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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Trajan's Greatest Boast

The Column of Trajan

   In order to ensure his continuing memory after his time, Trajan placed this astounding column in the center of his forum.  Sculpted out of a hundred foot tall marble slate, the structure was topped with a bronze statue of the man himself.  However, during the Renaissance  this was replaced, and the statue moved to ground level on the forum, and will be explained further.
   Like most arches found in ancient Rome, this column tells a story.  Trajan used the column, masterfully created by Apollodorus, to remind the citizens to come of his victory in the two Dacian Wars, which took place during the early second century.  Before he became an emperor, Trajan had to prove himself in battle.  By presenting oneself as a dignified warrior, an emperor was usually more able keep a firm grasp of power.  While still a simple soldier, he was positioned off of the Danube River in the year 99 CE.  While there, he began to believe that the Dacians, who dwelled on the other side of the body of water, had great sums of gold.  This was a reasonable belief, since the mountains along this territory were rich in ore deposits.  His ability to have supervised the region for so long was clearly an asset during this war.
By the time he was an emperor, he had hoped that defeating these people and taking the region would fill the Empire's emptying coffers.  Simply put, in order for the Empire to expand, wages must be met for soldiers to go to the ends of the earth.  This column testifies to his handling of the situation and a continuation of the Empire through his work with the Senate.  Generally, Romans felt uncomfortable having any competition for control, so eliminating this threat proved to kill two birds with one full scale invasion.  Incredibly detailed, as expected from an architect such as Apollodorus, commonly thought of as the greatest of his time, this column depicts every single battle and action that occurred in said war, beginning with the first steps onto enemy soil and ending with the capture of the Dacian King Decebolus.  However, what can be described within a moderate amount of time is that the Romans eliminated the advancing threat provided by this Germanic tribe.  In turn, Rome gained the coveted gold mines in the Carpathian Mountains and therefore was able to continue to spread it's dominance throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa.
   While the column now displays a bronze statue of Saint Peter, patron saint and first bishop of Rome, carrying his trademark "keys to the kingdom" in one hand and a book in the other, the column was originally topped by a giant bronze statue of the emperor himself.  Clearly putting himself into an Augustus of Primaporta-esque pose, the man clearly had an assertion to be remembered as one of the greatest emperors alongside Augustus himself.  This near obsession with becoming unforgettable is continued through the incredibly lengthy base he put under the column.  On this base, he lists every single political position that he has held, his relation to Caesar himself, his destruction of various German tribes, and his lasting position as "Patri Patriae" or Father of the Nation, an incredibly boastful title for a man who was clearly going to be remembered through his works alone.

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