The Constantinian Frieze--a narrow band of narrative reliefThis 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 sideHere 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.
Left: south face, left side; center: south face, right side
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