The Arch of Constatine: Continuity and Commemoration through Reuse


  • Marina Prusac



The messages which can be discerned in the sculpture programme of the Arch of Constantine are here discussed, taking as a point of departure the collective memories of late-antique Rome. The direct involvement of Constantine in the erection of the Arch is sustained through a comparison with other examples of Constantinian public art, architecture, and topography in Rome. Particular focus is directed to the significance of recarved portraiture, and how it could be used to commemorate earlier individuals and periods. The stance taken is that although the Arch was a recycled monument with a new, Constantinian significance, the spolia were carriers of collective memories in a society where remembrance was central. The cultural adaptation of the eye as a source of error is taken into consideration in connection with the discussion of what the ancient viewer actually perceived. The general conclusion is that the Arch of Constantine is a monument which had different messages for different groups. These messages were presented in a montage of the past, present, and future. The interpretation of the details as well as of the totality of the monument dependent partly on the viewer.

How to Cite

Prusac, M. (2017) “The Arch of Constatine: Continuity and Commemoration through Reuse”, Acta ad archaeologiam et artium historiam pertinentia, 25(11 N.S.), pp. 127–157. doi: 10.5617/acta.5790.