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Bill Thayer

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Scene 33
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 35

Scenes of the spiral band running up the shaft

 p135  XXXIV. Trajan receives help from friendly natives

The emperor is surrounded by three officers. All, with one exception, wear the tunic and pallium clasped over the right shoulder; that of the emperor over the breast. One officer wears his cuirass. They are on the rocky bank of a river, outside the extreme angle of a fortified town, of which an arched gateway and a corner tower, with battlements, are behind the party. Two chiefs of friendly tribes or races are introduced to the emperor. Their hands are extended with a gesture implying confidence, and he stretches out his right hand to them. Two guards are present. These figures have no bonnet or head covering. There is an empty galley in the foreground, in which is a Roman officer or steward addressing the emperor, to whom this and other means of transport are being offered. The galley or row boat is similar to those used by the Romans. The curved stern post is turned back and ends in three bars or strips; on the hip of the curved part is carved the head of a swan turned towards the stern. The covered cuddy or cabin appears to be tiled over with rounded shingles of oak or other wood carefully laid one over the other. On a panel outside the small forecastle in the bow of the vessel is a cupid riding on a hippocamp in the water, and small buttresses are carved on the upper edge. It is fronted by  p136 a projecting pointed nose or cutwater, and is intended as a guard boat. It carries seven oars besides the broad steering paddle. The former are worked through the open diagonal bulwark railing along the sides. With it is a boat with a raised poop, intended for transport purposes. She is laden with cornº sacks and other stores closely packed and corded, which are being landed by the light troops. Amongst these stores are two standards. As standards would hardly have been sent to the legions as mere stores, it is probable that the signiferi have been sent with the soldiers in charge of the stores intended for special divisions or legions. A small building with a pedimental end can be distinguished behind these objects.

 p137  River passage on a bridge of boats.

The accumulation of warlike stores in a fortified place last described has been for the purpose of a further advance in force. Provisions and other munitions are represented as forming an unusually heavy baggage train, and the whole army is now advancing over a bridge of boats to take possession of a fortified place deserted by the enemy, and to penetrate a country difficult of access and of uncertain resources.

The boats in this bridge are four in number only. They are of a different build from those shown in the construction of the bridge thrown over the Danube, being smaller and without the raised poop seen in the former case. The sterns are of the same form raised and cut square at the top, the bows ending in a point. They are such boats as are still in use on many rivers in Italy. The bridge has a boarded fence or bulwark on which is a latticed railing. Piles are not driven into the bed of the river to steady the end of the platform. Three led horses, with shields fastened between the saddle and the saddlecloth precede the emperor, the bridle of each is held by a soldier dressed in the linen cuirass, but without arms or head piece. An attendant soldier armed in a similar cuirass and neckerchief follows these, and immediately in front of the emperor, who is without the superior officers usually seen with him. His left hand holds the pommel of his sheathed sword, and the right holds up his mantle. He is followed closed by the signiferi who bear five standards. Three are those of the manipuli. Of the other two, one is an aquila, and the other is surmounted by a ram standing on an oblong bracket into which the top of the shaft of the ensign is fixed.  p137 This particular ensign appears here for the first and last time. It is here displayed as a sign that the legion will take part in siege operations.

Behind the signiferi march the legionaries whom an officer turns and addresses, apparently ordering them to begin the march. They issue from an arched gateway abutting immediately on the river and from which the platform of the bridge begins. The wall above it is battlemented. At some distance behind, a battlemented wall can be distinguished which is pierced by two arched windows.

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Page updated: 27 Nov 01