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Rome: Arch of Gallienus


The arch of Gallienus. Photo Jona Lendering. Arch of Gallienus: triumphal arch in Rome, dating back to the third century.

The Arch of Gallienus is in fact one of the gates of the Servian Wall, which surrounded Rome from the fourth century BCE. Its original name was Porta Esquilina. The gate was rebuilt by the emperor Augustus (30 BCE - 14 CE; he also ordered the reconstruction of another gate that belonged to the Servian Wall, the Arch of Dolabella). 

The gate was converted into a triumphal arch by the time of the emperor Gallienus (260-268), who tried to keep the empire together in the difficult third quarter of the third century. The first photo shows the arch, seen from the east. The building to the right is the church of San Vito. The inscription (CIL VI.1106) reads

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GALLIENO  CLEMENTISSIMO  PRINCIPI  CVIVS  INVICTA  VIRTVS  SOLA  PIETATE
SVPERATA  EST  ET  SALONINAE  SANCTISSIMAE  AVGVSTAE  AVRELIVS
VICTOR  Vir  Egregius  DICATISSIMVS  NVMINI  MAIESTATISQVE  EORVM
The inscription on the arch of Gallienus. Photo Jona Lendering.
Which means that
Aurelius Victor, the excellent man, [dedicated this] in complete devotion to their majesties' will, to Gallienus, the most clement emperor, whose unconquerable virtue is only outdone by his piety, and to the sacred empress Salonina.

The arch of Gallienus. Photo Jona Lendering.
The third photo shows the arch seen from the west. The road leading through this gate was called the Clivus Suburanus and is is identical to the modern Via S. Vito and Via S. Martino. The continuation, the Via S. Madonna dei Monti, follows the course of the ancient Argiletum, which used to be the main road to the Forum.

Detail of the arch of Gallienus. Photo Jona Lendering.
In Antiquity, there were two smaller arches to the left and right of the Esquiline Gate, which must have been part of the Arch of Gallienus too, but they were -as was common in those days- demolished during the Renaissance; the marbles were used to decorate a church or a palace.

The Historia Augusta, a collection of partly invented imperial biographies, offers a colorful description of the triumphal procession of Gallienus (Gallienus, 7.4-9.8).

A satellite photo can be found here.

Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2003
Revision: 3 April 2012
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