gilded statue


Arch of Marcus Aurelius

Oea (Tripoli), Libya

165 CE

It is a quadrifrons trumphal arch.

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. 

As time goes on, I cannot help but wonder
if you were real
if you were really here

Were your arms always so welcoming?
Was your light always so blinding? 
Were your colors really so brilliant,
     was your voice really so soothing, 
          were our days really so gentle and beautiful?

Did I really know my way back to you
as easy as breathing
              as dreaming
all those years ago 
before skies grew dark 
and I forgot how to navigate by the stars?

Or maybe, perhaps, 
I have made you up
every glittering radiant bit of you
inch by small sparkling inch. 

Maybe you are just
the painted figurine
     of a desperate heart
nothing more 
    than the wispy imaginings of
         a wandering soul lost in the wild
a glorious statue gilded in gold
    only found in the twisted entrails
         of a tired memory steeped in longing 
              for something that never existed.

—  a letter home with no address ( j.p. )

did u kno that the Romans called the colosseum that bc the previous emperor Nero had a colossal 60 ft gold gilded heroic nude statue of himself outside his palace and after he killed himself the Roman people tore down the statue and built the colosseum in its place

The Horses of Saint Mark is a set of gilded bronze statues of four horses that were originally part of a monument depicting a quadriga, a four horse-carriage used in chariot races. The horses date from classical antiquity, and are attributed to Lysippos, an extremely famous Classical Greek sculptor who specialized in bronze. Despite their classical origins, they are most famous for their place on the facade of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.  

The Horses of Saint Mark have had an interesting history of looting and theft. In the 5th century CE, the statutes were transported from the island of Chios to Constantinople by Emperor Theodosius II. They were placed on the top of the famous Hippodrome of Constantinople, and stayed there until 1204 when they were looted by the Venetians during the sack of the city in the Fourth Crusade. They were then installed on the facade of St. Mark’s Basilica, and remained there until Napoleon’s conquest of Venice in 1797. The emperor forcibly removed the horses from the basilica and transported them to Paris where they briefly became part of the quadriga monument on the top of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. The horses were returned to Venice in 1815 shortly after Napoleon’s defeat in Waterloo and remain there to this day. 

Due to conservation purposes, the original Horses of Saint Mark were taken off the basilica’s facade in the 1980s and replaced with replicas. They are now on display in the museum inside the basilica. They are a wonderful instance of the use war loot throughout history, and a testament to people’s fascination with the past.

Photo by Micah Schaafsma