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Bill Thayer

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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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Other architectural and engineering works or the emperor Trajan

Besides the forum, column, arch, libraries, one for Greek, one for Latin books, and his temple, Trajan added much to the splendour of Rome. He "prolonged," says Merivale, the series of halls and porticoes which decorated the Campus Martius. He constructed a theatre in the same quarter, which was remarkable for its circular shape; another gymnasium and another odeum consecrated to the display of Grecian arts and accomplishments; new thermae, the site of which was near to those of Titus, if indeed they were not actually an extension of the Flavian edifice."118 He brought a tenth aqueduct into Rome from the lake Sabatinus, perhaps completed the arch of Titus. He enlarged the new constructions of the Circus Maximus partly destroyed by Nero's fire.

Out of Rome he made, lengthened, or repaired numerous roads. The Appian way, that along the shores of the Adriatic, from Beneventum to Brundisium, and one in the fourteenth region of Rome itself. Others were made through his native Spain, besides those I have described in the north of Germany, and in his Dacian conquests. Francke gives the various inscriptions alluding to these works in detail.119 He established posts, runners to carry letters, and travelling regulations along all the great roads of the empire.

Besides the bridges over the Danube, Trajan constructed bridges over the Rhine, the Euphrates, the Tigris, the Araxes, the Tagus at Alcantara and Aqua Flavia, and over the Tormus and the Aufidus in Spain. His baths and aqueducts were placed at numerous cities and stations. He made the ports of Centum Cellae (Civita Vecchia), still in use: those of Ostia, Ancona, and of Parentium in Istria.

 p94  In the British Museum is a relic of the vessel which perhaps he built and launched as a temporary summer residence on the lake Nemi.120

The triumphal arches of Ancona and Beneventum were erected by this emperor. There seems scarcely a dependency of the Roman empire, or an important city within it, in which Trajan did not leave some memorial of his splendour, and to enumerate them completely would be impossible, nor do I propose more than a general account of them in this place.

A second column of shape, design, and proportions very similar to that of Trajan, was erected to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus in the year 174, now standing in the Piazza Colonna in Rome. It is within a fraction of the same height, but the shaft is less tapering, being between seven and eight diameters in height, instead of eight. The sculptures are in higher relief. They represent the war against the Marcomanni.

This account would be incomplete without some notice of an imitation of the column in our own era cast in bronze, erected in Paris and destroyed two years ago.

The column in the Place Vendôme, destroyed in 1871, was designed on the model of that of Antoninus. The height of the whole is 133 feet (according to Murray's handbook 143 feet (?) by 12). There are eagles on the four corners of the cornice. The bas-reliefs represent the principal actions of the campaign of 1805, "depuis le départ des troupes du camp de Boulogne jusqu'à la conclusion de la paix après la battailleº d'Austerlitz."121 The spiral thread that separates the sculptures contains the names and descriptions of the subjects. It was intended to support the statue of Charlemagne, but Napoleon placed his own there instead. In 1831 Napoleon's statue, dressed as a Roman emperor, was replaced by that of him as General Buonaparte, by Seurre. It was again changed to an exact copy of the earlier figure by Napoleon the Third in 1862.

The Author's Notes:

118 Hist. of the Romans under the Empire, LXIII.

119 Gesch. Trajans, 577 s.99

120 As early as 1485 an ancient ship, believed to have been built by Trajan, was discovered in this lake. C. T. Newton, Guide to the Blacas Collection, B. Mus., p35.

121 Vaugelas, Soixante Vues, &c.

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Page updated: 27 Nov 01