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Who is Carrying the Temple Menorah? A Jewish Counter-Narrative of the Arch of Titus Spolia Panel

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The Arch of Titus, constructed circa 81 CE under the emperor Domitian, commemorates the victory of the general, then emperor Titus in the Jewish War of 66–74 CE. Located on Rome’s Via Sacra, the Arch has been a “place of memory” for Romans, Christians and Jews since antiquity. This essay explores the history of a Jewish counter-memory of a bas relief within the arch that depicts the triumphal procession of the Jerusalem Temple treasures into Rome in 71 CE. At least since the early modern period, Jews—as well as British Protestants—came to believe that the menorah bearers of this relief represent Jews, and not Roman triumphadors. This essay addresses the history of this widespread belief, particularly during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and continuing in contemporary Israel.


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