"And he set up in the Forum an enormous column, to serve at once as a monument to himself and as a memorial of his work in the Forum. For that entire section had been hilly and he had cut it down for a distance equal to the height of the column, thus making the Forum level."
Cassius Dio, Roman History (LXVIII.16.3)
"But when he came to the Forum of Trajan, a creation which in my view has no like under the cope of heaven and which even the gods themselves must agree to admire, he stood transfixed with astonishment, surveying the giant fabric around him; its grandeur defies description and can never again be approached by mortal men."
Ammianus Marcellinus (XVI.10.15)
The wonderment of the emperor Constantius II when he first visited Rome in AD 357 is understandable. The last and most magnificent of the imperial fora, the Forum of Trajan (or, later, Forum Ulpium, from Ulpius, Trajan's family name) was constructed under the direction of the architect Apollodorus, who sought to surpass all that had gone before, the plan and scale (and lines of trees) from the Temple of Peace, its colonnades and hemicycles improving upon the Forum of Augustus, the curved ends taken from the Forum Transitorium, and the Basilica Ulpia larger and more fine than those of Aemilia and Julia. So was the past, both architecturally and politically, continued and commemorated. By the time Constantius visited, the Forum Trajani had existed for almost two-and-a-half centuries and the capitol of the empire had shifted to Constantinople. And yet, however faded, its visual effect still was a profound expression of Rome's former grandeur.
Initiated by Domitian (Aurelius Victor, XIII.5), who began to clear the area as part of a larger plan to integrate the forum with its predecessors (which included the Forum Transitorium that subsequently was dedicated by Nerva), work halted with the emperor's assassination and damnatio in AD 96. Construction was renewed after Trajan's victorious return from Dacia (Romania) in AD 106-107, funded by the spoils of that war (and perhaps to coincide with his decennalia). Too, Domitian's own building projects may have depleted the treasury. Indeed, says Suetonius (Life, XIII.2), "He erected so many and such huge vaulted passage-ways and arches in the various regions of the city, adorned with chariots and triumphal emblems, that on one of them someone wrote in Greek: 'It is enough.'"
The forum comprises two parts: a large public square or piazza (Area Fori), flanked by colonnades and closed at one end by a perimeter wall and at the other by the Basilica Ulpia, which effectively divided this part of the forum (which was dedicated on January 1, AD 112), from the Column of Trajan and libraries that were hidden behind it and from the Temple of Divine Trajan, all of which may have been a later creation of Hadrian, himself.
The forum constantly revealed itself to the visitor, the colonnades hiding the hemicycles behind them, as well as the apses of the basilica, which, in turn, hid the libraries and most of the column. The temple, itself, could only be seen only after one had come to the peristyle around the column. There is, then, a sense of unfolding surprises, with each perspective revealing something new.
Curved around the eastern hemicycle (exedra) of the forum was Trajan's Markets, a complex of offices or possibly shops displaced by construction of the forum.
References: Trajan Optimus Princeps: A Life and Times (1997) by Julian Bennett; The Architecture of Roman Temples: The Republic to the Middle Empire (2005) by John W. Stamper; Ammianus Marcellinus: The Later Roman Empire (1986) translated by Walter Hamilton (Penguin Classics); Pausanius: Description of Greece (1926) translated by W. H. S. Jones (Loeb Classical Library).
The Forum of Trajan in Rome: A Study of the Monuments in Brief (2001) by James E. Packer is an abridgement of the author's original three-volume study, which was published in 1997 and costs $675. The paperback edition has allowed for some revisions of the original restorations, including three-dimensional models, and surely must be one of the great bargains in book publishing.
There are three quick sources to study Trajan's Column as well as the Two Dacian Wars illustrated by it, two at the magnificent website of Bill Thayer: LacusCurtiushttp://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Places/Europe/Italy/Lazio/Roma/Rome/Trajans_Column/home.html
1. Trajan's Column: A Record of the Dacian Campaign and a Monument to Logistics by Bill Thayer
You are facing NW and looking at the column from ground level in the Basilica Ulpia to the SE of it. If the column were transparent, you would be pretty much looking down the Via Flaminia towards the Milvian Bridge: in Roman times, that road would take you to Umbria and finally the Adriatic coast at Fano and Rimini.
