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Triumphal Arch of Galerius

Triumphal Arch of Galerius - Thessaloniki, Greece

Triumphal Arch of Galerius

Triumphal Arch of Galerius was built in 299 AD and dedicated to the victory of the Roman Emperor Galerius over the Sassanid Persians at the Battle of Satala. The structure was an eight-pillared gateway forming a triple arch that was built of a masonry core with a brick face and then with marble panels with sculptural relief. The central arch spanned the primary Roman road to Byzantium. Only the northwestern three of the eight pillars and parts of the masonry cores of the arches above survive.

Extensive restoration with modern bricks has been performed on the exposed masonry cores to protect the monument. The two pillars of the central arched passageway retain their sculpted marble slabs, which depict the wars of Galerius against the Persians. Located at the centre of the significant road axes of the city, the Arch of Galerius displayed the power of the emperor and embedded the arch with the fabric of 4th-century Thessaloniki.

Triumphal Arch of Galerius - Thessaloniki, Greece

Roman Emperor Galerius

The 4th-century Roman Emperor Galerius commissioned the Triumphal Arch as part of an imperial precinct linked to his Thessaloniki palace. Archaeologists have found substantial remains of the palace to the southwest.

Galerius (250 – 311) was emperor from 305 to 311. During his reign, he campaigned, against the Sassanid Empire and across the Danube against the Carpi. Although he was an opponent of Christianity, Galerius ended the Diocletianic Persecution when he issued an edict of toleration in 311.

Explore the Triumphal Arch of Galerius

Understanding the sculptural story on the arch is limited due to the loss of the majority of the marble panels, but the remains provide many clues. Each pillar had four vertically stacked registers of sculpted decoration. Artistic license was taken in the representations, such as, Galerius is shown in personal combat with the Sassanid Shah Narses in one of the panels, which is unlikely. Galerius is displayed securely on his rearing horse, while the Persian king is shown nearly unhorsed. Terrified Persians cower under the hooves of the Emperor’s horse.

Triumphal Arch of Galerius - Thessaloniki

The imperial family is shown making a sacrifice of thanksgiving with Galerius’ wife and daughter by his side. In another panel, the tetrarchs are all in the toga as a victory wreath is held out. A third panel celebrates the unity of the tetrarchy, with Galerius in armour making the offering upon the altar. The sculptures assert the glory of the tetrarchy and the prominence of Galerius within that system.

Triumphal Arch of Galerius - Thessaloniki, Greece

Triumphal Arch of Galerius

  • Title:              Triumphal Arch of Galerius
  • Date:             299 AD
  • Material:       Marble and Masonry
  • Culture:         Ancient Roman
  • Arched:         9.7 m wide; 12.5 m high
  • Location:       Intersection of Egnatia & Dimitriou Gounari Streets, Thessaloniki
  • City:              Thessaloniki, Greece

Reflections

  • How many conquerers has this arch seen come and go?
  • Was this just Roman Imperial propaganda?

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Greek Proverbs and Quotes

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“You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships every day.
You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.”

– Epicurus

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Photo Credit: JOM

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