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Bill Thayer

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Scene 52
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 54

Scenes of the spiral band running up the shaft

 p144  LIII. Attack and defeat of the enemy

Trajan again attacks the enemy. The van of the Roman army is composed of auxiliaries of the same nationalities as those employed in the last great battle. The Germans are nude to the waist, and have no offensive weapons but clubs; a figure in a loose tunic in the foreground holds a number of stones in a fold of his coat with his left arm. He is not slinging, but throwing these with his right. Archers in jerkins or short frocks of scaled mail and conical head-pieces are beyond these barbarous skirmishers, and beyond them come the lighter troops of the legion, behind whom are drawn up the gravis armatura in rallying  p145 lines and columns. The enemy is pressed back to his fortifications; numbers lie dead, but the fight is maintained stoutly nevertheless. The shields of the Romans and Dacians in rival lines are seen crashing together in the shock of battle. A Dacian is kneeling that he may thrust his own shield within the guard of that of his adversary so as to deliver a fair blow with his weapon.

The enemy cannot long stand the Roman charge, and is seen pressed back into a stronghold fortified with palisades and planks, in which he seeks refuge, leaving the ground strewed with his dead and wounded. Part of this fort is covered in, and part an open court fortified in the manner already described.

A desperate stand appears to have been made on all sides of this fort or enclosure. The enemy defends himself from within it, and the Romans advance and storm the place by means of the peculiar formation for attack known as the testudo. They hold their shields, which are oblong, square, and curved, so as to lap slightly over each other over their heads and backs, and a similar use of the shield defends the flank of the column of attack. Of them, accordingly, in this bas-relief we see the legs only. The slope of the whole surface of shields protects the men so well that ordinary missiles, even stones of great weight rolled down the slope harmlessly, the shock of impact being in the case of stones, &c. distributed over so large a surface. The walls do not seem to have required a second rank over the first, or if so the artist has not shown it. The legs of the men supporting the testudo are in exact and studied regularity of posture, so as to give full effect to their power of support when thus combined.

The enemy tries with sword and shield to make some impression on the attack, but in vain, and the place is carried by storm.

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Page updated: 3 Aug 20