOTIS · X · VOTIS · XX and on the south facade: SIC · X · SIC · XX ): the latter refer to the celebration of the decennalia and the hope for the vicennalia, that is to say the celebrations for the ten or twenty years of the reign.
The decorative pattern of the reliefs can be briefly summarized as
follows (for further information, see the following paragraphs):
In the highest part (the "attic") in the center of the major sides there is a large inscription, flanked by pairs of reliefs from the time of Marcus Aurelius, while on the shorter sides there are slabs pertaining to a frieze from the Trajan period (of which other plates are found in the passage of the greater fornix). Corresponding to the underlying columns there are sculptures in the round of the Dacians, in Pavonazzetto marble, also from the Trajan age.
On the lower level, on the main sides, above the two minor archways, there are pairs of roundels dating back to the time of Hadrian, once framed by porphyry slabs. On the shorter sides at the same level, the series of Hadrian's tondi is completed with two other tondi made in the Constantinian era.
Below the tondi, there is a long bas-relief frieze, carved on the blocks in the Constantinian period, which continues both on the long and on the short sides.
Other bas-reliefs are found above the arches (Vittorie e Fiumi) and on the plinths of the columns.
The reused reliefs recall the figures of the "good emperors" of the second century (Trajan, Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius), to whom the figure of Constantine is thus assimilated for propaganda purposes: to the emperor, committed to establishing the legitimacy of his succession in front of to the defeated Maxentius (tetrarch like Constantine). Maxentius had been well liked in Rome after all, because he had exercised his power from the ancient capital, which is why Constantine ideologically proposed himself as the restorer of the happy era of the 2nd century AD.
The use of salvaged material from ancient monuments, which became habitual starting precisely in these years, is likely to have been dictated, at least in the choice of what to affix on the arch, according to values that are more symbolic than practical: "quotations" of the other much loved emperors, whose heads were reworked to give them the appearance of Constantine, who therefore proposed himself as their direct heir. In sculpting the new heads (today largely replaced in the eighteenth-century restorations, with some gaps as in the Aurelian panels) some were equipped with the nimbus (the ancestor of the halo), as some surviving traces show, symbolizing the emphasis placed on imperial maiestas (later it would become a symbol of Christian holiness). It may be that in the four Hadrianic tondi with scenes of sacrifice the heads also depicted Licinius or Costanzo Cloro.
The reliefs are arranged, together with those specially made at the time, symmetrically on the two sides (north and south) and on the two short sides (east and west) of the arch. As is typical in Roman arches decorated with reliefs, on the external façade (to the south) scenes of war prevail, while on the internal façade (to the north), facing the city, scenes of peace.
Great Trajan and Dacian frieze of the attic
A total of eight slabs of a single large frieze of about 3 m high with battle scenes are reused on the arch, in Pentelic (Greek) marble: pairs of adjoining slabs make up the four relief panels, placed on the side walls of the central fornix and on the short sides of the attic. The frieze depicted the exploits of the emperor Trajan during the conquest campaigns of Dacia (102-107) and perhaps it came from the Forum of Trajan.
The frieze had to be completed by other plates partly lost and partly identified by fragments in the Louvre, the Antiquarium Forense and the Borghese Museum: the reconstruction of its overall length and the identification of its original location are still under discussion. The emperor's heads in the reused plates on the arch have all been reworked as portraits of Constantine. Casts of the slabs are recomposed in their original unity in the Museum of Roman Civilization in Rome.
The frieze, in the mating parts on the Arch, depicts (from right to left) the conquest of a Dacian village by the cavalry and the Roman infantry pushing the prisoners; in the background the soldiers, in the background of the village huts, show the severed heads of the barbarians; the prisoners are pursued from the other side by a cavalry charge led by the emperor himself and followed by signifers and cornices; finally, we see Trajan entering Rome, crowned by a Victory and carried to the city by the personification of Virtus in Amazonian dress. The historical frieze, where the Dacians are clearly recognizable in their costumes, was compared with the reliefs of the Trajan's Column, coming to hypothesize the presence of the same master in the two works, even if here the intent of faithful historical reconstruction of the events and the sequence are lacking. temporal, although some scenes are similar (scene 51, Trajan receives the heads of two Dacian leaders and the scenes of cavalry charging). If it is the same hand, at least in the drawings and in the conception, we are however faced with two different contents (narrative-chronical and celebratory-symbolic) expressed with different languages, despite some unmistakable common traits, such as the contour groove for the figures , some compositional schemes and the portrait of the vanquished barbarians as honorable adversaries. The presence of the adventus scene ("return"), not present in the Column, forms a sort of continuation of the story of Trajan's exploits.
