Column of Trajan
Date 106-13 CE
Though commemorative columns date back to Hellenistic times, none of the monumentalism displayed in this work had yet to be created. The column was built within a small court adjacent to Trajan’s Forum, functioning as a belvedere that allowed visitors to view the Emperor’s other structures from the column’s summit.
The narrative, beginning at its base and continuing for 656 feet, recounts the Emperor’s numerous military conquests over the Dacians; here, Trajan conducts his troops across the Danube, later addressing them and organizing them for battle. Actual conflict is portrayed sparsely throughout the entire narrative. Viewers, of course, would have had difficulty following the narrative, given its wrapping, rising nature; it is thought that they may have had access to the balconies of surrounding buildings; further, scholars have noted that key points of the narrative are placed at the column’s cardinal points, allowing the viewer to note the key elements from one side. The sculptors employed the inclusion of buildings and vegetation to subtly separate scenes from one another.