Trajan AR Denarius. Struck 115 AD. Trajan's column: statue of Trajan atop

Ancient Coins - Trajan AR Denarius. Struck 115 AD. Trajan's column: statue of Trajan atop
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 Trajan AR Denarius. Struck 115 AD. IMP TRAIANO AVG GER DAC PM TRP COS VI P P, laureate draped bust right / SPQR OPTIMO PRINCIPI, Trajan's column: statue of Trajan atop column on base, two eagles at base of column. RIC 292, RSC 558. S0991
Trajan's Column

Trajan's Column

Trajan's Column is a monument in Rome raised in honour of the Roman emperor Trajan and constructed by 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, the freestanding column is most famous for its spiral bas relief, which commemorates Trajan's victory 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 20 colossal Carrara marble drums, each weighing about 40 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 at a height of ca. 34 m.[1]

According to coins depicting the column, it was originally topped with a statue of a bird, an eagle,[2] and later by a heroically nude statue of Trajan himself which disappeared in the Middle Ages. On December 4 1587[3] it was replaced by a statue of St. Peter (which still remains), commissioned by Pope Sixtus V.



[edit] The relief

Roman carroballista, a cart-mounted field artillery (relief 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 and the successs 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 (not superhuman), makes 59 appearances among his troops.

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

Base of Trajan's Column around 1860
Dacian warriors storm the Roman fortifications

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.[1]

[edit] Purpose

Trajan's final address to his victorious troops (right), after the native Dacian population had departed (left)

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 Vendome, 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.)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Trajan (98-117 AD) was responsible for a great expansion of the Roman Empire and its economy. This and his long reign have given us an abundance of coin types in the highest artistic style of Roman coin art.

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