The style of the frieze is "baroque", with a crowded and complex composition, with the use of a rich chiaroscuro, with a notable sense of spatiality given by the elements not arranged on a flat but variously "floating" background (heads, trees, spears).
Also from the Forum of Trajan come the eight statues of Dacian prisoners in pavonazzetto marble placed on cipollino marble bases as decoration of the attic (head and hands of the sculptures and one of the figures in full, in white marble, are due to the restoration carried out in 1742 by the sculptor Pietro Bracci).
Eight circular reliefs from the time of Emperor Hadrian over 2 m high are placed above the lateral archways, on the two sides, inserted two by two in a rectangular field that was originally covered with porphyry slabs. The reason for the attribution to the Hadrian period is essentially linked, in addition to stylistic factors and in the choice of the scenes, to the presence (at least three times) of the well-known figure of Antinous, the boy loved by Adriano.
They alternately depict hunting scenes (departure for hunting, bear, boar, lion hunts) and scenes of sacrifice to pagan divinities, each connected to one of the hunts. Also in these tondi, in particular on those located on the south facade, the emperor's heads have been reworked: as portraits of Constantine, in the sacrifice scenes, and of Licinius or Costanzo Cloro in the hunting scenes; vice versa for the rounds placed on the north facade. The nimbus (halo) was added to the effigies of Constantine, now belonging to the imperial maiestas. The origin of the reliefs is disputed, perhaps from a monument dedicated to Antinous located on the Palatine Hill; less probable the provenance from the temple of the Divo Traiano or from an arch placed at the entrance of the temple itself, due to the scenes incompatible with a posthumous monument. There is also the recent hypothesis that the tondi were originally located on this arch, perhaps Hadrian in its first construction, which would have been reassembled and redecorated at the time of Constantine, but the rework undergone by the framing for insertion in the new location seems to belie this hypothesis.
The chronology of the work is fixed between 130 and 138.
Two or three characters flank the emperor in the scenes, on horseback in two of the hunting reliefs, and on foot in the others. The compositions are carefully studied around the imperial figure and the backgrounds are essential, according to the conventions of Hellenistic art (tree fronds, an arch symbolizing departure, etc.). The execution is very fine, as evidenced by the drapery, the heads and the attention to detail. Totally absent is the emphasis and narrative participation of the Trajan frieze, resolved here in a measured composure. The theme of hunting, which Adriano himself brought back into vogue, is connected to the heroic exaltation of the sovereign according to a scheme dating back to Alexander the Great and typical of ancient oriental civilizations. The reason for the presence of the four rural sacrifices is more uncertain.
Panels by Marcus Aurelius
On the attic, on the sides of the inscription, there are eight rectangular reliefs (more than 3 meters high) which depict various episodes of the exploits of the emperor Marcus Aurelius against the Quadi and the Marcomanni (definitively defeated in 175). The emperor's heads have also been reworked in this case, as portraits probably of Constantine and Licinius (today the heads are those of the 18th century restoration and depict Trajan, as at the time the reliefs had been attributed to the time of this emperor). Perhaps part of the series are three other reliefs similar in size but some with stylistic differences today exhibited in the Palazzo dei Conservatori. In any case, the same subject of the enterprises and the fixed presence, behind the emperor, of a character indicated as the son-in-law and, for a certain period, successor in pectore of Marcus Aurelius, Tiberius Claudius Pompeian, suggests an origin municipality of the reliefs.
The current order of the reliefs on the arch is as follows (based on the reconstruction of the Marcomannic wars):
On the southern facade, from left to right:
Rex datus (presentation to the emperor of a submissive barbarian leader): Marcus Aurelius, accompanied by Pompeian, introduces the new tributary king to him (Furzio?) To the group of barbarians; Pompeian is behind him and in the background you can see a camp building and, behind the barbarians, aquiliferous with insignia.
