The necropolis is one of the best preserved and extensive of its kind in the world. This city of the dead contains tumuli, sarcophagi and house shaped tombs lying stretched along both sides of the road extending 2km to the north. Most of about the 1200 tombs were constructed with local varieties of limestone. The extent of this necropolis attests again to the importance Hierapolis had in the Antiquity. It is worth taking one’s time to wander amongst the tombs, that date from antiquity to early Christian times, and marvel at the ostentation that these residents of Heirapolis afforded to their tombs. It has a fairyland quality.
A container for offerings or a statue was fastened on top with lead (the altar is explicitly called “altar” in an inscription, but it may have been re-used as a statue-base). The four corners are decorated with ram’s heads and wreaths. The front has a depiction of Mars, Venus (with goose and Amor), and Hymenaeus (the god of marriage). On the back we see Romulus and Remus, suckled by the she-wolf. They are found by two shepherds, Faustulus and Faustinus. This story is situated near the Palatine (the Lupercal), and the personification of the hill can be seen in the upper left part. In the lower right part is the personification of the Tiber. Jupiter’s eagle is present as well. On the sides of the altar are amorini, hauling the weapons and chariot of Mars. The amorini are moving towards the front side of the altar.
It was originally built at the end of the 1st century BC to record the renewed alliance between Emperor Augustus and Marcus Julius Cottius, a celto-ligurian ruler, made king and Roman prefect of the Cottian Alps.
The arch has a unique arcade, in which the archivolt is supported by pilasters. The entablature rests on four Corinthian columns placed at the extremities of each corner, such that a quarter of each drum is embedded in the monument. The lowest architrave is composed of three bands of which the lowest band is thicker than the middle band, and this in turn is thicker than the top band. Above the architrave, a frieze composed of a bass relief stretches around all four sides. Above that is the cornice which has twenty-two corbels on each face and twelve on each side of the arch. The corbels’ panels are decorated with roses. On tob of that rests the attic, which displays an inscription on both faces.
The corners of the monument are directed to the four points of the compass, and the four façades are directed to the northwest, northeast, southeast. and southwest. The northwest face is the best preserved. You must imagine a gilded statue of the emperors in a chariot on top if it. All this is very common.
The decoration itself, however, is not, because it contains mythological symbols, like these griffins (winged lions with the head of an eagle). You will not find them in the spandrels of the Arch of Titus, the Arch of Septimius Severus, or the Arch of Constantine in Rome. Here, the griffins are shown in front of Lucius Verus’ triumphal chariot.
Opposite the emperor, there are sphinxes, this time in front of the chariot of the goddess Roma, the personification of the eternal city. The inscription mentions that the monument was erected by a local magistrate (IIvir) named Gaius Calpurnius Celsus, dedicated to the emperors, and that the proconsul of Africa, Sergius Cornelius Scipio Salvidienus, and his legatus Vittedius Marcellus were also involved.
The main arches were to the northeast and southwest. In the niches, statues must have stood; one of them was found and tentatively identified with Lucius Verus. This suggests that there must have been a statue of Marcus Aurelius as well; the other two cannot be identified. Above the four statues were four medallions, which probably represented the four seasons. On the arch’s southeast façade, prisoners of war were shown.