Who Built Thr Arches In Ancient Rome

The awe-inspiring architecture of the spectacular archway structures in Ancient Rome are emblematic of the culture, ideals, and values of the time. Built between the 4th century BC and the 4th century AD, the triumphal arches symbolise the Roman’s dominance and control over their environment and nation. Each arch was constructed to honour a particular event, person, or concept. But who was it that built the arches in Ancient Rome?

The endeavour of creating these elegantly crafted structures was most likely spearheaded by the Roman Empire’s greatest engineer, Apollodorus of Damascus. Although Apollodorus was called upon to construct many iconic buildings during his illustrious career – notably the Pantheon, Trajan’s Forum, and the Colossus of Nero – he was most renowned for his awesomely creative arch constructions. It was Apollodorus who invented the famous Classical Roman arch, which mimicked the conventional semi-circular Etruscan arch. His innovative designs are still celebrated today, exemplifying the lasting and resilient nature of Roman architecture.

Other than Apollodorus, there have been many other master builders and engineers who have been integral in constructing the triumphant arches of Rome. Marsus, who was responsible for building the impressive Aqueduct Valens in Constantinople during the 4th century AD, had been hailed as the master of the Old Roman Arch by many experts. He had the honour of constructing many monumental arches, including the Arch of Constantine in 315AD and the Triumphal Arch of Theodosius in 390 AD.

As many of these archway structures were constructed upon the desire of the ruling government, skilled stonemasons and marble sculptors would often craft the elaborate trimmings and ornate adornments on the faces of the arches. Some archaeologists suggest that the marble sculptures were coloured in paints and waxes, as many remains of the monuments contain traces of vibrant colours, notably the reds and whites of the Arch of Titus in the Forum Romanum. Overall, the process of erecting these awe-inspiring structures was one that heavily relied on the effective coordination of skilled labour and artistry, its effects still felt in the very fabric of the city even today.

Materials Used To Construct The Arches

An important consideration when understanding the construction of the ancient Roman arches is the materials used to build it. Prior to the invention of concrete, the Romans used large blocks of stone, tufa, and brick to assemble the fixed parts. A primitive form of concrete made up of volcanic ash and lime, known as ‘pozzolana’, was then used to form the opening, giving the arch its structure. In contrast, the exterior was clad in marble and other stonework, defining the details and intricate decorations.

The pozzolana material was strong yet economical and was used extensively in the majority of Roman constructions, especially in bridges, aqueducts, and viaducts. In addition, the Roman engineers also had an advanced knowledge of structural mechanics and geometry, enabling them to design sophisticated structures within the given parameters of the environment.

Lasting Legacy of The Arches

Realising the importance of preserving the monuments, many Roman emperors of the past had declared laws protecting the construction and maintenance of the spectacular triumphal arches. In the modern day, many of these remarkable structures still stand in their original formation, albeit some earlier arches were either destroyed or dismantled for reuse. Nevertheless, their unique design and architecture continue to inspire in a way that has transcended the boundaries of time and culture.

The arches of ancient Rome are testament to the power and influence of the Roman Empire and its legacy is still visible today. Without a doubt, the graceful arches, in all its grandeur, will still be standing for many centuries to come – a living monument to one of the greatest empires of history

Techniques Used To Construct The Arches

Roman engineers employed a variety of methods and techniques to construct and assemble the arch structures. Prior to the construction process, the engineers would identify the conditions that would be suitable to the arch, including the foundations, the road structure, and the arch’s location in relation to the river and other monuments. By laying down the foundations, the engineers could shape and build upon the mattes, foundations, and abutments that best support the arch.

Then, large blocks of stone would be cut, shaped, and placed in the appropriate order upon the structures and the internal core of the arch – known as intrados – would be formed of a primitive form of concrete. Typically, the blocks of the lower part of the arch were laid in a higher arch, that is known as a proud arch, with more weight-bearing stones placed within the supportive lower parts of the arch. This could then be further developed with sidewall imposts and an ornate keystone, firmly secured into place.

