The Trajan Column is a monument erected in Rome in the Forum Trajan in the second century AD. It was erected to celebrate the conquest of Dacia (present-day Romania) by the Emperor Trajan, and commemorates all the salient moments of that territorial expansion.

It is possible that a closer view of the column could be obtained by climbing up onto the terraces covering the lateral nave of the Basilica Ulpia or onto those that probably also covered the porticoes in front of the two libraries. An “abbreviated” reading was also possible without the necessity of going around its shaft to follow the entire story. It was enough to follow the scenes in a vertical order, since their superimposition in the different coils seems to follow a coherent logic.

The narrative, which is articulated along the 200 meters of the frieze, is rigorously organized, with chronistic intentions. Following the tradition of triumphal painting, not only the “salient” scenes of the battles are represented. There are also scenes of marching, those regarding the transfer of troops (12 episodes) and those on the construction of camps and infrastructure (17 scenes, represented with extreme detail). In this scansion of the events appear then the significant events from the political point of view, to which are added some scenes more specifically propagandistic.

Some examples? The torture of Roman prisoners by the Dacians, the speech of Decebalus, the suicide of Dacian leaders with poison. But also the presentation of the head of Decebalus to Trajan and the removal of the royal treasure.

The Trajan Column was an absolute novelty in ancient art and became the most avant-garde point of arrival for the Roman historical relief. It is considered by most to be the most sublime work of the brilliant Apollodorus of Damascus, Trajan’s favorite artist.

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