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Italian Renaissance Learning Resources

In collaboration with the National Gallery of Art

Rome: Trajan’s Column

Monument in the Forum of Trajan (see §2(V) above), covered in relief carving, which was dedicated 18 May AD 113. The inscription over its door (Corp. Inscr. Lat., vi, 960) indicates that it commemorated Trajan’s accomplishment in excavating the Quirinal Hill and building his forum and markets, which are visible (through 43 windows) from the inner stair and crowning platform. Eight blocks form the base (26.83 sq. m, h. 5.37 m), entered by a door in the south-east face; its chamber received Trajan’s ash-urn at his death in AD 117 (Dio: Roman History XLVIII.xvi.3); if Titus’ ashes (d AD 81) were in the attic of the Arch of Titus, intramural burial had precedent. The Tuscan Doric column held a colossal bronze Trajan c. 5.5 m tall, of which the head (now lost) was 694 mm; coins of AD 113 show a heroic nude, a spear in the right hand. The 29.78 m Luna marble shaft (17 drums, each 1.44 m high with diameters tapering from 3.83 m to 3.66 m) made with the capital a columna centenaria of 100 Roman feet. Column portraits were traditional in Rome from the 5th century BC; new were the shaft’s spiral narrative relief and internal stair of 185 steps.

Ann Kuttner