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Bill Thayer

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Scene 25
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.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Scene 27

Scenes of the spiral band running up the shaft

 p130  XXVI. Advance of the Roman legions

The emperor, with his two officers, addresses the troops and gives such instructions as are required. A body of cavalry is sent off at once to meet the enemy who employs that arm himself on this occasion. There are five horses sculptured. The riders are armed with shield and lance, and the lance of the foremost of them is represented in this instance. The whole four at the emperor's command are put in motion at the same time, and apparently the force is inferior to that of the enemy. Standard bearers in their bear skin head-pieces are fighting sword in hand and without their standard poles. German auxiliary troops armed with shields, supplied probably by the Romans, and with their own clubs, are in advance, going at the run. They wear breeches, but are otherwise nude.

The emperor himself, instead of giving directions from an eminence, is mounted and charges at the head of his men. He has a lance in his right hand, and holds his sheathed sword in his left. He has no covering to his head. Before him are two mounted soldiers giving information. They hold up their right hands, pointing over their shoulders in the direction in which the Romans are advancing. These are considered by Francke to be Praetorians.

In the foreground the Roman horses are accoutred with breast straps, to which are hung crescent ornaments of gilt bronze. There are the usual fringed saddle cloths; another has a bridle of rich chain work, and the heels of the riders are kicking the flanks of the horses. Opposed  p131 to them are the horsemen, allies of Decebalus. They are poorly mounted, but their horses or ponies seem to be active and well trained. Men and horses are covered with scale armour down to the feet and are without saddles. The enemy's cavalry is unable to sustain the shock of the Roman knights. One man is falling from his horse, another lies dead, others are in full flight. One rider turns and discharges an arrow at the pursuing Romans, but this part of the field is abandoned, and the scene is closed by a tree, of which the stem reaches the whole height of the spiral.

Another portion of this battle shows the Roman cavalry pursuing the Dacian infantry which has retired to their encampment. With the Roman cavalry are their infantry and auxiliary troops. The Germans are conspicuous in this action. Two of them in the foreground of the composition are urged on by a Roman legionary, who has a wounded Dacian before him. Another helps a Roman who engages two of the enemy. A Dacian in the background defends himself against two Germans. Various hand to hand combats occupy the rest of the field. A wounded Dacian raises his shield against the thrust of a hasta from a mounted Roman. Another, sitting in the foreground, tries to draw the broken point of a lance out of his breast.

The scene is laid in a rocky defile, which seems to have been occupied as a defensible post by the Dacians. Their camp equipage is seen on the level ground above. Three waggons are loaded, one with bags of corn,º one with arms, shields, &c., and on the middle waggon are a Dacian dragon ensign, with various precious vessels. The waggons are four wheeled, and each has a pole and yoke so as to be drawn by two oxen. On the hind wheel of the left hand waggon a naked prisoner has been bound by the Dacians. He has been put to death by torture, and his limbs hang down over the wheel. Two dead bodies of Dacians are lying between the waggon and the combatants in the foreground. The battle has been fought by moonlight, and a graceful figure of a goddess Diana (?) is half seen over the rocks. She holds a scarf that forms an arch over her head. Her arms are nude, her breast covered by a mantle looped over each shoulder, and her head inclined as if looking over into the glen to watch the conflict and encourage her votaries, the Romans. A tree closes this portion of the conflict.

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Page updated: 3 Aug 20