The Forum Romanum is offscreen, somewhat behind you, to your left. Trajan's Markets are a few steps to your right and a bit behind you as well. Between them, straight behind you, the Imperial Fora.
For information about the statue at the top, click anywhere on the platform or higher; or here.
For a full-height view of the column from the steps up to the Largo Magnanapoli to the NE, click on the sky to the right (NE) of it, or here.
The base of the column — click anywhere on it — or here — is a sort of gallery of military dress and armor.
[ 1 page, 6 images: some are particularly good ]
Most of the photos here, however, are of the reliefs that spiral up the column itself. I took two sets of pictures; one up the SW face and one up the NE face; clicking anywhere on the column (or on the numbers in the margins, which indicate the registers shown) will send you to a large detailed photo of that area in another window. For now, just the pictures; I do hope to provide text fairly soon, though. For one thing, there's Apollodorus's bridge somewhere in all this stone, and that surely deserves commentary.
[ 25 images: bullets • indicate those where you can zoom in even further ]
Click on the modern buildings in the picture, or here, for the full original of this photo, showing the column somewhat larger and in context, between the churches of S. Maria di Loreto and SS. Nome di Maria.
Finally, a few stray photos haven't got linked yet to the map above; among which this clear shot of two men loading barrels onto a boat.
Around the year 1574, a Spanish monk, named Alphonso CIACCONE, was depicting in premiere APOLLODORUS FROM DAMASCUS' SCULPTED BAS-RELIEFS ON TRAJAN'S COLUMN IN ROME, that deal with scenes from the above named Emperor's two military campaigns versus Dacian Land (101-102 A.D., followed by 105-106 A.D.).
A Web-enhanced version of
2. A Description of the Trajan Column
by John Hungerford Pollen
printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode,
printers to Queen Victoria
Text and engravings are in the public domain.
Any color photographs are © William P. Thayer 1997-
|94||Distribution of Cornº to the Legionaries|
More pictures at:
Model of the Imperial Fora, marking the Basilica Ulpia, Forum of Trajan, Forum of Julius Caesar, Forum of Nerva, Markets of Trajan, Forum of Augustus, and Forum of Vespasian (Forum of Peace).
Column of Trajan, Rome, detail of the lowest four bands. Scenes show Trajan's army crossing the Danube and constructing battlefield headquarters.
Trajan's Column: A portion depicting Roman soldiers building a wooden palisade at the seige of Sarmizethusa, the capital of the Dacian cheif Decebalus. The entire column, celebrating Trajan's conquests in Dacia, was dedicated in A.D. 113 and stands 95 feet (29 m).
Trajan's Column. Detail of scene 37, Lustration of the camp.
Axonometric reconstruction of Trajan's Markets. Numbers indicate the following items:1. Covered shopping arcade2. Apartment block3. Stair case4. Stair case5. Street6. Exhedra of Trajan's Forum
Markets of Trajan, Rome: the main hall. Made of brick-faced concrete, with only some detailing in stone and wood, in compliance with a building code that was put into effect after AD 64.
Beginning with the Emperor Augustus' reign in 27 B.C.E., the Roman Empire enjoyed what is called the Pax Romana, or "Peace of Rome" - a period of governmental and social stability that lasted over 200 years. During the Pax Romana, the empire expanded in territory and flourished economically. At its height, under the emperor Hadrian circa 125 C.E., the Roman Empire stretched from the north of England 2,500 miles south, through present-day Spain, France, Holland, Greece, Egypt, Turkey, and Iraq. The Roman army secured these frontiers and protected the trade routes within them from invasion. Unique and exotic trade goods such as silk, perfumes, bejeweled weapons, and musical instruments from the far corners of the empire were for sale in the Roman street markets.
