Triumphal arch of Arausio (Orange)_Reliefs

Patron/Sponsor: 
Augustus; Tiberius
Original Location/Place: 

Arausio (Orange)

Actual Location (Collection/Museum): 

In loco

Original Inscription/Graffito: 

A first reading was proposed in 1862 by Pierre Hebert.

IMP CAIO I CÆ AVGVSTO DIVI I FIL ÆGYPT TRP XI COMAT TRIBVT GERMANIA VICTA COH XXXIII VOLVNT COLONIA ARAVS I SECVNDAN HVNC ARC DED PVBLICE

Imp(eratori) Caio I(ulio) Cæ(sari) Augusto divi I(ulii) fil(io) Ægypt(o) Tr(ibunicia) P(otestate) XI comat(a) tribut(aria) Germania victaCoh(ors) XXXIII volunt(ariorum) (et) colonia Araus(io) I(ulia) secundan(orum) hunc arc(um) ded(icavit) publice

To the son of Iulius Caesar, to the emperor Caius Iulius Caesar Augustus, exercing the tribunician power for the eleventh time, the 36th cohors of volunteers and the city of Arausio Iulia, colony of the second legion, in remembrance of Egypt, Gallia Comata and defeated Germany, submitted to the payment of the tribute, elevated and dedicated this arch in the name of the whole country. Pierre Hebert dated the arch to 12 CE.

Actual reading:

TI • CAESAR • DIVI • AVGVSTI • F • DIVI • IVLI • NEPOTI • AVGVSTO • PONTIFICI • MAXIPOTESTATE • XXVIII • IMPERATORI • IIX • COS • IIII • RESTITVIT • R • P • COLONIAE (or RESTITVTORI • COLONIAE) 

Ti(berio) Caesar(i), divi Augusti f(ilio), divi Iuli nepoti, Augusto, Pontifici Maximo, [Tribunicia]Potestate XXVIII Imperatori IIX Co(n)s(uli) IIII restituit R(es) P(ublica) coloniae (or : restitutori coloniae)

To Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus, grandson of the divine Iulius, Augustus, pontifex maximus, exercising tribunician power for the twenty eighth time, Emperor for the eighth time, consul for the fourth time, given back to him by the administration of the colony (or refounder of the colony). The inscription is then dated 26/27 CE.

Description: 

The Triumphal arch of Arausio has three arches, the central one being larger than the flanking ones. Each façade has four semi-engaged Corinthian columns. The arch contains an inscription dedicated to Emperor Tiberius in 26/27 CE. On the northern (outward-facing) facade, the architrave and cornice have been cut back and a bronze inscription inserted, which is now lost; attempts at reconstructing its text from the placement of cramp holes for the projecting tines of its letters have not been successful. A first reading was proposed in 1862 by Pierre Hebert: “To the son of Iulius Caesar, to the emperor Caius Iulius Caesar Augustus, exerting the tribunician power for the eleventh time, the 36th cohors of volunteers and the city of Arausio Iulia, colony of the second legion, in remembrance of Egypt, Gallia Comata and defeated Germany, submitted to the payment of the tribute, elevated and dedicated this arch in the name of the whole country”. Thus, Pierre Hebert dated the arch to 12 CE. The actual reading of the inscription is very different: “To Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus, grandson of the divine Iulius, Augustus, pontifex maximus, exercising tribunician power for the twenty eighth time, emperor for the eighth time, consul for the fourth time, given back to him by the administration of the colony (or refounder of the colony)”, and the inscription is dated to 26/27 CE. The arch is decorated with various reliefs of military themes, including naval battles, spoils of war, and Romans waging war against Germans and Gauls. Four of the panels are located under the flanking arches, and depicts helmets, spears, and shields disposed on four rows. Some of the shields bear names: Sacrovir, Decurdus and Marius. These names may be those of local sculptors. Under these four panels, there are four more which depicts naval trophies. The one located on the northeast is the better preserved. These panels depict warships, tridents, and anchors. Maybe the purpose of these reliefs was to emphasize Roman naval supremacy after the battle of Actium. A frieze runs all along the four sides of the monument. The relief depicts a battle between Romans and Gauls. While the Romans are depicting wearing the lorica hamata, the helmet and the shield, the Gauls are depicted naked, with long hairs, albeit with shields. The central base of the upper attic, which was supposed to bear an equestrian statuary group, is decorated on both sides of the arch with reliefs depicting a battle. It is possible to identify soldiers of the Legio II Augusta, an emblem of which was the Capricornus. 

Material: 

Marble

Measurements: 

Length: 19.57 meters; width: by 8.40 meters; height: 19.21 meters

Commentary: 

Arausio was originally a Celtic oppidum. The name Arausio originated in the name of the Celtic water god. There was fought in 105 BCE a major battle between two Roman armies and the Cimbri and Teutones tribes.  In 35 BCE the veterans of the Second Legion Augusta founded a colony, Colonia Iulia Firma Secundanorum Arausio. The city was fenced by walls and included a forum as well as a theatre. There is debate about when the arch was built, but current research that accepts the inscription as evidence favors a date during the reign of Augustus (27 BC - AD 14). It was built on the former Via Agrippa to honor the veterans of the Gallic Wars and Legio II Augusta. It was later reconstructed by Tiberius to celebrate the victories of Germanicus over the German tribes in Rhineland. The arch was built into the town's walling during the Middle Ages to guard the northern entry points of the town. The arch is the oldest surviving example of a design that was used later in Rome itself, for the Arch of Septimius Severus and the Arch of Constantine.
The main theme of the reliefs on the arch is the representation of imperial victory, through the depiction of battles and the successive trophies erected in the wake of victories. The enemies depicted are Gauls and Germanic tribesmen. Possibly, therefore, the triumphal arch stood as a mute warning towards the local population not to rebel against Roman rule. Victory was a crucial concept in imperial propaganda. Indeed, according to Carlos Noreña, military victory, personalized by Victoria, was one of the tangible benefits of the Roman Empire. Therefore, military victory always stood as the central imperial ideal around which all others, such as Pax, Concordia, Fortuna, and Salus, circled.

Bibliographical references: 
Strong, Donald, Roman Art (The Yale University Press - Pelican History of Art; Harmondsworth : Yale University Press - Penguin, 1992)
Kleiner, Diane E.E., Roman Sculpture (New Haven (Conn.): Yale University Press, 1984)
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Triumphal arch of Arausio (Orange)_Reliefs
Author(s) of this publication: Samuele Rocca
Publishing date: Wed, 10/12/2016 - 14:09
URL: http://judaism-and-rome.cnrs.fr/triumphal-arch-arausio-orangereliefs
Visited: Fri, 06/23/2017 - 00:32

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