The dynamics of Roman honorific arches: space, design, and reception




Rodriguez, Gretel

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This dissertation reconsiders Roman freestanding honorific arches as essential shapers of Roman cities and as communication vehicles between ancient patrons and viewers. I explore a select corpus of well-known monuments that include the Arch at Orange in Gaul and the Arch of Trajan at Benevento, as well as Roman arches including the Arch of Titus on the Velia, the Arch of Septimius Severus in the Forum, and the Arch of Constantine. By looking at these monuments from a comparative perspective, I reveal specific topographical and visual strategies ancient patrons employed to communicate a wide variety of messages. I also investigate how those messages were perceived by their intended audiences. The study begins with an exploration of the urban context of arches showing how their location was crucial in evoking a network of symbolic associations. The analysis follows with a consideration of design strategies typical or arches to include their form, their architectural ornamentation, and the style of the associated sculpted reliefs. The last chapters of this dissertation consider, for the first time, issues of reception of ancient architecture with a particular emphasis on freestanding arches. I explore how the messages constructed through topographical siting and design were perceived by a multitude of viewers according to their individual visual and cultural horizons.



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