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Bill Thayer

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Scene 24
This webpage reproduces a section of
A Description of the Trajan Column
by John Hungerford Pollen

printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode,
printers to Queen Victoria
London, 1874

Text and engravings are in the public domain.
Any color photographs are © William P. Thayer 1997-


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Scene 26


 p127  XXV. Preparation for a fresh campaign.

The head-quarters of the Roman army are fixed in a town well built, and made the seat of a Roman colony. It is surrounded by walls, and has a defensible post in the river, which is entered by an arch, which has something of the character of those erected by the emperor at Ancona and Beneventum. An open place or forum is surrounded by buildings of no great architectural pretension, but still carefully constructed, and having the characteristics of Roman civil architecture. One has a colonnade of these arches in front. The town gate is under a lofty arch, such  p128 as the gate of Augustus at Perugia, and an amphitheatre is carefully sculptured. It stands on arches, as does that of Nismes, and has a row of square windows round the periphery of the upper corridor, which may be supposed to give access to the higher benches. Rows of seats down to the ground can be distinguished over the top, as the artist has shown this in a perspective method. This portion of the town appears to be external to the rest, or to occupy a height which, without being detached, may form a separate quarter.

Immense activity is shown in the landing of stores and of the preparations in this place for an immediate advance, probably for a second passage of the Danube by a separate portion of the Roman army. Convoys of large transport boats are seen bringing stores of all kinds, which are landed by soldiers of the garrison. Besides cornº the first vessel carries stores of arms, shields, and light armour. The boats are protected by liburnians, light vessels of war, carrying two or three banks of oars. Sacks of grain are seen corded carefully over. The vessel in front has two banks of oars. It carries a small poop covered by an awning for the commanding officer. It is steered by broad-bladed paddles on either quarter. The stern post curves over the top of the poop awning, and ends in an ornament composed of three curves, like feathers, and a gallery defended by an open latticed bulwark runs round the raised portion.

Two ranks of slaves pull the oars, the lower ranks within the upper. The upper row of oars are put through the latticed bulwark that protects a gallery running fore and aft the entire length of each side of the vessel. A man in the bow secures the rope by which she is moored.

This armed vessel has entered the port under the arch already referred to which stands apparently over the water joining the two ends of a mole, so as to span the entrance with some facility for closing it by means of a chain. The boats represented pass under it. It has one arch in the front, and the ends are pierced by smaller arches. It stands on a dado, has a shallow attic above the arch, on the top is a quadriga, a chariot drawn by four horses, intended probably to hold a statue of the conqueror. Outside the arch are other boats following the first one, and others rowing in the opposite direction carrying stores and ammunitions of war to a strong place represented in the next composition. Of those entering the arch one conveys four horses. It is a smaller boat than the first described, and  p129 is sculled by one rower. The stern of the boat rises high and turns over; it is square on the end, having bluff bows of the build still in use in Holland. One of the boats rowing away has two rowers and a steerer sitting in the stern, who manages a paddle on the boat's quarter. To this boat there is a flat deck or platform raised on four uprights high enough for the men to walk under. They appear to be soldiers, as two shields are on this platform overhead, and a soldier's knapsack and long-handled pot are hung to one of the uprights.

Inside the town in which these munitions are being stored the emperor is mustering and addressing the legions. The signiferi are round the spot on which he stands. Three standards of manipuli are to be distinguished. The emperor is without armour, and, besides his standard-bearer, is surrounded by a numerous guard.

An immediate advance is not made from this place, but the army appears to be pushed across the river to a strong place, which is close to the theatre of the proposed campaign.

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Page updated: 27 Nov 01