British Museum blog

Description of the Arches

Shakespeare’s Restless World is currently being broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Today’s episode London Becomes Rome looks at the grand and theatrical coronation of King James I.

Ruth Levis, British Museum

The illustrations of the triumphal arches featured in today’s programme were published in a book, The Arches of Triumph, ‘invented and published’ by Stephen Harrison, the man behind the arches’ creation. Here is his description that accompanied The Temple of Janus (the Roman god of beginnings and transitions), the final arch in the procession.

The Temple of Janus. © Trustees of the British Museum

The seventh and last Pegme (within the Citie) was erected at Temple-barre [Temple Bar], beeing adioyned close to the Gate: The Building was in all points like a Temple, and dedicated to Janus Quadrifrons.

Beneath that Foure-fac’d head of Janus was advancd the Armes of the Kingdome, with the Supporters cut out to the life: from whence being remoude they now are placed in the Guild Hall.

The wals and gates of this Temple were brasse; the Pillars silver, their Capitals and Bases gold: All the Frontispice (downeward from those Armes) was beutified and supported by twelve rich Columnes, of which the foure lowermost, being great Corinthian pillers, stood upon two large Pedestals, with a faire Vaux over them in stead of Architriue, Frieze and Cornice.

Above them, eight Columnes more, were likewise set, two and two upon a large Pedestall; for as our worke began (for his Maiesties entrance) with Rusticke, so did wee thinke it fit, that this out Temple, should end with the most famous Columne, whose beauty and goodlinesse is derived both from the Tuscane, Doricke, Ionicke and Corinthian, and received his full perfection from Titus Vespasin, who advanced it to the highest place of dignitie his Arch Triumphall, and (by reason that the beauties of it were a mixture taken from the rest) he gave it the name of Composita or Italica: within the Temple stood an Altar, with burning Incese upon it, before which a Flamin appears, and to the Flamin comes the Genius of the City.

The principall person in this Temple, was Peace. At her feete lay Warre groueling. At her right hand stood Wealth. On the same hand likewise, but somewhat remote, and in a Cant by her selfe, Quiet was seated, the first hand maide of Peace, whose feete stood vpon Tumult. On the left hand (at the former distance) Liberty the second hand-maide of Peace had her place, at whose feete Seruitude lay subiected. Beneath these (on distinct degrees) sate two other hand maides of Peace, Safey and Felicity, Safety trampling upon Danger and Felcity upon Unhappinesse. Genius and Flamin spake thus much.

Shakespeare’s Restless World is on BBC Radio 4
from 16 April to 11 May, at 13.45 and 19.45 weekdays.

Listen to today’s programme London Becomes Rome

Filed under: Shakespeare's Restless World, What's on

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Vanished beneath the waters of the Mediterranean, the lost cities of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus lay at the mouth of the Nile. Over the last 20 years, world-renowned archaeologist Franck Goddio and his team have excavated spectacular underwater discoveries using the latest technologies. They will be seen alongside fascinating objects from major Egyptian museums for the first time in the UK in this blockbuster exhibition.

Book now for #SunkenCities, opening 19 May 2016

#archaeology #history #ancientegypt 
Christoph Gerigk © Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation Discover the remarkable relationship between the major ancient civilisations of Egypt and Greece, unveiled in our monumental new exhibition #SunkenCities – announced today! 300 outstanding objects will be brought together in this blockbuster exhibition, including many Egyptian objects shown in the UK for the first time. Preserved and buried under the sea for over a thousand years, the stunning objects range from magnificent colossal statues to intricate gold jewellery. They tell stories of political power and popular belief, myth and migration, gods and kings. Journey through centuries of encounters between two celebrated cultures, meeting iconic historical figures such as Alexander the Great, Cleopatra, Hadrian and Antinous on the way.

Book now for #SunkenCities, opening 19 May 2016

#archaeology #ancientegypt #history 
Christoph Gerigk © Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation We are delighted to announce our first major exhibition on underwater archaeology! Submerged under the sea for over a thousand years, two lost cities of ancient Egypt were recently rediscovered. Their amazing discovery is transforming our understanding of the deep connections between the great ancient civilisations of Egypt and Greece.

Book now for #SunkenCities, opening 19 May 2016
#archaeology #ancientegypt #history
Christoph Gerigk © Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation You can now discover thousands of British Museum objects in partnership with @googleartproject at We’ve asked staff members to highlight their favourites and explain what makes them special. Chris Spring, Curator of Africa Collections, describes why he finds the ‘Throne of weapons’ so powerful. ‘This war memorial celebrates the ordinary people of Mozambique, many of them unarmed, who stood up to a culture of violence. It represents both a human tragedy and a human triumph. The Throne's essential humanity is suggested right away by its anthropomorphic qualities - it has arms, legs, a back and most importantly a face - actually two faces. My first reaction was that these faces are crying in pain, though they could also be seen as smiling faces finally freed from conflict. These anthropomorphic qualities also link it immediately to the arts of Africa, in which non-figurative objects such as chairs, stools, weapons, pots etc are seen as - and described as - human beings. The Throne has toured the world, taking its message of peace to schools, churches, shopping centres and even prisons – and of course, to museums and galleries.’ #MuseumOfTheWorld We’re celebrating our partnership with @googleartproject, and have asked curators to tell us about their favourite objects. Hugo Chapman, Keeper of Prints and Drawings, explains why he chose this chalk drawing by Michelangelo. ‘One of the things I love about drawings is the way they sometimes allow a glimpse into the private, behind the scenes world of an artist, one unseen in finished works in paint or stone. An example of that is a red chalk drawing by Michelangelo of grotesque heads in red chalk that reveal that the Florentine Renaissance artist had a lively, if caustic, sense of humour. The three heads were probably drawn to amuse but at the same instruct his pupils, as the three studies show how slight changes can radically alter the reading of an image with the character and mood of each figure (paranoid anxiety; vacuous joy; and depressive gloom) signalled by the position and erectness of their donkey-like ears.  I wish my ears were as expressive.’ Discover many more incredible works of art in the Google Cultural Institute at

#Michelangelo #art To celebrate our partnership with @googleartproject, we’ve asked members of British Museum staff to highlight their favourite objects and explain what makes them special. Jill Cook, Deputy Keeper of Britain, Europe & Prehistory, chose this stone chopping tool from an early human campsite in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. ‘Holding this 2 million year old African tool in my hand I am reminded that whatever differences exist between people now, we are united by our common origin in Africa. The discovery of this piece by Louis Leakey in 1931 began to change our understanding of what makes us human. It illustrates the beginning of a transition from an ancestral ape that walked upright on two legs within the confines of a limited ecological niche to humans with more complex brains capable of changing and eventually dominating the world around us by making tools and weapons. This chopping tool is one of the seeds from which all human cultures and societies have grown.’ Discover the stories of thousands of objects in the Google Cultural Institute at


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