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IMPERIAL BILLBOARDS: ROME’S TRIUMPHAL ARCHES AS ADVERTISEMENTS OF POWER, PR...

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Italian Cultural Institute

500 N Michigan Ave

Suite 1450

Chicago, IL

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a lecture by Dr. Judith Testa

Rome’s three surviving triumphal arches— dedicated to the emperors Titus, Septimius Severus and Constantine— are among the most conspicuous monuments of imperial Rome. All are located in or near the Roman Forum, and every traveler to the Eternal City sees them.

What messages are they intended to convey? Who was the intended audience? What was their relationship to the triumphal processions that preceded their creation? Although, as the term “triumphal” implies, the arches commemorate military victories, they are more than mere memorials to victory on the battlefield. They convey not only the power of the individual emperor but also the power of Rome itself, the humiliation of Rome’s enemies, and the favor granted to each emperor by the gods, or perhaps in the case of Constantine— the God— they worshiped. Like huge, permanent billboards, through both inscriptions and colorful images they advertised “urbi et orbi”— to the city and to the world— each emperor’s proudest achievements.

Judith Testa was born and grew up in New York. She attended graduate school at the University of Chicago, where she received MA and PhD degrees in Renaissance Art History. Before her retirement, she taught History of Art at Northern Illinois University. While on the faculty there, she received the Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching award 4 times, and she was also awarded a Presidential Teaching Professorship, the university’s highest honor for teaching. Since retiring, she spends a part of each year in Rome, the place she calls "the city of my soul." She writes book reviews, travel and history articles about Italy for Fra Noi, the monthly magazine of the greater Chicago area Italian American community. In addition to many scholarly publications, she is the author of three books for the general reader: Roma Amor: Rome Is Love Spelled Backward— essays about Rome’s major monuments and personalities from Augustus to Mussoilini; Sal Maglie. Baseball's Demon Barber— the biography of a 1950‘s New York baseball star of Italian background; and most recently, An Art Lover's Guide to Florence.

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Italian Cultural Institute

500 N Michigan Ave

Suite 1450

Chicago, IL

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