Arch for Septimius Severus

Recent Picture of the Arch for Septimius Severus

The Arch for Septimius Severus is quite well preserved (the deterioration of parts of the architectural sculpture and loss of the sculpture atop the attic notwithstanding) in comparison to some other buildings in the Forum. Much of this is due to the history of the Arch. In 1199, Pope Innocent III gave control of half of the Arch for Septimius Severus to the Catholic Church. The Church’s half of the arch was incorporated into a church. The other half of the Arch was given to the influential Ciminius family, who built a fortress incorporating it. The statue of a chariot carrying Septimius Severus and his sons that was original to the Arch had likely disappeared by the Middle Ages. Eventually, both the fortress and the church surrounding the arch were dismantled, leaving the monument on its own. However, due to these structures that once surrounded it, the Arch is fairly well preserved.


Throughout its subsequent history, the Arch’s preservation was put in jeopardy by the rising ground level of the forum. The site was excavated, from 1520 up until the final major excavation in 1895, in order to free the Arch from the earth filling in around it. Many depictions of the Arch within this time frame show it buried to varying degrees. The excavation in 1895 brought the ground back down to the original level, before excavations between 1930 and 1940 completely uncovered the foundations of the Arch.  The Arch has been restored and repaired several times, the most notable instances of which are the first restoration in 1469 and two major structural restorations happening in 1904-1908 and in 1960. Today, the Arch stands completely exposed with the ground at the level of the original forum. Aside from significant deterioration to some of the friezes, the monument is well preserved.1



1.Brilliant, Richard. "The Arch of Septimius Severus in the Roman Forum." Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome 29 (1967): 5-271. Accessed October 5, 2016. doi:10.2307/4238659.