Trajan’s Column — A Sight for Tourists in Rome
Rome, popularly called the city of seven hills, is an interesting place for history lovers. The famous capital of Italy and about three thousand years old can feel ancient, with classical ruins that relay the history of Roman emperors and period architecture. It can also feel grand with the spectacular squares, fountains, and churches. Yet the city maintains a dolce vita quality with its numerous hotels, bars, restaurants, and boutiques. Tourists are sure to get a swirl of luxury and history, delicious food, and remarkable sights.
Trajan’s column is one of such remarkable sights, a relic from the second century AD. It has been instrumental to the work of historians and archeologists trying to arrange historical timelines. Presumably built in 113 AD, the honorific column was built to celebrate Emperor Trajan, who was considered Optimus Princeps ( the best first citizen), and commemorate his conquests in Dacia, now known as Romania. The structure, situated at the Trajan’s Forum and erected with 20 large Carrara marble cylinders, is about 114 feet tall.
The column was built under the supervision of Apollodorus of Damascus, a renowned architect responsible for two of the best-preserved structures in Rome. A helical frieze wraps around the column about 23 times in a continuous loop, featuring multiple figures and preserving stories of the Trajan’s wars in Dacia.
The lower half of the column focuses on the first Dacian War, which lasted from 101 to 102 AD, while the upper half relays facts from the Second Dacian War, which lasted from 105 AD to 106 AD. The narrative sequence begins with Roman troops heading to war in Dacia and winds to a close-by featuring the suicide of the Dacian leader, Decebalus, and the Romans taking custody of Dacian prisoners.
Many tourists remark on the astonishing detail achieved with the frieze- a testament to the architect’s and sculptor’s meticulousness. With 2,662 figures and 155 scenes, each scene on the frieze was set complete with natural backgrounds and varying perspectives. It also represents how civilized the Romans were even in that period-clean-shaven and dressed in uniforms.
The level of detail in the frieze provides visual material for academics interested in learning about Roman military iconography or the weapons and strategies employed in that period. Tourists also get a sense of Romans in that period as some scenes feature the army when not in combat, building camps, or doing other chores.
The column features Emperor Trajan in about 58 scenes-addressing his soldiers or performing sacrifices, and his ashes are buried in a tomb at the base of the column. At the center of the column is a hollow space, with a staircase spiraling to the top, leading to a statute of St. Peter. Once, Trajan’s figure sat there but was replaced years later by the church.
Usually, tourists marvel at the execution of the structure and how it remains a symbol of architectural innovation. The design inspired the Column of Marcus Aurelius at Piazza Colonna, the Column of Justinian located at Constantinople, including the now-lost Column of Arcadius. Other columns modeled after the Trajan Column include Admiral Horatio Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square, London, the Congress Column in Brussels, and the Washington Monument of Baltimore in Maryland.
Originally published at http://ericfelsenfeld.wordpress.com on January 28, 2022.