This increase in trade brought great wealth to Rome and funded massive building projects. Funds were available for developing public services such as fire brigades and healthcare centers. Money was also spent on lavish parades celebrating the successes of the Roman armies, elaborate theatrical productions, and Olympic-style festivals of athletic games honoring Roman Gods and Goddesses.
In direct contrast to the trappings of this flourishing society, the poor made up the majority of Rome's population. They lived in squalid conditions in neighborhoods where disease and crime were prevalent, performed back-breaking jobs for inadequate pay, and has little time and money for leisure activities. Most children of the Roman poor did not live to be 10 years old. Roman leaders relied on exciting and relatively inexpensive public entertainment like gladiatorial combat and chariot racing to keep the poor placated.
|This article is part of the series on:|
Military of ancient Rome (portal)
753 BC – AD 476
|Roman army (unit types and ranks, legions, auxiliaries, generals)|
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The Tropaeum Traiani is a monument in Roman Civitas Tropaensium (site of modern Adamclisi, Romania), built in 109 in then Moesia Inferior, to commemorate Roman Emperor Trajan's victory over the Dacians, in 102, in the Battle of Tapae. The monument was erected on the place where legio XXI Rapax had previously been crushed (92 AD). Before Trajan's construction, an altar existed there, on the walls of which were inscribed the names of 3,000 legionaries and auxilia (servicemen) who had died "fighting for the Republic".
Trajan's monument was inspired by the Augustus mausoleum, and was dedicated to the god Mars Ultor in 107/108 AD. On the monument there were 54 metopes depicting Roman legions fighting against enemies; most of these metopes are preserved in the museum nearby. The monument was supposed to be a warning to the tribes outside this newly conquered province.
The original monument has long since disintegrated. The present edifice is a reconstruction dating from 1977. The nearby museum contains many archaeological objects, including parts of the original Roman monument. Of the original 54 metopes, 48 are in the museum and 1 is in Istanbul.
The monument was decorated with a large inscription dedicated to Mars Ultor (the revenger). The inscription has been preserved fragmentarily from two sides of the trophy hexagone, so it could be reconstructed as follows:
MARTI ULTOR[I] IM[P(erator)CAES]AR DIVI NERVA[E] F(ILIUS) N[E]RVA TRA]IANUS [AUG(USTUS) GERM(ANICUS)] DAC]I[CU]S PONT(IFEX) MAX(IMUS) TRIB(UNICIA) POTEST(ATE) XIII IMP(ERATOR) VI CO(N)S(UL) V P(ater) P(atriae) ?VICTO EXERC]ITU D[ACORUM] ?---- ET SARMATA]RUM ---------------------]E 31.
The inscription from the main monument can be translated in this way:
"To Mars, the god of war, Caesar the emperor, son of divine Nerva, Nerva Trajan, Augustus, who defeated the Germans, the Dacians, great priest, for the 13th time tribune of the plebeians, proclaimed emperor by the army for the 6th time, elected consul for the 5th time, father of our homeland, after defeating the Dacian and the Sarmatian armies."
Detail of a falx on the trophy
Metope XVII: Roman equiped with a helmet with broad neckguard, brow guard, cheekpiece and bowl reinforces. Also a short-sleeved scale shirt with double rows of pteryges below the hem and a manica at the sleeve of his right arm, encased in laminated armour. Curved rectangular shield with raised border, digamma corner symbols and a central boss. The bearded first enemy wears a Phrygian cap, baggy garments and wields a two-handed falx.
The monument was restored based on a hypothetical reconstruction in 1977.
The monument was researched by Grigore Tocilescu, O. Benford and G. Niemann, between 1882 - 1895, George Murnu in 1909, Vasile Parvan stop the researches in 1911, Paul Nicorescu has studied the site between 1935-1945, Gheorghe Stefan and Ioan Barnea in 1945. From 1968 the site is researched under Romanian Academy supervision.
