Arch of Titus

Located just to the southeast of the ruins of the ancient Roman Forum, the marble Arch of Titus was ordered erected by the Emperor Domitian. It is not far from the Colosseum and another Rome triumphal arch, the Arch of Constantine. You can see the Arch of Titus history of restoration in a painting by Canaletto, who is famous for his landscape paintings of Venice. This painting, now part of the Royal Collection in London England, was done in 1744 and shows the state of decay the arch had come to by that time. Today, it is quite well restored.

The Arch of Titus history is intricately entwined with the history of another great ancient city—Jerusalem, as it commemorates the sacking of the city and destruction of the Temple, an event mourned by Jews at the Western or Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and around the world. This occurred in the year 70 AD, and it is ironic that the destruction of the holy Jewish city was at the hands of Rome, where the Jewish community pre-dates Christianity by more than two centuries.

The menorah on the Arch of Titus as well as the trumpets and what is said to be the Table of Showbread are the only representations of these sacred Jewish items and the desecration of the Temple Mount area that exist from that period. While many Jews still refuse to walk under the Arch of Titus for this reason, many of the Roman Jews did so in 1948 when the country of Israel was founded. Symbolically, they walked in the opposite direction from that of the conquering Roman army.

The Arch of Titus history begins around 81 AD, shortly after the death of Titus who was the military commander who presided over the sacking of Jerusalem. The Emperor Domitian, who was Titus’s younger brother, ordered its construction—likely by the same architect who designed the Colosseum. The Arch of Titus sits on the highest point of the Sacra Via (Sacred Way). It is a combination of several different architectural styles, with Corinthian capitals boasting Ionic embellishments. This is a new style called Composite, and the arch is the first example of it. Its design and structure has served as the model for many of the great arches that appear around the world today—most notably, the grand Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

The representation of the menorah on the Arch of Titus is of great significance both to the Israelites of ancient Jerusalem and those of the modern state of Israel, as it was used as the model for the new country’s coat of arms. The bas relief that shows the conquering Roman soldiers carrying off the menorah on the Arch of Titus has been of archeological interest for centuries. The current physical location of these sacred objects is unknown, and the legends surrounding what happened to them are many. They are placed in various locations by legitimate historians and less than mainstream conspiracy enthusiasts alike. Some say they are secreted in the Vatican Museum. Some say they were “rescued” by the Knights Templar and eventually made their way, along with the Holy Grail, to Scotland. Some say the precious gold artifacts were simply melted down and reused elsewhere in a different form.

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