The triumphal arch was built to commemorate the victories of Emperor Septimius Severus in Parthia (now partly Iran and Iraq).
The arch measures 23 meters high and 25 meters wide. It has three arched passages: the central one is 12 meters high and the others 7 meters 80cm. Originally a flight of stairs passed through the central archway. It was only replaced by a road in the fourth century.
Relief Panels & Inscriptions
The relief panels at the top depict various stages of the war between the Romans and the Parthians. Other panels show Romans capturing barbarians.
Originally the arch was topped by a bronze quadriga with statues of Emperor Severus and his two sons, Caracalla and Geta. Bronze inscriptions in the attic dedicated the arch to Septimius Severus and both of his sons, but soon after Septimius’s
death, Caracalla killed his brother Geta and had his name removed from the arch.
The arch of Septimius Severus is one of the best preserved monuments on the Forum Romanum thanks to its incorporation in an old church in the Middle Ages.
The church later moved to another location but it was still owner of the arch, thus protecting it from destruction. While parts of other monuments like the Colosseum were used for the construction of Renaissance palaces, the Arch of Septimius Severus was left untouched.
During the Middle Ages and until the eighteenth century, when the excavation of the Forum Romanum started, a large part of the arch was covered in soil and debris. Today it is one of the most intact and spectacular Roman monuments on the ancient forum.