Arch of Constantine--page 3 (of three pages)

312-15 CE

The three pages include the following:
page one: whole views, ends, and attic details
page two: Hadrianic roundels, relief under passageway, spandrel and molding details
page three: relief sculpture (the frieze) from the Constantinian period

The Constantinian Frieze--a narrow band of narrative relief

This low relief frieze, which continues around the side arches and ends, depicts episodes in the life of Constantine. In addition to depicting famous battles, the frieze also depicts his largess--the distribution of gifts, and his address to the Roman people from the Rostra in the Forum. The last scene is depicted below. Richard Brilliant explains. "One of the Constantinian reliefs on the north facade shows the Emperor addressing the Roman people from the Rostra in the Forum. Behind him and behind the Rostra rise five columns belonging to the Decennial Monuments of the Tetrarchs, conceived within the tradition of the honorific, statue-bearing column. Their message was not the message of peace, but rather that a condition of peace and of the continuity of Empire was perennial victory in war. With this, the inevitability of triumph became a permanent fixture of the state and of its most public monuments" (128).

The adlocutio--north face, left side


The largitio--north face, right side

Here the emperor and his attendants distribute largess to people approaching from both sides while Constantine sits on a high throne. Stylistically, the entire frieze demonstrates a striking contrast with the earlier more "classical" relief on the arch, borrowed from other monuments. Here these identical forms are frontal primarily, squatty and unnaturalistic, with drapery that is incised with grooves. These rigid forms are barely modelled and are carved with repeated and unrealistic motions and gestures. These traits become common in the sculpture of the Middle Ages, with emphasis on symbolism and easily readable concepts.


Battle scenes

Left: south face, left side; center: south face, right side


West end

Return to page 1.

Work Cited:
Richard Brilliant. Roman Art from the Republic to Constantine. London: Phaidon, 1974.

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© 2005 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. They are not available for commercial purposes.

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