~ There Once Was In Rome... ~

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the Arch of Portugal

the arch in an early 17th century etching

Apparently, only the northern side of the arch was decorated; all the known visual sources that depict the monument feature it from this same viewpoint.
The arch bore the name of Portugal because the building it leant against on the left (eastern) side of the street, Palazzo Fiano, was the residence in Rome of the Portuguese ambassador.
About halfway along today's via del Corso (once called via Lata), by the corner with via della Vite, up to the mid 17th century a large arch of Roman age spanned the street, connecting the buildings on the opposite sides. It consisted of a single archway, flanked on each side by a pair of columns; between the latter hung a panel with a relief. Above the archway ran a decoration carved in the shape of a flourish.

contemporary view of the spot where the arch stood;
Palazzo Fiano is the second building on the left

According to an early speculation, the arch may have belonged to an aqueduct branch, in particular the one that carried the Aqua Virgo water from the Pincian Hill towards the Baths of Nero, located in the Campus Martius district. Partly in favour of this interpretation were two small fountains, in the shape of drinking troughs, that can be seen in 16th and 17th century images featuring the arch still in place: they would have obviously drawn water from the same aqueduct. However, the recent (2012) discovery of surviving arches of the Aqua Virgo below Palazzo della Rinascente, a building along the same via del Corso but 200 m (or yards) further south, seem to rule out definitively this hypothesis. The main present interpretation, instead, is that it acted as a monumental approach to the area of the Temple of the Sun (no longer extant), built under emperor Aurelian around AD 275 on the site of the present church of San Silvestro in Capite (which can be seen in the map below by number 49).

Also the dating of the arch is uncertain, having been built likely by using parts taken from older monuments; actually, its panels in relief feature emperor Hadrian (117-138) and his wife Sabina, about one and a half centuries earlier than Aurelian. Because of these reliefs, over the Middle Ages the Arch of Portugal was referred to as Arch of Hadrian, but also other names were used, such as Arch of San Lorenzo in Lucina (the main church of the district, located in a nearby square with the same name), Arch of Tropholi, referring to the trophies of an obscure victory, or Arch of Tripoli, likely referring to three cities (Greek tri polis) celebrated for some unknown reason, or Tres Faciclas or Facicelas (obscure meaning).
← the Arch of Portugal in the maps by Mario Cartaro (1576)
and by Giovanni Antonio Dosio (1561) ↓

Around the 11th century one half of the arch was destroyed: this caused the loss of the columns that stood on the same side, and of part of the upper decoration, while the panel was spared. The missing part was repaired, and some time later a number of rooms were built over the arch, maybe a whole house.

San Lorenzo in Lucina
It was taken down by pope Alexander VII, in 1665; a plaque was hung on Palazzo Fiano, remembering the arch on the spot where it stood.
The removal, as well as other refurbishment works during the following years, aimed to improve the traffic along the street. In fact during Carnival, in via del Corso the famous Barbary Horse race was held, for which the arch represented undoubtly a dangerous hindrance. The only part spared was one of the two panels in relief, taken to the Capitoline Museums, where it is on display.
the plaque that remembers the lost arch
and its translation (below)
One of the surviving panels features emperor Hadrian holding a speech, while in the other (below, centre) he witnesses the glorification of his wife Sabina, who died in AD 136 or 137, carried to the heavens by a winged female genius.

the panel featuring Hadrian and Sabina;
(left) aqua fortis by Luigi Rossini (1835),
inspired by older images of the arch
IN YEAR 1665

a reconstruction of the ancient shape of the arch (1690)