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Trajan's Column Rome

Updated on January 16, 2013

Images of Trajan's Column

Trajan's Column
Trajan's Column
Trajan's Market and Trajan's Column
Trajan's Market and Trajan's Column
Ristorante Ulpia
Ristorante Ulpia
Contemplating Trajan's Column
Contemplating Trajan's Column

Visiting Trajan's Column

Uncensored Rome

In the area of ancient Rome, adjacent to Trajan's market and on the Via dei Fori Imperiali - resides a marble column standing 138 feet tall - the exact height of the hill that was leveled to create Trajan's market. It consists of 29 pieces of white marble stacked one upon another. Trajan's column is intricately designed with a 600 foot long battle scene band spiraling around the column. It depicts soldiers preparing for war, Emperor Trajan's victories and his final conquest of the Dacian civilization. The people, who had come to be known as the 'Daci' by the Romans, began to occupy the area of modern day Romania some 3,000 years ago. These ancient people migrated from the Indo-European area and co-mingled with the indigenous Neolithic tribes.

Erected by the Roman senate in the year 113 CE to commemorate Emperor Trajan, the column has 185 steps to the top via a staircase winding through its' interior. It was topped by an eagle when first constructed, later with a statue of Trajan himself and a third time with a statue of St. Peter (this last statue was placed in 1587 by Pope Sixtus IV). The ashes of Trajan and the Empress Pompeia Plotonia were interred at the base of the column. The ashes did not survive to modern times.

Pope Gregory I saved the column from destruction in the sixth century. The Pope was moved by the depiction, in one of the scenes, of Trajan helping a wounded soldier. The Pope prayed for his pagan soul and had the ashes exhumed - according to legend Trajan's still intact tongue told of his escape from Hades. With this miracle the Pope hastened to have the area declared sacred.

The column is very well preserved having been partially buried after the fall of the Roman Empire until the French excavations in 1811 - 1814. The original column was brightly painted in ancient times but is now marble white.

The Battle Scene

The Dacian's had become a nuisance for the Romans since the first century BCE. The first Emperor Caesar had designs to wage a campaign against the Dacians which fell apart following his death in 44 BCE.

The Dacians were constantly crossing the Danube to molest the Roman inhabitants of Moesia. By 101 CE the Emperor Trajan had had enough and mounted a campaign to destroy the Dacians. In the year 101 CE Trajan's armies took victory over Dacian King Decebulus at Tapae and in 102 CE in the area of Hulpe with the eventual capture that year of the Dacian capital of Sarmizegethusa.

The column also depicts Trajan's victorious second campaign in 105 - 107 CE after King Decebulus retook Sarmizegethusa. This time Trajan destroyed the Dacian army and leveled Sarmizegethusa leading to the suicide of King Decebulus. Dacia became an uneasy and difficult to hold province of Rome consisting of Dacia Superior and Dacia Inferior (Transylvania and Wallachia). This would also mark the furthest northern boundary of the Roman Empire.

Sarmizegethusa, at the time of conquest, consisted of temples, fortifications, dwellings on terraces, shops and sacred areas belonging to their pagan god Zalmoxis. The city was a military, religious and political center. The Dacians incorporated knowledge from both Rome and Greece into their society with the use of astronomy, metal working and philosophy. It was located on a 4,000 foot mountain - you can see the excavated area of the abandoned capital in present day Romania.

When the Romans destroyed the city they moved the administrative center of the province to Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegethusa 24 miles away. It would be this ruin that was mistaken for the original - and lost capital of Sarmizegethusa - during 20th century archeological digs.

Interesting Facts

  • Romania is the only modern country named for Rome.
  • Of all the modern languages the one most closely aligned to the Roman ancient tongue is Romanian.
  • So profound was the Roman conquest that it is still common for Romanian male children to be named 'Traian' (Trajan).
  • A communist era automobile was called the 'Dacia' after the ancient people of Romania.
  • Zalmoxis was a single god worshipped by the Dacians before Christianity. Messengers would be sent to Zalmoxis to plead for favors - the way of transport was by lottery and piercing by three lances. There was no return ticket.

If you Go

Take the Metro to the Colosseum (Colosseo) station. You can purchase metro tickets at any Tabacchi shop.

If you decide to also take in the Colosseum at this time be aware that the lines for the regular entrance can be huge - go early on the regular queue or with 'jump the line' tickets purchased on the Via dei Fori Imperiali booths at the Forum. The queue jumping tickets are only available as 3 for 1 (3 attractions on 1 ticket) for 12 Euros (in past years you could purchase just the Colosseum ticket). This gains you entrance to the Forum, Palatine Hill as well as the Colosseum.

To see Trajan's column walk up the Via dei Fori Imperiali, past Trajan's market, the column will be on your right. The market does have a fee but you can see the column for free.

An OK place for light lunch is Ulpia on Via Sant Eufeinia. The outer terrace overlooks the ruins of Trajan's market. Food and service are only acceptable - but for a glass of wine and appetizer it was worth it for the view.

Trajan's market is not well visited by tourists and can make for a quick and interesting stop. It is a remarkably well preserved first century shopping mall - fascinating!

References, 3/22/2012, 3/22/2012, 3/22/2012

Location of Trajan's Column


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    • rwmaurer profile image

      rwmaurer 6 years ago

      Thanks very much for your comment - Rome has many little known treasures.

      I enjoyed your hub on 'Producing Original,Rich Content'

    • profile image

      ctbrown7 6 years ago

      Interesting hub on something I've never heard about. Thanks.