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The Shadow under the Arch of Titus

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The following is a guest post by Megan Lulofs Kuhagen, a Legal Information Analyst in the Public Services Division.  Previously, Meg has posted on a variety of topics including States in the SenateHouse Committee Hearings Videothe Cardiff Giant, the Canadian Library of Parliamentfootball blackouts, and Ask a Librarian services.

I recently posted pictures from my trip to the Republic of San Marino, a country entirely inside of Italy. This week’s post features a picture from Italy, specifically from the Roman Forum.

Before my Roman holiday, I revisited  Edith Hamilton’s Mythology to brush up on the gods and goddesses. I did not, however, revisit the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in 12 volumes. I resigned myself to reading every descriptive placard at every historical site, and moved on. Accordingly, when I arrived at the Arch of Titus, I admired the inscriptions and reliefs celebrating a battle victory in Jerusalem, and moved on.

When I returned home, I learned about a darker part of the history of the arch, somewhat related to a recent presentation by Prof. Aron-Beller on the papal inquisition in Modena, Italy. The reliefs do not celebrate a victory in Jerusalem, but rather the victory of Titus over Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

On July 14, 1555, Pope Paul IV created the Roman Jewish Ghetto with a papal bull entitled Cum Nimis Absurdum. Jewish Roman citizens were forced to wear yellow badges on their clothing. They were required to pay an annual fee to live in a walled off section of the city, the Ghetto. Perhaps most humiliatingly, the Jews of Rome were made to recite a yearly oath of submission to the city and to Christendom standing under the Arch of Titus.

On September 20, 1870, the Jewish ghetto was abolished when the Papal States were overthrown. Integration took time. Life under Cum Nimis Absurdum is described in this digitized 1877 book from the Library’s Canon Law collection (starting on page 33). But, the Arch of Titus maintained its status as a postcard-worthy, must-see attraction.

Comments (4)

  1. Thanks for sharing. Really interesting. The victorious arch casts a dark shadow beneath.

  2. Hello! I enjoyed your blog post. However, I’d like to point out that the arch that you have pictured is not the Arch of Titus. I believe it is the Arch of Septimus Severus, although I am not positive. I just wanted to point that out as I am an art history student looking for a good picture of the Arch of Titus, and I found your image a bit confusing until I realized it is a different arch than that mentioned. How exciting that you traveled to Rome! Best wishes!

  3. Oops! Well, who knows if I have a picture of the Arch of Titus? Rome was beautiful, but after a while it all looks the same (but beautiful!) to an untrained eye like mine.

  4. Thanks for sharing. I just want to note that your photo is of Arch of Septimius Severus.

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