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p132 Columna M. Aurelii Antonini

Article on pp132‑133 of

Samuel Ball Platner (as completed and revised by Thomas Ashby):
A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome,
London: Oxford University Press, 1929.

Columna M. Aurelii Antonini: the column erected between 176 and 193 A.D. to commemorate the victories of Marcus Aurelius over the Marcomanni and Sarmatians in 172‑175 (Aur. Vict. Caes. 16: patres ac vulgus soli omnia decrevere templa columnas sacerdotes; Ep. 16: ob cuius honorem templa columnae multaque alia decreta sunt) on the west side of the via Lata, opposite the campus Agrippae; it is still standing. An inscription (CIL VI.1585) found near its west side records the building of a separate lodge for the procurator of the column in August-September, 193. In this inscription the column is called columna centenaria divorum Marci et Faustinae, columna divi Marci, columna Centenaria, and columna centenaria divi Marci; and in Reg. (Reg. IX) columna Cochlis, either because of the spiral band of relief surrounding it (cf. Cels. 8.10.1: fascia circa fracturam ter voluta sursum versum feratur et quasi in cochleam serpat), or because of the spiral staircase in the interior (cf. Thes. Ling. Lat. s.v. for the use of cochlea in this sense, both literally and metaphorically), as Isid. Orig. 15.2.38 suggests. It was called centenaria because it was one hundred feet high.

This monument was more carefully preserved than most of those in Rome, having been given in the tenth century by Popes Agapetus II and John XII to the Benedictines of S. Silvestro in capite, with the little church of S. Andrea de Columna1 (HCh 182, 183), but it suffered somewhat from fire and earthquake. In the sixteenth century repairs were made by the municipal authorities, and also by Sixtus V in 1589 and the following year, when Fontana, his architect, placed on top of the column the present statue of St. Paul. He also chiselled off from the pedestal what remained of the reliefs on its four sides — sacrificial scenes with Victories and garlands — and encased its upper part, above ground, with marble, some of which came from the Septizonium (LS III.146‑149). The dedicatory inscription had long ago disappeared, and is not recorded by any author.

The column is a direct imitation of that of Trajan, the height of shaft, torus, and capital being the same, 100 Roman feet (29.77 metres), but tapers less and therefore seems more massive. The shaft itself, 26.50 metres in height and 3.90 in diameter, is composed of 26 rings of Luna marble. It is hollow, and contains a spiral stairway with 200 steps. The interior is lighted by 56 rectangular loop-holes. Therefore the statement of Reg. (Reg. IX: columnam cochlidem altam pedes CLXXV.s, gradus intus habet CCIII, fenestras LVI) is incorrect in its first two items. p133The shaft stands on a plinth and torus decorated with oak leaves, 1.385 metres high, and its capital is 1.5 metres in height and of the Doric order. The exterior of the shaft is adorned with reliefs arranged in a spiral band which returns upon itself twenty-one times. These reliefs represent scenes in the campaigns of Aurelius and correspond to those on the column of Trajan, but are inferior in execution (for the explanation of these columns as book-rolls, see Birt, quoted under Forum Traiani). It is probable that the temple of Aurelius (see Divus Marcus, Templum) stood just west of the column, and that both were surrounded by a porticus (for column and reliefs, see the definitive work of Petersen, Domaszewski und Calderini, Die Marcussäule auf piazza Colonna, Munich 1896; and S.Sculpt. 273‑291; AA 1896, 2‑18; PBS V.181; HJ 606‑607; Zeitsch. f. Ethnologie, 1915, 75‑91; AJA 1918, 213; DuP 119‑121; SScR 263‑279; ASA 122.

The Authors' Note:

1 There was also a church of S. Lucia de Columna (HCh 302).

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Page updated: 13 Sep 06