Lost arch, probably dedicated to Diocletian and Maximian (Arcus Novus). Rome, via Lata. 293-294.

Both Regionary catalogues list an arch called 'Arcus Novus' as part of Regio VII Via Lata (Valentini and Zucchetti 1940, 110 and 172). It is also mentioned by the Chronographer of 354, where we are told that it was built by Diocletian and Maximian (Valentini and Zucchetti 1940, 279-280). The arch is mentioned in late medieval texts, and it is usually associated with one of the two arches (the other was the arch of Claudius) mentioned by Poggio Bracciolini in De Varietate Fortuna (c. 1450), who says that the dedicatory inscription was already illegible by that time (Valentini and Zucchetti 1953, 237). It was destroyed in 1491, during the building of the new church of S. Maria in via Lata, when fragments of marble and travertine were removed (Lanciani 1989, 111).

Parts of the decoration of the arch passed into the Della Valle collection, and were later acquired for the Medici collection at Villa Medici, on the Pincio. A few fragmentary reliefs are still there (Cozza 1958), two of them with the same inscription 'Votis X et XX' (Chastagnol 1988, 22 n.25). One of these panels, although mistakenly recomposed, shows an emperor whose head was re-cut in the late third-early fourth century, surrounded by allegorical figures (De Maria 1988, 313). Further fragments were unearthed during works in 1923 and 1934 (De Maria 1988, 313).

The arch was probably built predominantly with re-used materal, as the surviving fragments indicate. It had three archways, spanning across the ancient via Lata, one of the main thoroughfares into the centre of Rome (De Maria 1988, 312-313). The arch was probably a pendant with the arch of Claudius, approximately 150 further North on the same road (Torelli 1993, 101). This was probably reinforced by the fact that at least some of its decoration seems to have come from the ara pietatis Augustae, a monument of Claudian date (De Maria 1988, 313; Torelli 1993, 101).

As the text of the Chronographer tells us, the arch was built during the reign of Diocletian and Maxentius. The inscriptions referring to the decennalia and the vicennalia have caused considerable disagreement among scholars, as they could refer to the 20th anniversary of the Augusti and 10th of the Caesars, in which case our arch would be datable to 303-304. This suggestion is not acceptable, however, because there are no examples of celebratory inscriptions like these referring to two different sets of emperors, or even to past celebrations (Buttrey 1983, 382-383). The arch was probably dedicated not just to one emperor, but to both Diocletian and Maximian, as part of the celebration of their decennalia, when only Maximian was in the West (Kienast 1990, 266 and 272). The arch could also be related to the victory of Maximian's Caesar, Constantius I, over the usurper Carausius in the Brittish isles. This would reinforce the association of the arch with the arch of Claudius, built in AD 43 to celebrate precisely his victory over the Britannic peoples.

Carlos Machado

Main Reference

De Maria, S., Gli archi onorari di Roma e dell'Italia romana, Rome 1988, 312-314, n. 94

Torelli, M., "Arcus Novus", in E. M. Steiby (ed), Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae, vol. 1, Rome 1993, 101-102

Discussion References

Buttrey, T. V., "The Dates of the Arches of 'Diocletian' and Constantine", Historia 32, 1983, 378-383

Cozza, L., "Ricomposizione di alcuni rilievi di Villa Medici", Bollettino d'Arte, s. IV, 43, 1958, 107-111

Kienast, D., Römische Kaisertabelle : Grundzüge einer römischen Kaiserchronologie, Darmstadt, 1996,

Lanciani, R., Storia degli scavi di Roma e notizie intorno le collezioni romane di antichità. vol. 1 (1000-1530), Rome 1998,

Valentini R. and G. Zucchetti, Codice topografico della città di Roma, vol. 1, Rome 1940,

Valentini, R. and G. Zucchetti (edd), Codice Topografico della Città di Roma, vol. 4, Rome 1953,