The external walls of the arch were then crafted out of marble and the arch was typically finished with a pale yellow hue. After the arch was completely erected, the arch and its artistic sculptures would be cemented together and eventually, complete the impressive triumphal arches of Ancient Rome.

Purpose of The Arches

Most Roman arches were built to commemorate a major event, such as a significant victory or a special emperor. The arches were meant to stand long after the event and serve as a reminder of the importance of the achievement. Apart from commemorating, some arches were used for a variety of purposes – from supporting large structures to bridging water. In terms of culture, the arches demonstrated the supreme power and capability of the sprawling Roman Empire, inspiring awe in the minds of its citizens.

For example, the Arch of Constantine in 315 AD was erected in honour of the Emperor Constantine’s victory at the Milvian Bridge in 312 AD. It is known to be one of the most impressive arches of appreciation in Rome, spanning to a towering 25m in height. Similarly, the Arch of Titus in the Forum Romanum celebrated Titus’ victory over the Jews in Jerusalem in 70 AD and similarly held immense social and symbolic meaning to the citizens of Rome.

The Trajan’s Arch is another remarkable structure, notable for its incredible Corinthian columns, prominently placed statues, and gilded chariot wheel. The arch commemorated the two successful Dacian campaigns of the Emperor Trajan and ultimately served as an astonishing symbol of Roman conquest.

Innovations Developed By Apollodorus

To understand the important role that Apollodorus of Damascus had in creating the robustly imposing arches of Ancient Rome, it is important to appreciate his unique approach to architecture and engineering. Unlike many architects of the era, Apollodorus had ably revealed the underlying reliability of Ancient Roman Building methods, making sense of the shape and position of the archway while preserving the appearance and integrity of the structure.

Known today as the Adlocutio Arch of Trajan or the Adlocutio Forum of Trajan, Apollodorus also developed an incredible innovation to the form of the archway, constructing the main part of the structure with multiple layered arches. The design was ingenious, combining the aesthetic beauty of a single arch with practical support for the frame and countless decorative elements, earning Apollodorus a deserved place as one of the most important engineers of his time.

The physical durability of the archways are further testament to his brilliance. With their grand entrances and flawlessly carved details, many of Apollodorus’ creations have stood the test of time and are still celebrated as some of the greatest architectural triumphs of Rome today.

Mosaics and Statues on The Arches

Not only impressive for its immense architectural magnificence, the awe-inspiring arches of the Roman Empire were often decorated with an abundance of vibrant colours and decorative flourishes. Using special wax and paint, the walls of the arches were adorned with well-crafted mosaics and intricate figures, depicting motifs and images reflecting the event or person being commemorated.

The structure of the Arch of Constantine is especially noteworthy, having been heavily embellished with scenic and portrait sculptures, eagles, friezes, bulls, and Medusa heads. Over two hundred years after it was constructed, in the 16th century, five sculptures from the arch were taken and installed in the doorway of St. Peter’s Basilica, signifying the importance of the archway to the Roman Empire.

The archaeological remains of many of the arches around Rome also contain valuable clues to the rich history of the monuments. Found near the Arch of Titus are a number of beautiful sculptures, such as the exquisite porphyry sarcophagus and Temple of Jupiter, hinting at the magnificence of the once magnificent structure. Similarly, the elliptic shape of the arch, as well as its three passageways, suggests its function as a triumphal arch in honour of the Emperor Vespasian’s victory over the Jews.


The magnificent arches of Ancient Rome are iconic monuments, significant for not only their distinctive design but for the role they played in the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. From the innovative engineering of Apollodorus of Damascus to the skilled craftsmanship of the marble sculptors, many geniuses and experts have worked together over the centuries to build such stunning structures. As we look back in time and admire these ancient structures, it is important to remember and celebrate the impressive achievement of the Romans.

Moshe Rideout is a professional writer and historian whose work focuses on the history of Ancient Rome. Moshe is passionate about understanding the complexity of the Roman Empire, from its architecture to its literature, political systems to social structures. He has a Bachelor's degree in classic studies from Rutgers University and is currently pursuing a PhD in classical archaeology at UMass Amherst. When he isn't researching or writing, he enjoys exploring ruins around Europe, drawing inspiration from his travels.

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