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Bill Thayer

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Scene 50
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 52

Scenes of the spiral band running up the shaft

 p142  LI. A Battle in the Forest

On the right of the composition is a large space enclosed within a rampart of logs. The timbers are laid longways and across with the greatest regularity.

The artist has tried to represent some parts of this accumulation of timber in perspective. Two soldiers in the foreground within the enclosure are busy manoeuvering a  p143 balista, seen in the accompanying woodcut, while a third removes a piece of timber for the works in progress in the rear, which a fourth begins to shape with his axe. Within and about this pile of wood are the mailed ranks of the legions, drawn up as rallying lines for the velites and auxiliary forces sent on to attack in the front.


Fig. 43

There the battle is maintained with determination on both sides. On that of the Romans there are German auxiliaries, nude to the waist, and armed with clubs and shields, with which they engage the better armed Dacians. Besides the Germans are archers in peaked helmets and coats of mail, and a number of slingers, the latter wear loose tunics tied at the waist and saga, cloaks, in the folds of which, with left arm, they hold a number of stones, which are cast from a sling made of a thong of leather and two cords. They wear a shield on the left arm. The enemy fights with tenacity, and dead and wounded of both armies are lying at the feet of the combatants. The Roman soldiers engaged in this action are seen throwing the hasta, or striking with that weapon held by the middle of the haft. The field of battle is amongst the trees of the forest. To the extreme right, in rear of the combatants, a soldier is hurrying a carrobalista to the front. The machine itself is not seen in profile, but it does not differ from those sculptured elsewhere on the column. The enemy is seen feeding the battle with fresh troops, who hurry through the forest to meet the Romans. Of the latter one is seen in the heart of the Dacian host.

The enemy is busy in his rear cutting down trees to fortify a strong position taken up on the high ground above the scene of the combat. On this the enemy has mounted on his fortifications a balista such as are used by the Romans. The enclosure is of timber and stones, as explained in page 54 of the introduction, strongly braced together, and seems to be intended as a refuge for their beaten forces, as they are seen in various defiles among the rocks hurrying in the direction of this fortified camp. A dragon and a standard in the form of the Roman draco or labarum are carried forward in the same direction. Several men, both in these ranks and in those in the foreground, are covered with the Dacian cap indicating their rank. Two stone  p144 towers in the rear of the Dacian battle are of uncertain attribution. One is placed at the end of a tongue or promontory of high ground. It is built on the edge of a cliff, and strong walls of pointed timber palisades defend the only accessible sides of the tower, the doors of which appear to be approached from the high ground by a drawbridge, so as to be wholly secure from attack. This tower is without a roof, and the hollow top is shewn in perspective. There are fugitives wandering round the defiles between these towers, and two Dacians are cutting timber in the foreground. This whole composition is cut off from the next by the trunk of a tree.

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Page updated: 27 Jan 18