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The North Tetrapylon at Jerash in Jordan

A tetrapylon (Greek: τετράπυλον, "four gates"), plural tetrapyla, known in Latin as a "quadrifrons" (literally "four fronts"), is a type of ancient Roman monument of cubic shape, with a gate on each of the four sides: generally it was built on a crossroads.

Imaginary view of Tetrapylon of Palmyra, Syria, anonymous artist after Louis-François Cassas, ca. 1799. Proof-plate etching. 17.9 x 25.7 in. (45.5 x 65.5 cm). The Getty Research Institute, 840011


The Tetrapylon at Anjar in Lebanon

It was a type of monument common to the architectural vernacular of classical antiquity. The defining quality of this form is the concept of four gates, with four pillars or other supporting structures placed at the corners marking the divisions between them. A tetrapylon could take the form of a single building or multiple, separate structures. They were built as landmarks at significant crossroads or geographical 'focal points', as a 'sub-type' of the Roman triumphal arch, or simply as decorative and aesthetically pleasing ornamental architecture. As applied to a triumphal arch (e.g., the Mausoleum of the Julii at Glanum, Arch of Janus, Rutupiae), a tetrapylon was effectively a 'doubling' of the original form; with a total of four major arched openings, one on each side of the structure (one pair of openings opposite each other along one axis, and a second pair of openings of equal or lesser prominence perpendicular to the first pair; hence a structure with two barrel vaulted passageways, in the form of a cross).


Perhaps the most striking construction at Palmyra in Syria, the Tetrapylon marked the second pivot in the route of the colonnaded street. It consisted of a square platform bearing at each corner a tight grouping of four columns. Each of the four groups of pillars supported 150,000kg of solid cornice. It was badly vandalized in 2017.

A tetrakionion (τετρακιόνιον), plural tetrakionia, is a type of tetrapylon in which the central crossing is not roofed, and the four corner-markers exist as four separate structures (i.e.: unconnected overhead).

Media related to Tetrakionia at Wikimedia Commons

Notable tetrapyla[edit]

See also[edit]