The Roman Emperor Galerius ordered its construction so that a road running through this arch would connect it to his palace. The Arch of Galerius had a masonry symbolism with marble sculptural panels emphasizing on the power of the emperor.
Galerius Arch – Thessaloniki Holidays
The arch was constructed to celebrate the victory of Galerius over the Sassanid Persians. Originally it was an octopylon forming a triple arch, the central arched opening was 9,7 m wide and 12,5 m high, and the secondary openings on the other side were 4,8 m wide and 6,5 m high. Today, only parts of the masonry symbols of the arches survive and three of the eight pillars.
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The two pillars depict the wars of Galerius against the Persians, Galerius fighting with the Narses or celebrating the unity of the tetrarchy with a depiction of tetrarchs standing together. This monument today stands very close to Aristotle Square and it is like a symbol for the city of Thessaloniki.
As an excellent sample of the roman monumental architecture of the 4th century A.D., it has wonderfully crafted marble panels on each pillar. They have decorative and narrative characteristics.
The sculpted decoration still impresses, while representations of certain events can be easily viewed and studied. While the purpose was to emphasize the triumph of Rome, it is of no surprise that the center of the scenes depicted is the emperor and the imperial family.
Emperor Galerius (Gaius Galerius Valerius Maximianus Augustus) is presented mounted while attacking, as an eagle bearing a victory wreath approaches him. The panel expresses the power of the Roman Caesar, a basic and crucial element of the Roman political theory.
The Persian soldiers are depicted significantly smaller in size while they can be easily distinguished by their oriental dressing. The emperor’s figure is dominant and the majority of the scenes is reffered to the battles and triumphs of the campaign. The presence of elephants and especially camels in the Northern pillar of the arch is a rather exotic addition that helps the viewer localize the events.
Caesar’s forgiveness and mercifulness (clementia) is also present as a virtue while the emperor is appeared to forgive the defetead enemies.