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Arch of Sergii in Pula

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Attic of the triumphal arch in Pula with visible bases of statues
Attic of the triumphal arch in Pula with visible bases of statues

The triumphal arch in the Roman colony of Pietas Julia was funded by Salvia Postum Sergia, who erected it to honour three men of the Sergius family – her husband Lucius Sergius Lepidus, his father Lucius Sergius and his uncle Gnaeus Sergius.

Sergii

Many prominent officials of this Roman province came from the house of Sergius. What’s more, they maintained their influence in it for centuries. The triumphal arch in Croatian Pula, which has survived to this day, is significant proof of the family’s wealth and importance – proof of the family’s power.

Lucius Sergius Lepidus

The husband of Salvia Postuma Sergii – Lucius Sergius Lepidus was perhaps the most significant of the Sergii of his time. In the rank of tribune, he served in the XXIX Legion, established by the Triumvirs in 49 and dissolved in 27 BCE. Along with the legion, Lucius Sergius Lepidus fought in the Battle of Actium and it was precisely this victory that the monument erected by his wife was to celebrate.

Researchers do not agree on the dating of the monument – the dates are 29-27 BCE. and 20 – 10 BCE and the latter date seems closer to the truth, as it is known that the monument was built after the death of all three heroes.

A drawing showing a triumphal arch in Pula.

Bow

The Arch of the Sergii was built at the gate located in the system of Roman city walls Pietas Julia. Thanks to the magnificent decorations of the monument, this gate was called Porta Aurea (Golden Gate). The city walls were pulled down in the 19th century to gain space for the developing city centre, the arch was fortunately spared. It is now probably the oldest surviving triumphal arch.

Both the front and back walls of the arch are decorated with four columns in the Corinthian order. The west side, facing the city, has richer decorations. The passage under the arch is decorated with reliefs depicting a grapevine motif and acanthus creeper inhabited by birds and small creatures. The ceiling of the passage is decorated with an eagle grabbing a snake’s claws, sea creatures and sphinxes.

Attica was decorated with statues of three Sergii (only the bases remained after them) – in the centre stood Lucius Sergius Lepidus, while father Lucius Sergius and uncle Gnaeus Sergius stood on his sides. Inscriptions were carved in the stone, presenting the achievements of the heroes and their offices.

The Monument has aroused the fascination of artists for centuries, including the master Michelangelo himself.

Author: Krzysztof Kaucz (translated from Polish: Jakub Jasiński)

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