Arch of Septimius Severus

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Roman Daily Life video

The ancient Romans liked to celebrate their victories in battle by building monuments to the victors.

The Arch of Septimius Severus is one of these monuments constructed in ancient Rome.

The triumphal arch was dedicated to the Roman victories led by Emperor Septimius Severus over the Parthians in 197 C.E.

The arch was constructed in 203 C.E. and located in the Forum.

Victory over the Parthia Empire

Septimius Severus was the Roman Emperor from 190 C.E. until his death in York during 211 C.E.

He rose to power first as a senator appointed by Marcus Aurelius and then became a consul in 190 C.E. Severus became emperor after the murder of Pertinax by Roman soldiers in 193 C.E.

He was appointed emperor by his army and returned to Rome to seize power. Other people claimed to be emperor too but by 197 C.E. Severus had eliminated all them taking full control of the Roman Empire.

Septimius Severus was raised to be a soldier. He pursued glory on the battle field. He was instrumental in waging war against the Parthian Empire which was located in present-day Iran and Iraq.

Severus began his campaign against Parthian in 194 C.E. and completed his conquest in 197 C.E. with his two sons named Greta and Caracalla.

His victories against the Parthian Empire and the sacking of the Parthian capital Ctesiphon allowed the Roman Empire to regain the upper half of the Mesopotamia.

After conquering the Parthians he sold all surviving people and soldiers into slavery.

The Arch of Septimius Severus

The Arch of Septimius Severus was constructed on the Via Sacra in the Forum of ancient Rome. The arch is composed of three archways.

The center arch is the largest and there are two smaller arches on the sides. The arch stands 69 feet tall (23 meters) and 75 feet wide (25 meters). The foundation and inner pieces of the arch is built from travertine marble with Procennesian marble composing the faces of the arch.

The arch has eight Corinthian style columns with four columns on each side.

The Arch of Septimius Severus is adorned with numerous detailed designs. The designs include battle scenes in Parthia, people being taken into slavery, nature scenes, other military victories, and numerous deities important to Romans.

The overall style of the sculptures is very similar to that of the Column of Marcus Aurelius. Other sculptures that adorn the Arch of Septimius Severus are Mars, the Roman god of war, Bacchus, Hercules, and various other Roman gods.

On the very top of the arch was a gilded bronze six-horse chariot guided by Emperor Septimius Severus and his two sons riding horses along his sides.

The arch contains an inscription that proclaimed Emperor Severus and his two sons had restored the Republic of Rome and enlarged the territory of the empire by creating the new Roman province known as Mesopotamia.

Facts about the Arch of Septimius Severus

  • Septimius Severus was Emperor of Rome from 193 C.E. until his death in York during 211 C.E.
  • The Arch of Septimius Severus was constructed to celebrate the victory of Emperor Severus over the Parthia Empire in 197 C.E.
  • The victory regained lands in the region of present-day Iran and Iraq. Emperor Severus created a new Roman province named Mesopotamia after the victory.
  • The Arch of Septimius Severus was built in 203 C.E. and located in the Forum along the Via Sacra.
  • The arch is composed of three archways and eight Corinthian-styled columns made of travertine marble and Proconnesian marble from Greece.
  • The Arch of Septimius Severus is adorned with numerous decorations including sculptures of Hercules, Bacchus, and Mars the Roman god of war.
  • The arch is 69 feet (23 meters) in height and 75 feet (25 meters) in width. The center arch is the largest of the three arches.
  • Other designs on the arch include battle scenes against the Parthia Empire, various Roman gods, nature scenes, and there was a six-horse chariot statue on top depicting Emperor Septimius Severus with his two sons riding horses alongside of him.

What did you Learn?

  1. The Arch of Sepitmius Severus was built to celebrate the victory of what empire?

Parthia Empire

  1. Where did Emperor Septimius Severus die?

York in Roman Britain

  1. What material was the Arch of Septimius Severus built of?

Travertine and Proconnesian marble

  1. Where is the Arch of Septimius Severus located in Rome?

Along the Via Sacra in the Forum

  1. How big is the Arch of Septimius Severus?

69 feet (23 meters) tall and 75 feet (25 meters) wide