Among the objects which first attract the attention on entering the Mediterranean Section of the Museum are the casts from the Arch of Trajan at Beneventum. The original was erected in the year 114 A. D. by the Senate and People of Rome to commemorate Trajan’s beneficent rule, while the Emperor was absent on a campaign in the East; but Trajan died abroad in 116, without having seen the monument. It is fifty feet high, covered with reliefs relating to the life of Trajan, while on top once stood a four-horse chariot with a statue of the Emperor in it. It is one of the best preserved of Roman triumphal arches.
The casts in the Museum reproduce the most interesting and best preserved of the sculptures, but as they are taken from different sides of the monument, it has obviously been impossible to give them in the Museum, positions corresponding to those which they have at Beneventum. On the east wall are two slabs. The upper is taken from the keystone of the vault and represents victory crowning Trajan, the lower comes from the left side of the attic or upper part of the arch on the side facing away from Rome and shows Liber, Libera, Diana and Silvanus as protectors of the province of Dacia. They were probably welcoming Trajan, who was represented on the missing portion of the relief (Fig. 3).
Above the doorway on the south wall is the upper part of the side facing away from Rome. In the upper corners are draped river gods; in the middle is a draped female figure, while below are nude boys representing the Seasons. Below on the left is a procession of soldiers with prisoners and booty, and on the right a similar procession. Below these are two large slabs. That at the left (Fig. 4) is taken from the attic of the side of the arch facing Rome and shows the Capitoline gods. Jupiter stands in the middle with Juno at the right and Minerva at the left. The slab at the right of the doorway (Fig. 5) is also taken from the attic of the side facing Rome. On it is represented Trojan, accompanied by Hadrian and followed by lictors in the act of being received by Rome together with two consuls and penates.
On the south wall of the Museum within the doorway are three slabs taken from the left pylon of the side of the arch facing the country. At the top Mars presents to Trajan a recruit accompanied by a centurion. Below this are two Victories slaying a bull. On the lowest slab Trajan in the presence of Jupiter Feretrius receives the oath of fealty from the Germans.
On the west wall are two slabs. On the upper two armed male figures stand on either side of two boys who were employed in sacrificial rites. Below (Fig. 6), Mesopotamia personified kneels between her two rivers and begs for mercy from Trajan. Above Euphrates is a bridge by which the Romans are crossing.
This series of casts gives an excellent idea of historical relief sculpture, the only form of sculpture which can really be called Roman.
W. N. B.