Arch of Septimius Severus

The Arch of Septimius Severus is a triple triumphal arch once located in the Roman Forum (Forum Romanum) near the Temple of Concordia and the Rostra. Inscriptions (originally in bronze letters) on both sides of the attic state that the arch was erected by the senate in 203 AD to commemorate victory by Septimius Severus over the Parthians and his sons, Caracalla and Geta. Later, following his murder by Caracalla, the name of Geta in the fourth line was chiseled away, and further honorific titles for Septimius and Caracalla were added in its place. 
This triple arch was made of travertine, faced with marble. It was around 25 meters high and 23 meters high. The central is around 12 meters high and 7 meters wide. A road only ran through the central passage, the side passages were approached by steps. All of the passages have coffered ceilings. The side arches communicate with the central passage by vaulted passages. 
The façade of the arch is extensive decorated. There are eight fluted columns with composite capitals on each façade of the arch. The columns rest on high plinths that are decorated with captives. Depictions of river gods are found in the spandrels of the side arches, while Victorias are depicted in the spandrels of the central arch. Above the side arches are depictions of the war against the Parthians. It originally had various gilded statues, including Septimius Severus riding a chariot in triumph, with his sons mounted on horseback on each side. 

Depiction of the Arch of Septimius Severus with statuary
Image from
Wellesley

Inscription

IMP (eratori) CAES(ari) LUCIO SEPTIMIO M(arci) FIL(io) SEVERO PIO PERTINACI AUG(usto) PATRI PATRIAE PARTHICO ARABICO ET / PARTHICO ADIABENICO PONTIFIC(i) MAXIMO TRIBUNIC(ia) POTEST(ate) XI IMP(eratori) XI CO(n)S(uli) III PROCO(n)S(uli) ET / IMP(eratori) CAES(ari) M(arco) AURELIO L(ucii) FIL(io) ANTONINO AUG(usto) PIO FELICI TRIBUNIC(ia) POTEST(ate) VI CO(n)S(uli) PROCO(n)S(uli) [P(atri) P(atriae) / OPTIMIS FORTISSIMISQUE PRINCIPIBUS / OB REM PUBLICAM RESTITUTAM IMPERIUMQUE POPULI ROMANI PROPAGATUM / INSIGNIBUS VIRTUTIBUS EORUM DOMI FORISQUE S(enatus) P(opulus)Q(ue) R(omanus)


To the Imperator Caesar Lucius Septimius, son of Marcus, Severus Pius Pertinax Augustus [Septimius Severus], father of his country, conqueror of the Parthians in Arabia and Assyria, Pontifex Maximus, with Tribunician powers 11 times, triumphing general 11 times, consul 3 times, and proconsul; and to the Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius, son of Lucius, Antoninus Augustus Pius Felix [Caracalla], with tribunician powers 6 times, consul, proconsul, father of his country the best and bravest of princes* on account of the republic restored and the empire of the Roman people increased by their outstanding virtues at home and abroad, the Senate and the Roman people dedicate this arch.

 

Probably originally read:
ET P(ublio) SEPTIMIO L(ucii) F(ilio) GETAE NOB(ilissimo) CAES(ari)
And to Publius Septimius, son of Lucius, Geta, most noble Caesar [Geta]

Sources

A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome by L. Richardson, Jr.

Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide by Amanda Claridge

Rome Alive: A Source Guide to the Ancient City, Vol. 1 by Bolchazy-Carducci

Resources

Arch of Septimius Severus (Digital Roman Forum UCLA)

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • Black Instagram Icon
The Byzantine Legacy
Created by David Hendrix Copyright 2016