Septimius Severus was a Roman emperor about 200 AD who decided to put up a stone triumphal arch in the Roman forum in order to remind people about his military victories over the Parthians east of Rome. In this picture, you can see the Roman Senate House in the background on the left.
This is the other side of the arch. You can see that this arch, built more than a hundred years after the Arch of Titus, has a very different artistic style. Instead of big relief carvings on the inside of the arch, this one has several small relief carvings on the front and back.
The reliefs on the arch of Septimius Severus show victories over the Parthians. The men who carved this arch, unlike those who carved the Arch of Titus, used stone drills to cut away the stone, creating areas of high contrast darkness and light.
Over the carvings there was an inscription with gleaming bronze letters, but the bronze has been stolen away, and only the nail holes and grooves for the letters are still there. That’s enough for us to read the inscription.
We can see where Septimius Severus’ son Caracalla, when he became emperor and killed his brother Geta, had his brother’s name scratched out of the inscription. Can you see it on the third line from the bottom? The red arrow points to it.
Learn by doing: draw a triumphal arch illustrating the achievements of another historical figure.
More about the Arch of Titus
More about the Arch of Constantine
Bibliography and further reading about the Arch of Septimius Severus:
The Colosseum & the Roman Forum, by Martyn Whittock (2002). Easy reading.
The Roman Forum, by Michael Grant (1970). Out of date, but Michael Grant is an entertaining writer with a simple style which teenagers may appreciate.
Ancient Roman Art, by Susie Hodge (1998). Easy reading.
Roman Art: Romulus to Constantine, by Nancy and Andrew Ramage (4th Edition 2004). The standard textbook.
The Arch of Septimius Severus in the Roman Forum, by R. Brilliant (1987). Unfortunately out of print, but libraries should still be able to get it.
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