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Bill Thayer

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Scene 93
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 95

Scenes of the spiral band running up the shaft

 p171  XCIV. Distribution of cornº to the legionaries

The emperor distributes rewards to his soldiers in the shape of allowances, annonae, of corn. The scene is a space outside the praetorium of a Roman encampment. The place is an old Dacian oppidum, the same that has already been represented as the capital, or one of the capital towns of Decebalus. In the right-hand angle, high on a point of rock, appears a fountain or natural well. It is arched over, a basin is formed in the recess by building up a wall to the spring of the arch, and a channel of stone-work has been made to bring the water into the town.

A number of soldiers are carrying their allowances in large sacks, which are filled from a modius, a wooden vessel, hooped, containing something under two gallons (1·92) of our measure.a The sacks are full and heavy, and are carried on the shoulder, the men grip the mouth of the sack with one hand, and the weight of the grain falls to the two ends; the opening in the middle requiring to be held carefully.

Thayer's Note:

a American readers: the gallon here is the British Imperial gallon (1.2 U. S. gallons) and these 1.92 Imperial gallons thus convert to 2.31 U. S. gallons, equivalent to 8.73 liters; the conversion factor used by Pollen is from the popular New Classical Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography, Mythology, and Geography by Sir William Smith (1851).

I've seen modern estimates of the modius ranging from 8.5 to 8.7 liters, but Smith's conversion, based on values of the Roman pound derived from coinage, is probably still best. Daremberg & Saglio, s.v. Modius, give a figure of 8.754 liters, deriving it from the measured volume of 1 cubic Roman foot, where the foot is known with some precision to be 296 mm. For a discussion of the different methods, see Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1875), art. Quadrantal. The reader will notice that the conversion factors obtained differ by very little.

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Page updated: 18 Aug 20