Rome: The Arch of Claudius


Inscription from the now lost Arch of Claudius, Rome © David Gill

Among the inscriptions in the collection of the Capitoline Museums is a fragmentary Latin inscription originally displayed on the arch of the emperor Claudius over the via Flaminia. This records the emperor’s conquest of Britain with the subjection of eleven [not on this fragment] kings of Britain (Reges Brit[annorum]). The number is based on a fragment found in 1562.

The main fragment was recovered in 1641. The original inscription would have been approximately 6 m wide. The arch is dated by the titles in this inscription to AD 51 or early 52.

A suggested translation by Barrett reads:

The Senate and People of Rome [dedicated this] to Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, son of Drusus, Pontifex Maximus, during his eleventh tenure of Tribunicia Potestas, Consul five times, hailed as Imperator twenty-two times, Censor, Pater Patriae, because he received into surrender eleven kings of the Britons, conquered without loss and he first brought the barbarian peoples across the Ocean under the authority of the Roman people.

  • Barrett, A. A. “Claudius’ British Victory Arch in Rome”. Britannia 22 (1991): 1–19 [JSTOR]

Rome, 1944

The British Army on Leave in Italy, June 1944
The British Army on Leave in Italy, June 1944 © IWM (TR 1960)

I was intrigued by this image of ‘Gunner Smith’ of the (British) Royal Artillery and a colleague taking leave in Rome in June 1944 (shortly after the city’s capture earlier that same month). The  photograph was taken by the official war photographer, Captain Tanner.

The Death of General Wolfe

Earlier this evening I attended a lecture by Loyd Grossman on Benjamin West’s painting ‘The Death of General Wolfe’ that hangs in Ickworth (see here). One of the points made was West’s knowledge of classical sculpture from his Grand Tour visit to Rome. Wolfe’s body evokes, to my eye, the Dying Gaul displayed in Rome. Note that a musket lies at Wolfe’s feet instead of the sword and trumpet on the base of the Dying Gaul.

Dying Gaul © David Gill

Dying Gaul © David Gill

Detail on the base of the Dying Gaul © David Gill

Detail on the base of the Dying Gaul © David Gill

Whose heritage?


© David Gill

Standing at the west end of the Athenian akropolis the viewer is faced with a dilemma about the heritage. The main entrance to the akropolis was constructed in the third quarter of the fifth century BC as part of the Periklean building programme. But the Attalid dynasty from Pergamon (in modern Turkey) constructed a victory monument on the north side. This in turn was remodelled in the early Roman imperial period.

So this Hellenic monument can be linked to a range of modern nation states.