Arch of Constantine

The Arch of Constantine in Rome
The Arch of Constantine by the Colosseum. (Photo by Rita1234)

This triumphal arch celebrates the battle that made Christianity the religion of Rome

The Arch of Constantine in Rome
Detail of a relief on the Arch of Constantine. (Photo by Rita1234)

Standing between the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, the Arch of Constantine is one of the largest of Rome's ancient triumphal arches, celebrating Emperor Constantine the Great's AD 313 victory over Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge.

Though the arch’s reliefs were primarily pirated from earlier sites and make no mention of the battle itself, it was perhaps one of the most significant of all ancient Rome’s wars.

It was during this battle that the emperor asked for a sign from the gods that his side would be favored. He had a vision of a cross floating in the sky (possibly suggested by the fact that the emperor's Christian wife had been trying for some time to get him to convert to what was, then, a trendy new religion).

After winning his battle, Constantine dutifully converted the the Roman Empire to Christianity—and, upon his deathbed, converted himself.

Constantine's legacy

Rome would never be the same. Though Constantine's era marked the beginning of the long decline of the ancient Roman Empire (though it wouldn't officially be dead for another century and a half), his adoption of Christianity was the city's saving grace.

Rome developed into the center of a new kind of empire, one headed by a new top dog, the local Bishop of Rome (whom we know as "Pope").

This new Western empire, Christianity, would dominate Europe from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment (though it stumbled a bit with the Protestant Reformation), help fuel the Age of Exploration, and continues to hold immense power to this day.

Tips & links

How long does the Arch of Constantine take?

Planning your day: You might examine it for a few minutes en route between the back entrance to the Forum and the Colosseum. » Rome itineraries

Arch of Constantine tours
Rome tours

Share this page

Intrepid Travel 25% off