Arch of Caracalla, Volubilis, Morocco - Historical Gates
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23-06-2020    67 times
Arch of Caracalla, Volubilis, Morocco - Historical Gates

Although the Arch of Caracalla is not architecturally outstanding, it is definitely one of the most distinctive sights of Volubilis. Situated at the end of the city's main street, the Decumanus Maximus, it forms a striking visual contrast with the smaller Tingis Gate built 169 AD, forming the North East entrance to the city of Volubilis in Northern Morocco.

Commonly considered as the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Mauretania, Volubilis is a partly excavated Roman city in Morocco, situated near the city of Meknes. The ruins of Volubilis are not big enough to compete with Pompeii or Herculaniu, but it has an importance as one of the largest ancient ruins in Africa. It flourished and prospered from the third century BC to BC 40, under the successive rule of different independent Moorish kings. In BC 40, the Roman Emperor Caligula assassinated King Ptolemy, the Macedonian Greek general and one of the three Diadochi who succeeded to the empire of Alexander the Great and also crushed a revolt by Ademon in ancient Mauretania. After that, Emperor Claudius annexed the region to his empire, after dividing it into two parts, one to the West with Tingi or Tangier as its capital and the other to the East with Caesara, in Algeria, as the capital. During that time, Volubilis was elevated to the rank of a municipality.

Arch of Caracalla at Volubilis, Morocco
Arch of Caracalla at Volubilis, Morocco
North side of the Arch of Caracalla
North side of the Arch of Caracalla

The city of Volubilis expanded and flourished spectacularly from BC 40 to AD 285. During the first century came the major urban structures and the city was decorated with spacious roads, known as Decumani and Cardines and the public monuments like a basilica, temples, thermal baths and other public buildings. The walls around the city were founded by Marcus Aurelius during the next century, along with the eight major gates linking the city to the outside world. The impressive monuments in the centre of the city, consisting of the Forum, the Basilica, the Capitol, and the Triumphal Arch, were constructed during the Severius dynasty, between A.D. 193 and 235. The stately homes with pools and perislyles, which is a continuous porch formed by a row of columns surrounding the perimeter of a building or a courtyard, the great mosaics like the ‘Orpheus Mosaics’, the ‘Works of Hercules’, ‘Diana's Bath’, ‘Neriedes’ and numerous bakeries were also created during this time. Around 285, the city fell to the local tribes, but the Romans never tried to conquer it back, probably due to its remoteness and the strong natural defense in the southwest border. By the 11th century Volubilis had been abandoned.

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The triumphal arch of Caracalla was built between December 216 and April 217 AD by the prevalent governor of the city, Marcus Aurelius Sebastenus, to honour Emperor Caracalla and his mother Julia Domna. Caracalla, himself a North African, had extended Roman citizenship to the inhabitants and exempted them from paying taxes. Unfortunately, by the time the arch was finished both Caracalla and Julia had been murdered by a usurper.

Caracalla and Giulia Domna
Caracalla and Giulia Domna

The arch of Caracalla at Volubilis was constructed with local stone and was originally crowned with a bronze chariot pulled by six horses. Once upon a time, the arch was also decorated with statues of nymphs pouring water into the carved marble basins at the foot of the arch. Apart from that, it had the busts of Emperor Caracalla and his mother, Julia Domna, which have been unfortunately defaced.

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Between 1930 and 1934, the French started to reconstruct the neglected and battered monument, which however, was left incomplete for allegedly disputed accuracy. Nevertheless, the inscription on the top of the arch, which had been broken to pieces and had been scattered on the ground in front of the arch from time unknown, were found by the archaeologists in 1722 and reconstructed properly.

Caracalla and Giulia Domna
Inscription on the top
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Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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