Trajan's Column

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Trajan's Column is a monument in Rome raised by Apollodorus of Damascus at the order of the Senate. It is located in Trajan's Forum, built near the Quirinal Hill, north of the Roman Forum. It was completed in 113, the spiral bas-relief commemorates Trajan's victory in his military campaigns to conquer Dacia in the Dacian Wars.

The structure is about 30 meters (98 ft) in height, 38 meters (125 ft) including its large pedestal. The shaft is made from a series of 18 colossal Carrara marble drums, each weighing about 40 tons, with a diameter of about 4 meters (13 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.

According to coins depicting the column, it was originally topped with a statue of a bird, possibly an eagle,<ref name="topographical">Template:Cite web</ref> and later by a heroically nude statue of Trajan himself. In 1588, it was replaced by a statue of St. Peter (which still remains) by Pope Sixtus V.

Image:Lunt and Coventry 024.jpg
Traces of colouring have been found in the crevices of the carving, from which has been deduced this coloured reconstruction (seen in displays at Lunt Fort, whose reconstructed fort is based on the column's reliefs).


[edit] The relief

Image:Trajan s column detail.jpg
Trajan's Column -- detail.

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. 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 emperor Trajan, depicted realistically (not superhuman), makes 59 appearances among his troops. A large figure of a river god is also visible.

The base is covered with reliefs of trophies of Dacian weapons. Such imagery had the connotation of a surrender, as in Ancient times the defeated soldiers would dump their weapons in a pile as a term of surrender.

[edit] The inscription

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.

Image:Trajanssaeule fuss 1860.jpg
Base of Trajan's Column around 1860

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 modern computer typeface "Trajan," designed in 1989 by Carol Twombly (who worked for Adobe Systems and for Bigelow & Holmes), uses letterforms based on this inscription.

[edit] Purpose

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 other buildings in Trajan's Forum, and because of the difficulty involved in following the frieze from end to end, it is now considered to have had much less propaganda value. Based on the inscription, the column may have been a measuring guide for the construction of the forum.

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 placed inside it in golden urns. (The ashes no longer lie there.)

[edit] Casts

See also: Cast Courts (Victoria and Albert Museum)#Trajan's Column

Plaster casts of the relief were taken in the 19th and 20th centuries. Ironically, after a century of acid pollution, they are now more legible in some details than the original and , even when not, offer students a closer look at the reliefs because of the way they are displayed. Examples can be seen at:

Image:Trajan s column.jpg
Trajan's Column.

[edit] Inspired

[edit] Rome

[edit] Byzantium

[edit] Modern

[edit] References


[edit] See also

[edit] External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

de:Trajanssäule es:Columna de Trajano eo:Trajana Kolono fr:Colonne Trajane it:Colonna di Traiano he:עמוד טריאנוס hu:Traianus-oszlop nl:Zuil van Traianus nn:Trajansøyla pl:Kolumna Trajana pt:Coluna de Trajano ro:Columna lui Traian fi:Trajanuksen pylväs sv:Trajanuskolonnen

Trajan's Column

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