Captives (prisoners led to the emperor): Marcus Aurelius and Pompeian, on a low tribunal in the presence of soldiers with banners, condemn a barbarian prince (with thick, raven hair), who is pushed towards them with his hands tied on his back; a tree is represented in the background. The curious thing is that the soldiers accompanying the prisoners seem to belong, on the basis of the symbols contained on the shields, to the legio I Adiutrix (stationed in Brigetio at the time of Marcus Aurelius) or to the legio II Adiutrix (stationed in Aquincum). It would therefore be a question of a chief of the Quadi (Ariogeso?), Who were right in front of the stretch of the Danube limes between the two legionary fortresses, at the time of the Marcomannic wars.
Adlocutio (speech to the soldiers): The emperor speaks to the soldiers from the suggesto; behind him is Pompeian.
Lustratio (sacrifice in the field): Marcus Aurelius, wearing the sacrificial toga, celebrates a suovetaurilia on a movable altar, assisted by a camillus and surrounded by soldiers, signifers and tubes; behind Marco, between two aquiliferous, we see Pompeiano.
On the northern facade, always from left to right:
Adventus (arrival of the emperor in Rome): Marcus Aurelius, on whose head a Victory with a wreath flies, is flanked by Mars and Virtus, who invite him into the Triumphalis Gate; in the background you can see the gods of the temples near the door (today the sacred area of Sant'Omobono): the Mater Matuta and the Fortuna Redux, while the temple in the background is that of Fortuna, on the left.
Profectio (departure from Rome): the emperor is in traveling clothes and stands between the Genius Senatus and the Genius Populi Romani (left) and a group of soldiers with banners (right); below the reclining figure is a personification of a way that invites the emperor; in the background soi distinguishes the Porta Triumphalis; beyond the profile of the head of Marcus Aurelius (restored) you can see the face of Pompeian.
Liberalitas (distribution of money to the people): the emperor in toga sits on the sella curulis, placed on a very high podium, on which I am also an attendant who dispenses the material of the congiarium (left) and a physiognomically well-characterized togato, perhaps the prefect Urbi Lucio Sergio Paulo; Behind them there are two figures on a step (the one on the right is Pompeian, the other perhaps Claudius Severus, also Marcus Aurelius' son-in-law and consul) and a colonnade in the background, perhaps the Basilica Ulpia; below are the figures of the people, including some children, among which the figure from behind looking up and the man with his son sitting on his shoulders stand out for their compositional originality.
Submissio or Clementia (submission of a barbarian leader): The emperor, with Pompeian behind him, is on a high podium in front of the soldiers and aquilifers with signa, and with a gesture of clemency he acquits a barbarian prince who protects his young son with a arm on shoulder.
The twelve original reliefs perhaps came from a triumphal arch
dedicated to Marcus Aurelius, who has now disappeared. Alternatively,
they have been connected to the celebratory complex erected in honor of
the emperor by his son Commodus in the Campo Marzio, of which the
Antonine Column remains today and to which perhaps also the famous
bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius belonged, later placed in
the center of Piazza del Campidoglio by Paolo III in 1538. The order of
the panels in the original monument was different from the current one
on the arch, where the reliefs were placed following not so much a
narrative order, as the subdivision of the two facades for war themes
(south ) and of peace (to the north) and also seeking overall effects,
such as for example for the juxtaposition of the episodes of departure
(Profectio) and arrival (Adventus), which presented in this world a
continuous background of buildings. The panels, attributed to the
so-called Master of the Enterprises of Marcus Aurelius, are among the
most significant works of the turning point in art at the time of
Commodus: in these works the space is conceived to be compatible with
the point of view of the observer and the elements of the relief are
arranged as if the atmosphere really circulated between them (as in the
banners hanging in front of the background architecture), according to a
spatiality that did not exist in the Greek world and was already
experienced in Rome in the reliefs of the Arch of Titus, even if less
consistently. The anonymous artist was master of the Hellenistic
technique, from which he did not depart, however, bending it to new
typically Roman formal values. In his reliefs there is also the piety
and the involvement for the condition of the vanquished (as in the
Trajan's Column): exemplary is the group of relief VII where we see a
suppliant and infirm barbarian leader, supported by a young man.
