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Monuments: Arch of Trajan

The Arch of Trajan at Benvento is a single, barrel-vaulted monumental arch which was built between AD 114 and 117 to celebrate the completion of the Via Traiana, which left the Via Appia at Benevento. The arch is exceptionally well-preserved and is decorated with a well-known series of sculpted reliefs of its eastern and western facades. In the attic on each facade the large dedicatory inscriptions are flanked by two relief panels. These depict, on the west facade, the emperor Trajan either arriving at or leaving Rome and the Capitoline Triad, and on the east facade, two scenes making reference to the emperor's conquests in Dacia. More

Four relief panels also decorate the eastern and western facades of the arch below the attic, two on each pier. These focus on the emperor's civic acts home and abroad, such as the foundation of cities and the reorganisation of the corn supply. These panels are divided from each other by smaller panels showing Victories slaying bulls and sacrificial assistants decorating candelabra. The final component of the exterior decoration on the arch is the continuous frieze which runs around the arch at a level just above the top of the central bay. This depicts a triumph, probably Trajan's second Dacian triumph of AD 107. The climax of this complex decorative scheme, though, are the two large reliefs which decorate the walls inside the bay of the arch. On the north side a scene of sacrifice commemorates the opening of the Via Traiana. On the south side we see the emperor Trajan overseeing the handing out of money to poor children while the personifications of four cities look on. This is a reference to the emperor's alimenta scheme which was intended to help children in Italy and certainly operated in Benevento and the surrounding towns.

Rotili, M. (1972). L'Arco di Traiano a Benevento. Rome.

Torelli, M. (1997). '“Ex his castra, ex his tribus replebuntur”: the marble panegyric on the Arch of Trajan at Beneventum', in D. Buitron-Oliver (ed.). The interpretation of architectural sculpture in Greece and Rome (Studies in the history of art 49; Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Art, symposium papers 29). Hanover, NH; London: 145–77.


ObjectType object (1)
Undefined white marble (Visual identification)  
circa ad 114 - circa ad 117 



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