The Evolution of Victory

by Danielle Ferrara
[student, Rome Sketchbook course, autumn 2011]

The figure of Victory on the Arch of Constantine has wings and flew around battlefields rewarding victors with glory and fame. She was the daughter of Pallas and Styx and represented strength, force, and zeal. On the frieze of the arch is a depiction of Constantine’s army driving his rival Maxentius’ troops into the Tiber river. This happened in 312 ad. and the arch was dedicated in 315 ad. According to Constantine, he won by divine providence. He is shown with a halo over his head. We have the icon of the Goddess of Victory and a halo but neither represent either an angel or holiness yet. In fact in Santa Maria Maggiore there is no halo on Mary, but a halo on the evil king Herod; these images were not yet Christian but represented perhaps an epiphany of thought and the ability to fly. Wings would later come to represent the ability to lift oneself up, to lift others up, and experience eternal paradise through spiritual elevation.