The scenes are honorary, not triumphal, as the Senate did not establish the triumph for the emperor on the return of the campaigns of 171-172; from the analysis of the scenes treated, the reliefs can be dated to 173 and go so far as to describe future events, imagined by the senators, such as the Liberitas scene, which in fact did not take place.
The eight heads of the emperor (Constantine) and other missing heads of the characters, made in 1742 by the sculptor Pietro Bracci, are being restored in the reliefs.
On the short sides of the arch the cycle is completed by two roundels specially sculpted for the arch at the time of Constantine; on the east side the Sun-Apollo on the quadriga rises from the sea, while on the west side the Moon-Diana instead drives a chariot that plunges into the ocean: the two reliefs frame the victory of the emperor in a cosmic dimension.
Above the lateral arches and under the Hadrianic roundels, a continuous frieze (just under 1 m high) that also continues on the short sides of the monument with the connection of angular elements, was sculpted at the time of Constantine directly on the blocks that compose the masonry, slightly protruding. The work is one of the most significant of Constantinian art because it shows with extreme clarity a series of elements that break with the antecedent classical tradition.
The story, which concerns the episodes of the war against Maxentius and the celebration of Constantine's victory in Rome, begins on the short western side and continues turning around the arch counterclockwise to end at the northwestern corner:
Departure from Milan ("Profectio"), on the western side, below the tondo with Luna-Diana: Constantine is seated on a chariot with cathedra and is preceded by the troops on foot and on horseback (in which the legionaries can be recognized by the equipment regular and auxiliares, with horned helmets and dromedaries); some soldiers carry statuettes of Sol Invictus and Victoria in their hands
Siege of Verona ("Obsidio"), on the southern side: Constantine is seen on the left between two divine protectores lateris, while a flying Victory crowns him; in the center is the group of besieging soldiers (legionaries, horned men and Mauritian archers); on the left the city walls (reduced) beyond which the besieged protrude, made up of Praetorian troops (some are ready to throw stones at the assailants); a soldier of Constantine wanders under the walls seen by the enemies and another soldier is falling headlong from the fortifications.
Battle of Ponte Milvio ("Proelium"), on the southern side: on the far left you can see the Ponte Milvio with a personification of the Tiber overlooking as Constantine's soldiers pass between Virtus and Vittoria; followed by the massacre and drowning of the praetorians of Maxentius by the Constantinian cavalry; on the far right the trumpeters of the winning army call the troops.
Arrival in Rome ("Ingressus"), on the eastern side: the scene, which
matches the departure on the opposite side of the arch, shows the
emperor's entry into the city (which took place on 29 October 312); the
emperor on the chariot is on the left and proceeds towards the city gate
preceded by knights with Pannonian caps, infantry with weapons or with
insignia and by cornicines, or rather the palatine troops, legionaries,
horned and Mauritian archers.
Speech from the "rostra" in the Roman Forum ("Oratio"), on the northern side: the scene takes place in the Roman Forum and in the background the basilica Iulia, the arch of Tiberius, the Rostra with the imperial stage, the monument of the decennial of the Tetrarchs and the Arch of Septimius Severus; the emperor (mutilated in the upper part) is seated in the center, in a rigidly frontal position and hierarchically enlarged; the crowd and the sides of the forum are composed in an overturned perspective; on the sides of the stage are the statues of Hadrian, on the right, and Marcus Aurelius, on the left.
Distribution of money to the people (Congiarium or Liberalitas), on the northern side: the episode took place on 1 January 313 and even five modules of hierarchical proportion were used in representing it: 1) The emperor is seated in the center on the throne, in a rigid position front, and overhangs 2) the characters of the suite on the same lodge, in turn larger than the 3) officials in the lodge; then there are 4) characters in toga counted at the bottom near the emperor (suppliant or who take the gift from the emperor's hands with veiled hands); 5) the anonymous group of beneficiaries is represented in the lower band; the latter are captured with the hand raised to receive and are represented with an overturned perspective that turns the figures that should be on their backs. In the raised loggias with aulea (perhaps the porticus Minucia or the Forum of Caesar) you can see the officials who register the donations and who take the money from the coffers.
