Be awed by Rome’s largest surviving triumphal arch.
The Arch of Constantine is not just a beautiful arch, it’s also an incredible conglomeration of Imperial monuments. Join millions of other visitors in learning about the history behind one of the world’s most famous arches.
- Feel ‘triumphant’ as you walk up to this mighty arch, once the pathway of victorious emperors.
- Learn about Constantine’s military achievements from the sculptural scenes depicted on the arch.
- Pose for a photo with the arch – don’t forget to include the Colosseum in the background.
What to see and do
The Arch of Constantine is unique because it contains many sculptural elements taken from various Roman monuments from different eras. Some theorize that this is because artistic talent had declined during Constantine’s time, others say that it’s simply a tribute to Roman Imperial greatness, which Constantine wanted to be a part of. In either case, here’s what you shouldn’t miss.
Architecture and Coloring
The arch is approximately 20 meters high, 25 meters wide, and 7 meters deep. It has a large central archway with two smaller ones on either side. The arch was carved out of grey and white Proconnesian marble.
The arches are divided by four Corinthian columns, on either side, made out of yellow Numidian marble. They each stand on a pedestal and are topped by an entablature. Above the entablature, on both sides, stand four statues of Dacian prisoners.
Although it’s difficult to distinguish today, the arch used to be incredibly colorful. Different types of marble were used to create different sculptural elements. The statues were made of Phrygian purple and they stood on Carystian green pedestals; green porphyry was used for the entablature frieze; purplish-red porphyry was used for the roundel’s backgrounds.
The Recycled Sculptures
The arch contains many recycled elements from 1st and 2cd century monuments, the heyday of the Roman Empire, making the arch a mishmash of sculptural elements from Imperial Rome.
The eight marble panels of the attic, four on each side, were taken from the Arch of Marcus Aurelius from the 2cd century. They show scenes of the emperor at war or conducting his civic duties. Marcus Aurelius has been remodeled to look like Constantine.
The eight marble medallions are also from the 2cd century and were taken from a monument, now lost, honoring Emperor Hadrian. They depict scenes of sacrificial ceremonies to the gods of Hercules, Diana, Apollo, and Silvanus; and animal hunts featuring a bear, a boar, and a lion.
There are also two reliefs taken from the Basilica Ulpia in Trajan’s forum that now decorate the inner central arch. One shows Trajan, also cut to look like Constantine, charging barbarians on horseback; the other shows him being crowned by Victory.
The arch is not entirely a reassembly of other structures. There are four frieze scenes that were built specifically for the monument. They are placed below the medallions and commemorate Emperor Constantine and his military victories.
These show the siege of Verona, the battle with the tyrant Maxentius, Constantine addressing the general public in the Roman Forum, and Constantine presiding over a gift-giving ceremony.
There are also other original sculptures portraying river gods and victories carrying palm fronds, as well as two medallions, on either of the short sides, depicting the sun and moon personified riding chariots.
On either side of the monument, above the arches, are large panels with identical inscriptions in Latin – an element typical of a triumphal arch. Originally inlaid with gilded bronze, it would have read:
IMP CAES FL CONSTANTINO MAXIMO
P F AUGUSTO SPQR
QUOD INSTINCTU DIVINITATIS MENTIS
MAGNITUDINE CUM EXERCITU SUO
TAM DE TYRANNO QUAM DE OMNI EIUS
FACTIONE UNO TEMPORE IUSTIS
REM PUBLICAM ULTUS EST ARMIS
ARCUM TRIUMPHIS INSIGNEM DICAVIT
Which roughly translates to:
To the emperor Flavius Constantine the Great
pious and fortunate, the Senate and People of Rome
because by divine inspiration and his own greatness of spirit
with his army
on both the tyrant and all his
faction at once in rightful
battle he avenged the State
dedicated this arch as a mark of triumph.
The Arch of Constantine is located in the city center of Rome – right next to the Colosseum. It’s within walking distance of many other major sites as well, such as the Roman Forum (2 min.), Palatine Hill (2 min.), and the Altare della Patria (15 min.). It’s also easily accessible by public transport.
Address: Via di San Gregorio
Metro: Line B – Colosseo
Bus: Lines 51, 75, 85, 81, 87, 117, and 118 all stop nearby.
Tram: Line 3 – Parco Celio
Did you know that: (4 Interesting Facts!)
- The arch was erected on ancient Rome’s Via Triumphalis, the road taken by the emperor when returning victorious to Rome. It lies between two hills: Palatine Hill and Caelian Hill.
- The arch is considered the last great monument of Imperial Rome as the Roman Empire began a steady decline after Constantine’s reign.
- Emperor Constantine is famously known for bringing Christianity to the Roman Empire. It’s said that before the Battle of Milvian Bridge (which the arch commemorates) he had a divine vision that led him to fight under the Christian God, thus leading him to victory.
- The Arch of Constantine became a model for arches all over the world, such as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and Marble Arch in London, among others.
- The Arch of Constantine was commissioned by the Roman Senate in 312 CE to commemorate Emperor Constantine’s victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge.
- It was revealed and dedicated on the 25th July 315 CE, on the ten-year anniversary of Constantine’s reign.
- During the Middle Ages, the arch was incorporated into a fortress belonging to the Frangipani, a powerful Roman family at the time.
- In 1597, Pope Clement VIII removed one of the marble columns from the arch, replacing it with one of a different color, to use in the doorway of the St John Lateran church.
- Restoration work returning the arch to its former glory was carried out first in the 18th century and, more recently, in the late 1990s – early 2000s.
- The arch served as the finish line for the 1960 Summer Olympics marathon event.
- Today, the arch still stands proudly on the site where it was erected, next to its neighbor the Colosseum, and is visited by millions of people a year. It’s the largest triumphal arch in Rome out of the three ones remaining today.
Address: Arch of Constantine, Via di San Gregorio , 00186 Roma, Italy · view larger map