Roman Imperialism and the Arch of Titus
Imperialism can be defined as the forceful imposition of power over other countries. It usually involves the use of military force because no nation would want to be ruled by another. The Roman imperialism had the most extensive social and political structure in the western empire (Mark). Many cultures had to suffer under the dominance of the Roman Empire, with a couple of indigenous societies being destroyed. One significant monument of the Roman Empire is the Arch of Titus. The Arch of Titus commemorated the destruction of Jerusalem, which is of great importance in the history of Christianity, Judaism and modern nationalism.
It was built by Domitian in Rome, Italy to celebrate the sacking of Jerusalem. Domitian was Titus’ younger brother and supervised the construction of the arch as a tribute to his dead brother. Initially, the idea of building arched openings within a squared building was associated with Greeks, but Romans borrowed it create monuments to commemorate their warriors. The artefact was constructed during a chaotic period in the Flavian dynasty (Craven). The memorial is arch-shaped and is over 1,900 years old. A lot of architectural inspiration behind a majority of monuments in the world comes from the Arch of Titus. Examples of them are; the India Gate in Delhi, Arc de Triomphe in France, and the archway at the northern edge of the Washington Square Park in New York.
The monument was a propaganda billboard that gave an explanation of lineage and announced the accomplishments of the ruling emperor initially before the monument was constructed into a medieval fortification it had three openings. Other than celebrating victories of Titus and Vespasian the monument was intended to give a religious and political statement of the divinity of Titus’ dynasty. The primary material used for the construct was Pentelic marble. Although the monument is smaller, it is modest in decorations compared to other surviving arches. The arch shows scenes from the sacking of Jerusalem, depicting how the great city and its place of worshipping were demolished.
The inner side of the artefact shows the triumph of Titus over Jerusalem. Direct on the side is a Titus riding a horse chariot, and this is a crucial conquest known as quadriga. And in front of the emperor is goddess Roma (Cartwright). There also some scenes of the Roman soldiers in a glorious parade marching from the war in Jerusalem to the city of Rome. Other than golden trumpets above the head of these soldiers is a show table that was used when putting the bread before menorah (a god). In the Jewish religion, the menorah was of great significance. Therefore having a symbol of menorah belittled the Jews and depicted the power of Rome.
Since there are no surviving documents to account for the period in which the arch has constructed the identity of its architects is unknown. However, modern research has pointed the sculptures to Rabirus, who happened to be Titus’ close associate. This explains why each of the 50 feet monument’s inside surface depicts a relief worshipping Titus. The outside inscriptions on the artefact were cast in bronze, but due to weather they wore out and disappeared. However, an inscription saying that the arch is a dedication to Titus from Romans remains. The Jewish slaves are believed to have built the monument. It therefore correct to conclude that the Arch of Titus is a demonstration of Roman imperialism’s brutality.
Other than the arch being of historical relevance, it is imperative from a political and religious perspective. As the magnificence of the Roman Empire is represented, Titus is depicted in a godly manner to be adored for his accomplishments. The artefact is a celebration of defeating and conquering all the nations that were against the Roman supremacy. In the gospels, there is a prophecy that all the building blocks of the Jerusalem temples will fall. The fulfilment of these prophesies is represented by the Arch of Titus.
In conclusion, it is evident that the arch was constructed not only to commemorate a vital victory but also create an impressive entrance way for the Romans as well. The construction of the artefact was meant to insult the Jews. It was consequently used by other prominent emperors to enforce the supremacy of their dynasty over the Jews and to command loyalty. Even religious leaders began to use the arch to cleanse the Jewish community by bringing them before it so that they can take an oath to be faithful to Rome. The site was also used to slaughter prisoners. With time the arch developed different meaning to individuals but what remained constant was that it had significance in ancient Rome. The Roman Imperialism did not take any form of revolution lightly; this explains they were extremely harsh to the Jews. The Arch of Titus was essential to Romans because it reminded them of conquering and humiliating the Jewish community. Jerusalem was a city that meant a lot to Jews and Christians; hence, its destruction had to be marked with a monument.
Cartwright, Mark. “The Arch of Titus, Rome.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, 16 June 2013, www.ancient.eu/article/499/the-arch-of-titus-rome/. Accessed 19 Nov. 2019.
Craven, Jackie. “The History of World Famous Arches.” ThoughtCo, 5 Nov. 2019, www.thoughtco.com/famous-triumphal-arches-177357.
Mark, Joshua J. “Roman Empire.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, 22 Mar. 2018, www.ancient.eu/Roman_Empire/. Accessed 19 Nov. 2019.