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Column of Trajan, reception of  

Elizabeth R. Macaulay

Since Late Antiquity, architects, leaders, and nations have emulated, adapted, and reinterpreted the Column of Trajan. Its appeal has been due to its height, ability to dominate the surrounding landscape, and complex spiral reliefs detailing the emperor Trajan’s annexation of Dacia as a Roman province. Its form has inspired countless honorific, triumphal, and commemorative monuments in the post-antique era.

Honorary columns were erected in Rome, possibly as early as 439bce; they were certainly known by 318bce. Rostral columns—columns with the beaks of captured warships attached—were erected in 260 and 255bce to celebrate Roman victories over the Carthaginians. None were so important in the tradition of erecting monumental, honorific, columns as the Column of Trajan (figure 1). Erected by the Senate in the Forum of Trajan in honour of Trajan’s two successful campaigns in Dacia (101–102ce; 105–106ce), it stood between the forum’s two libraries and the Basilica Ulpia. The Column (38 m tall and 3.7 m in diameter) was topped by a bronze statue (4.7 m) of Trajan in military attire. The column is hollow and contains a spiral staircase to the platform at the top of the column’s capital. The Column is famous for the finely carved helical sculptural relief program that depicted the Dacian wars. If rolled out, this frieze would be approximately 200 m long. There are 155 scenes with more than 2,600 figures, each at about two-thirds life size. The height of the frieze increases, as it spirals up the Column, from 0.89 m to 1.25 m.


damnatio memoriae  

John Percy Vyvian Dacre Balsdon and Barbara Levick

After the deaths of persons deemed by the senate enemies of the state, measures to erase their memory might follow. Originally there was no set package, as the phrase implies (cf. Ulp.Dig. 24. 1. 32. 7) but a repertoire (Tac.Ann. 3. 17. 8–18. 1): images might be destroyed (*Sejanus; *Valeria Messal(l)ina), and their display penalized (L. *Appuleius Saturninus, 98 bce), the name erased from inscriptions, and a man's praenomen banned in his family (Livy 6. 20. 14; 384 bce!). With emperors their acts were abolished. *Claudius prevented the senate from condemning *Gaius (1) (Cass. Dio 60. 4. 5); but decrees were passed against *Domitian (Suet.Dom.23), *Commodus (SHA Comm. 20), and *Elagabalus (SHA Heliogab.17).


triumphal arches, reception of  

Kimberly Cassibry

Triumphal arches originated in the Roman Empire and have been constructed for over two thousand years. These free-standing portals are more accurately known as arch monuments, commemorative arches, or honorific arches due to their diverse functions. Arcuated shapes allow these monuments to span significant roads; multiple façades create space for dedicatory inscriptions, relief sculptures, and statues. Varied reception of this fundamental design concept—a free-standing portal with words and images—is evident in each commemorative arch. Reception of individual arch monuments can be traced through descriptions, representations, and interventions.

The Roman arches dedicated to the emperors Titus (c. 81 ce), Septimius Severus and his sons (c. 203 ce), and Constantine I (315 ce) have strongly influenced the monument’s modern reception, even though they do not represent the monument’s full range of ancient designs and functions. In major European revivals since antiquity, ephemeral arches have adorned political processions, and permanent monuments have commemorated imperial military victories. In the 20th century, arch monuments arose in cities around the globe, often amid debates about national identity.