Trajan Column
DIMENSIONS: Height: column, 29.77m. (100 Roman feet)
column and pedestal, 38m.
Diameter: 3.7m.

DATE: AD112-113.

The column is now the best preserved feature of Trajan's Forum, which was built near the Quirinal hill, north of the Roman Forum and north-west of Augustus's Forum
* this enormous complex consisted essentially of
* a large courtyard, entered through a triumphal archway
* a great hall (Basilica Ulpia)
* two library buildings which flanked the Column
* on the slope of the Quirinal stood the terraced buildings of Trajan's market
* only after Trajan's death was a temple (to Divine Trajan) erected beyond the Column and libraries by his successor Hadrian
* without the market the Forum covered an area of about 3.2 hectares (8 acres)
* it was the last of the Imperial Fora that were erected to deal with the overflow of political, legal and commercial business from the original Roman Forum
The Column must be seen initially as part of a much greater whole, which served important practical purposes in the running of the city.

But there were also commemorative and propagandist purposes behind various elements of the Forum
* in the Column itself
* in the triumphal archway entrance
* decreed by the Senate in Trajan's absence as a memorial to his victories
* in the equestrian statue of the emperor that stood in the centre of the courtyard

The Column commemorated Trajan and his deeds in three ways


(i) a statue of the emperor stood on top, but this was lost in the Middle Ages and its place taken by the statue of St Peter in 1588
(ii) the pedestal served as the tomb for Trajan's ashes after his death in 117A.D.
(iii) the sculptural reliefs, which wind in a spiral 23 times round the shaft to a length for approx .200m, depict the major military victories of Trajan in Dacia (modern Rumania) in two campaigns in AD101-102 and 105-106. They are about 3ft wide.

The height of the Column represents the depth of excavation required for the levelling of the area for part of the Forum. It presented the sculptor with some unusual problems
* the spiral was carved after the column had been erected
* it carefully obscures the joins between the 18 blocks of marble (from the Greek island of Paros) that form the shaft and its base
* the sculptor was also aware that the uppermost reliefs would have been difficult for a spectator at ground level to interpret
* to overcome this problem he gradually increased the height of the band as it spirals up the Column (0.9m to 1.25m)
* added colour and metal accessories are now lost
* grooving around the contours of the figures ensured that important elements were still prominent
* since the Column is situated between the two libraries, the upper reliefs would also be visible from the upper floors of these buildings. It is interesting to note that Emperor Constantine used bits and pieces from this forum as materials for his arch. Trajan also built the worlds first shopping mall nearby- Trajans markets are still standing!

The Column's Story
The sculptural reliefs divide about half-way up the Column between the two Dacian campaigns. The story is told, with great variety, through a series of stock themes as the army
* sets out; the lowest band shows the Roman army leaving a city across a bridge of boats, watched by the god of the river
* fortifies its camps; the second band depicts the construction of a Roman camp, supervised by Trajan on the campwall at the right
* in the third band the cavalry and infantry prepare to set out from camp
* gains victories; in the fourth band Trajan in the centre receives an embassy from the Dacians after the first battle
* listens to addresses from the emperor
* engages in battle;
NB. the narrow slits punctuating the sculpture are of 43 which let light into the hollow interior of the Column and on the spiral staircase that leads up the shaft