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oman Architecture - Pillars Of Victory

( Originally Published 1921 )



Pillars of Victory or memorial columns were erected to record triumphs of victorious generals.

Trajan's Column, Rome (A.D. 114) (p. 182), was in connection with his Basilica and stood in an open colonnaded court carrying galleries at different levels, from which the bas-reliefs on its shaft could be viewed

(P. 157 B).

" The sculptures wind aloft
And lead, through various toils, up the rough steep
The hero to the skies."

It is a Roman Doric column with a total height of 115 ft. 7 ins. In the pedestal, ornamented with sculptured trophies, is an entrance to the tomb chamber of Trajan. The shaft, 12 ft. 2 ins. in diameter, contains a spiral staircase lighted by small openings and was surmounted by a statue of Trajan, since replaced by that of S. Peter. The bas-reliefs illustrating incidents of Traj an's war with the Dacians were probably intended to represent the unwinding of a parchment scroll (p. 182 E, F). There are 2,500 human figures, full of dramatic vigour, and many incidents of military campaigning by land and water, all carved on a spiral band over 800 ft. long and about 3 ft. 6 ins. wide. There is a full-sized plaster reproduction in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The Column of Antoninus Pius, Rome (A.D. 161), of which the pedestal now stands in the great hemicycle of the Giardino della Pigna of the Vatican, was founded on the design of Trajan's column.

The Column of Marcus Aurelius, Rome (A.D. 174) (p. 182), was erected in the Piazza Colonna to commemorate the Emperor's victory on the Danube. It resembles Trajan's column and formerly stood in front of a temple dedicated to the Emperor. The marble pedestal is surmounted by a shaft 97 ft. 3 ins, high and 13 ft. 2 ins. in diameter, carved with remarkable spiral reliefs. The top is reached by 197 steps and was crowned by the statue of Marcus Aurelius till it was replaced (A.D. 1589) in the time of Pope Sixtus V by the existing statue of S. Paul. The spiral band winds round the column in twenty tiers, and represents the campaigns of Marcus Aurelius against the German tribes north of the Danube. One relief (p. 182 H) shows Marcus Aurelius, and another (p. 182 j) represents a pontoon bridge over which Roman troops with baggage are passing.

Rostral columns (pp. 140 A, 182 G) were frequently erected in the time of the Emperors to celebrate naval victories, and took their name from the rostra, or prows of captured ships, with which they were embellished, while an inscription recorded the deeds which led to their erection.



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