The name of the site was given after the monument, the ancient name of the city is unknown.
|Built in||113 CE|
|Built by/for||Emperor Trajan|
|Type of structure||Roman triumphal column|
|Related articles||Forum of Trajan|
Trajan's Column (Italian: Colonna Traiana) is a Roman triumphal column in Rome, Italy, which commemorates Roman emperor Trajan's victory in the Dacian Wars. It was probably constructed under the supervision of the architect Apollodorus of Damascus at the order of the Roman Senate. It is located in Trajan's Forum, built near the Quirinal Hill, north of the Roman Forum. Completed in 113 CE, the freestanding column is most famous for its spiral bas relief, that artistically describes the epic wars between the Romans and Dacians (101–102 and 105–106). Its design has inspired numerous victory columns, both ancient and modern.
The structure is about 30 meters (98 ft) in height, 35 meters (125 ft) including its large pedestal. The shaft is made from a series of 20 colossal Carrara marble drums, each weighing about 32 tons, with a diameter of 3.7 meters (11 ft). The 190-meter (625 ft) frieze winds around the shaft 23 times. Inside the shaft, a spiral staircase of 185 stairs provides access to a viewing platform at the top. The capital block of Trajan's Column weighs 53.3 tons, which had to be lifted to a height of ca. 34 m.
Ancient coins indicate preliminary plans to top the column with a statue of a bird, probably an eagle, but after construction a statue of Trajan was put in place; this statue disappeared in the Middle Ages. On December 4, 1587, the top was crowned by Pope Sixtus V with a bronze figure of St. Peter, which remains to this day.
A continuous frieze winds up around the shaft from base to capital. The relief portrays Trajan's two victorious military campaigns against the Dacians; the lower half illustrating the first (101-102), and the top half illustrating the second (105-106).
The two sections are separated by a personification of Victory writing on a shield flanked on either side by Trophies. Otherwise, the scenes on the frieze unfold continuously and in tipped-up perspective. The imagery is not realistic as the sculptor pays little attention to perspective. Often a variety of different perspectives are used in the same scene, so that more can be revealed (e.g., a different angle is used to show men working behind a wall).
The scenes depict mostly the Roman army in military activities such as setting out to battle and engaging the Dacians, as well as constructing fortifications and listening to the emperor's address and the success he accomplished. The carvings are crowded with sailors, soldiers, statesmen and priests, showing about 2,500 figures in all and providing a valuable source of information for modern historians on Roman and barbaric arms and methods of warfare (such as forts, ships, weapons etc.). The relief shows such details as a ballista or catapult for example. The emperor Trajan, depicted realistically in the Veristic style, makes 59 appearances among his troops.
The interior of Trajan's column is hollow: entered by a small doorway at one side of the base, a spiral stair of 185 steps gives access to the platform above, having offered the visitor in antiquity a magnificent view over the surrounding Trajan's forum; 43 window slits illuminate his ascent.
The column stands 38.4 m high from the ground to the top of the statue base: Located immediately next to the large Basilica Ulpia, it had to be constructed sufficiently tall in order to function as a vantage point, and to maintain its own visual impact on the forum. The column proper, that is the shaft without the pedestal, the statue and its base, is 29.76 m high, a number which almost corresponds to 100 Roman feet; beginning slightly above the bottom of the base, the helical staircase inside measures a mere 8 cm less.
The column is composed of 29 blocks of Luna marble, weighting in total more than 1100 t. The spiral stair itself was carved out of 19 blocks, with a full turn every 14 steps; this arrangement required a more complex geometry than the more usual alternatives of 12 or 16. The quality of the craftsmanship was such that the staircase is practically even, and the joints between the huge blocks still fit accurately. Despite numerous earthquakes in the past, the column today leans at an angle of less than half a degree.
Trajan's column, and especially its helical stairway design, exerted a considerable influence on subsequent Roman architecture. While spiral stairs were before still a rare sight in Roman buildings, this space-saving form henceforth spread gradually throughout the empire. Apart from the practical advantages it offered, the design also became closely associated with imperial power, being later adopted by Trajan's successors Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius. In Napoleon's time, a similar column decorated with a spiral of relief sculpture was erected in the Place Vendôme in Paris to commemorate his victory at Austerlitz.
