The Arch of Septimius Severus Rome Monuments


Standing on the western end of the Roman Forum near the Capitoline Hill and made of brick and marble, it is a site to behold. The arch is 23 metres (over 70 feet) high and 25 metres (over 75 feet) wide. It has three archways, of which the central one is 12 metres (over 36 feet) high and the other two over 7 metres (over 22 feet). Do not forget to look at the four columns on each side, which are over 8 metres (25 feet) high. There used to be a staircase leading to the central archway, but it was built over in the IVth Century.

Rome hotels

A short history of Septimius and the scene in his time

Following the assassination of Commodus in 192 CE and the selling of the empire to the highest bidder twice in 193 who were then killed by the soldiers opposed to them, the legions declared a governor of northern European province to be Emperor in 193, who then defeated other claimants to be officially named as Emperor by the Senate soon after; he was Septimius Severus. This was a man of North African origin who lived a very full life dieing in York England. His victory ushered in a generation of peace.

A rainy day would not keep us away from this magnificent Roman monument.

The political instability following Septimius Severusí enthronement required him to seek military legitimacy and the tension-filled frontiers of the Roman Far East were an easy choice to do so. With his two sons, Geta and Caracalla, he won victories in wars against the Parthians and Osroeni in 195 and 197 CE. These were two nations who used to exist to the southeast of the Caspian Sea. They were difficult opponents for the Romans due to their horsemanship and regularly harassed the Roman frontiers. In honour of his achievement, the Senate permitted him a triumphal entry into Rome. As part of his triumph, an arch was built to commemorate the victory in 203 CE. This is the arch that you see before you today.

A view of the Arch


Following the end of the Roman Empire in 476 CE, many Roman monuments fill into disrepair and were either destroyed or vandalized for their stones. But, luckily for us, the tourist and historian, this arch remains remarkably untouched as a church was partially built into it, thus protecting it, although parts of it would be covered over by dirt and worn out from pollution. This situation remained up to the XVIIIth Century when excavations were begun and it was exposed again.

The purpose of a Roman arch is to depict the scenes of the war and to honour the name of the victor. Each relief panel is separated into registers and depicts a separate part of the war or events related to it. Interestingly, the upper part is not dense stone but filled with interconnected rooms. There are four reliefs that form a complete story of the war to be read from the bottom up. Firstly, preparations for the war, battles with the Parthians and a speech by the emperor; secondly, the battles with the Osroeni, surrender of their king and a war council; thirdly, the attack on Seleucia, and flight and surrender of the Parthians; and fourthly, the siege of Ctespihon, capital of Parthia, and flight of the Parthian king followed by the emperorís victory speech.

One dark day in a week and it had to be in the forum .. sorry


As very few of us are students of Latin, the inscription reads as follows: "To the Emperor Septimius Severus, Son of Marcus, Pius, Pertinax, Pater Patriae, Parthicus Arabicus, Parthicus Adiabenicus, Pontifex Maximus, having held the tribunician power 11 times, acclaimed emperor 11 times, Consul 3 times, Proconsul, and Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Caracalla), Son of Lucius, Antoninus, Augustus Pius, Felix, having held the auspicious tribunician power 6 times, Consul, Proconsul, Pater Patriae, Highest and Strongest Princes, for having restored the State and enlarged the Empire of the Roman people,by their visible strengths at home and abroad, the Senate and People of Rome [made this]&

On various other parts of the arch and columns, you can see images of divinities, such as Mars, representations of the seasons, and Roman soldiers with Parthian prisoners. If this has really interested you, go see the Column of Trajan, the Column of Marcus Aurelius and the Arch of Titus nearby.



Travel Resources