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Arch of Constantine

Arch of Constantine
Arch of Constantine

April 2016 - When Constantine killed Maxentius in the battle of the Milvian Bridge, in 312 AD, he marched triumphantly into Rome. After the victory parade was over, Constantine decided he wanted people to remember this victory, and he put up a large stone triumphal arch, like the Arch of Titus and the Arch of Septimius Severus, or the columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius, to remind people that he had won this important battle.

stone carving of people approaching a city wall
Constantine attacks Rome (see the walls on the right?)

The Arch of Constantine, though, is a little different from the earlier arches, because Constantine was reminding people about a civil war, not a war against foreign enemies. Titus had conquered the Jewish revolt, and Septimius Severus had conquered the Germans, but Constantine had conquered another Roman emperor.

stone carving of a battle
Battle of the Milvian Bridge

On top of the arch, Constantine had an inscription carved that reminded people of his victory. It's carefully phrased, so that while it refers to God, it doesn't specify which god - a Roman god like Jupiter, or the Christian God? In 312 AD, Constantine was already a Christian, but he wasn't ready to put it on a public monument yet.

Around the lower part of the arch, just over the side archways, Constantine put pictures of the battle itself. You can see the walls of Rome on the right.

Next comes the battle for the Milvian Bridge, with soldiers drowning in the water underneath.

Learn by doing: tell a story in a series of five or so drawings
Arch of Constantine - Older Carvings

Bibliography and further reading about the Arch of Constantine:

Ancient Rome: A Guide to the Glory of Imperial Rome, by Jonathan Stroud (2000). A day as a time-travelling tourist in ancient Rome, for kids.

Constantine, by Nancy Zinsser Walworth (1989). A biography for kids.

Roman Art: Romulus to Constantine, by Nancy and Andrew Ramage (4th Edition 2004).The standard textbook.

The Life and Times of Constantine the Great: The First Christian Emperor, by D. G. Kousoulas (2nd edition 2003). A biography of Constantine.

More about Roman Art
Ancient Rome home

Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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Now that the weather's nice, try some of these outdoor activities! How about bicycle polo, or archery for a Medieval Islam day? Or kite flying or making a compass for a day in Medieval China? How about making a shaduf for a day in Ancient Egypt? Holding an Ancient Greek Olympic Games or a medieval European tournament? Building a Native American wickiup?