The Constantinian frieze, to be read according to a continuous narrative, marked by the succession of individual episodes, continues the Roman tradition of historical relief in this sense, and yet it clearly detaches from it from the stylistic point of view, marking the abandonment of naturalism of Hellenistic origin in favor of a more marked symbolic character. The figures are stockier, with the heads slightly disproportionate to the bodies. The scenes are mass, crowded with characters and denote a loss of interest in the isolated individual figure typical of the Greek artistic vision. Increasing compared to the previous tradition is the use of the drill, which creates deeper hollows, therefore darker shadows in stark contrast to the illuminated areas. Privileging the contour line over a real volumetric consistency, and the faces with large and wide eyes are marked by a marked expressionism.
In the scene of the Oratio the emperor stands seated in the center in a raised position on the tribune, the only one in the front position (apart from the two statues of his predecessors), acquiring a sacred value, like a divinity showing himself to the faithful isolated in its transcendent and sacral dimension, also underlined by the slightly larger dimensions of its figure. It is in fact one of the very first cases in Rome of proportions between the figures organized according to hierarchy (a typical characteristic of the subsequent early Christian and medieval art): the size of the figures no longer depends on their position in space, but on their importance.
Another interesting element is the loss of spatial relationships: the background of the relief shows the monuments of the Roman forum visible at the time, but their location is not realistic compared to the site on which the scene takes place (the rostra), indeed they are placed aligned and parallel to the surface of the relief. Even more unusual is the representation in "overturned perspective" of the two lateral groups of commoners, who should theoretically stand in front of the tribune and instead are rotated and flattened on both sides.
These are all characteristics of late antique art, which anticipates the achievements of medieval art and in turn was partly anticipated by the "plebeian" and "provincial" artistic current which is intertwined with official art throughout its evolution. of Roman art: in this historical period this form of art comes to Rome, because the same ruling class (landowners, wealthy merchants and officers), including the emperors themselves, comes from the provinces.
On the other hand, the departure from the naturalistic researches of
Greek art led to a more immediate reading and an easier interpretation
of the images. For a long time this type of artistic production was seen
as a clear example of decadence, even if today more wide-ranging studies
have shown that these trends were not novelties, but were instead
already present for centuries in the territories of the provinces and
that their emergence in official art it was the reverse of a process of
artistic irradiation from the center to the periphery with the
inevitable return, even in the opposite direction, of the trends from
the peripheries to the center (which also occurred in other historical
Other Constantinian Reliefs
Other sculptural decorations performed in the Constantinian era are:
the reliefs on the plinths of the columns, symmetrically coupled and depicting:
on the front Victories (who write on shields or hold palm branches) and trophies with captive eastern and northern barbarians;
on the sides of the lateral arches Nordic and oriental prisoners alone or with Roman soldiers
on the sides of the central fornix Soldiers with the "signa" or Sol Invictus and Victoria
the eight busts on slabs inserted into the masonry of the side passages (not all preserved), with imperial portraits and figures of divinities;
the Winged Victories with trophies and the Genes of the Seasons in the pendentives (triangular resulting spaces) of the central fornix
the personifications of rivers in the plumes of the lateral arches;
the sculptures of the arch keys with depictions of divinities: on the lateral arches Mars, Mercury, Genius populi Romani; on the central fornix Rome and Quies Rei Publicae.
The Constantinian allegorical figures are in the classicist style of the recovery of the figurative tradition wanted by Constantine, but their content is emptied, the form now denotes tiredness (as had happened in the base of Diocletian's Decennalia), the volume is flattened and the rendering slips easily in drawing and calligraphic (see for example the drapery of the Victories). Compared to the historical frieze, animated by the lively stereometry of the tetrarchic era, a different style can be seen, even if on the whole all the Constantinian reliefs seem to come from the same urban workshop, from which the workers involved in the decoration of the Basilica of Maxentius also had to leave, of some pagan and Christian sarcophagi (such as the Dogmatic Sarcophagus), throughout the first thirty years of the fourth century.