The inscription at the base of the column in finest lettering reads:
Translated, the inscription reads:
The Senate and people of Rome [give or dedicate this] to the emperor Caesar, son of the divine Nerva, Nerva Traianus Augustus Germanicus Dacicus, pontifex maximus, in his 17th year in the office of tribune, having been acclaimed 6 times as imperator, 6 times consul, pater patriae, to demonstrate of what great height the hill [was] and place [that] was removed for such great works.
It was believed that the column was supposed to stand where the saddle between the Capitoline and Quirinal Hills used to be, having been excavated by Trajan, but excavation has revealed that this is not the case. The saddle was where Trajan's Forum and Trajan's Market stood. Hence, the inscription refers to the Trajan's entire building project in the area of the Imperial fora.
This is perhaps the most famous example of Roman square capitals, a script often used for stone monuments, and less often for manuscript writing. As it was meant to be read from below, the bottom letters are slightly smaller than the top letters, to give proper perspective. Some, but not all, word divisions are marked with a dot, and many of the words, especially the titles, are abbreviated. In the inscription, numerals are marked with a titulus, a bar across the top of the letters. A small piece at the bottom of the inscription has been lost.
The typeface Trajan, designed in 1989 by Carol Twombly, uses letterforms based on this inscription. There have been many other typefaces based on the inscription from such designers as Frederic Goudy.
It is assumed that the column drums were lifted by cranes into their place. Ancient sources, as well as a substantial corpus of archaeological evidence, prove that Roman engineers were capable of raising large weights clear off the ground. The typical drum of Trajan's Column weighs ca. 32 t, while the capital, the heaviest block above base and pedestal, is even at 53.3 t, which had to be lifted 34 m high. To save weight, the treads had probably been carved out before either at the quarry or in situ.
Even so, for such loads the typical Roman treadwheel crane, which, moreover, could only reach a maximum height of 15 to 18 m, was clearly inadequate. Instead, a tower-like wooden construction was erected around the building site, in the midst of which the marble blocks were raised by a system of pulleys, ropes and capstans; these were powered by a large workforce of men and possibly also draught animals, spread out on the ground. According to modern calculations, eight capstans were needed to hoist the 55 t base block, while the length of rope required for the highest drums measured some 210 m assuming two-block pulleys.
Such a lifting tower was later also used to great effect by the Renaissance architect Domenico Fontana to relocate obelisks in Rome. From his report, it becomes obvious that the coordination of the lift between the various pulling teams required a considerable amount of concentration and discipline, since, if the force was not applied evenly, the excessive stress on the ropes would make them rupture. In case of Trajan's column, the difficulties were exacerbated even further by the simultaneous work on the neighbouring Basilica Ulpia, which limited the available space so that the capstan crews had proper access only from one side.
It was traditionally thought that the Column was a propagandistic monument, glorifying the emperor's military exploits. However, the structure would have been generally invisible and surrounded by the two libraries in Trajan's Forum, and because of the difficulty involved in following the frieze from end to end, it could be said to have had much less propaganda value.
On the other hand, as Paul Veyne notes, the relief could be read "vertically" from below, with the stereotypical, highly recognizable figure of the emperor recognizable across the bands of images— just as, on the Colonne Vendôme, Napoleon's figure can be picked up, scene after scene.
After Trajan's death in 117, the Roman Senate voted to have Trajan's ashes buried in the Column's square base which is decorated with captured Dacian arms and armor. His ashes and those of his wife, Plotina, were set inside the base in golden urns. (The ashes no longer lie there.)
Plaster casts of the relief were taken in the 19th and 20th centuries. After a century of acid pollution, they are now more legible in some details than the original, and the way they are displayed offers students a closer look at the reliefs than at the original site. Examples can be studied at:
Additionally, individual casts of the frieze are at display in various museums, for example in the Museum for Ancient Navigation in Mainz. A complete survey in monochrome was published by the German archaeologist Conrad Cichorius between 1896 and 1900 (see Commons), still forming the base of modern scholarship. Based on Cichorius' work, and on the photographic archive of the German Archaeological Institute, a research-oriented web-based viewer for Trajan's Column was created at the German-language image database Arachne.
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