The Column of Marcus Aurelius (Latin: Columna Centenaria Divorum Marci et Faustinae, Ital. The Colonna di Marco Aurelio is a Doric column located in Rome's Piazza Colonna, named after it. Piazza Colonna). Built between 176 and 192 to commemorate the Marcomanian War of Marcus Aurelius, it was based on Trajan's column.
The height of the column is 29.6 m, its pedestal is 10 m. The total height of the monument was 41.95 m, but 3 meters of its base after the restoration of 1589 were below the surface of the earth. According to various sources, the shaft of the column consists of 27 or 28 blocks of Karar marble with a diameter of 3.7 meters. Like Trajan's column, it is hollow, inside there is a spiral staircase with 190-200 steps leading to the top, where in ancient times a sculpture of Marcus Aurelius was installed. The stairwell is illuminated through small slits.
The relief of the column of Marcus Aurelius differs markedly from the relief of Trajan's column by its greater expressiveness. The play of light and shadow is much more pronounced on it, since the stone carving is deeper, the heads of figures are slightly enlarged to more accurately convey facial expressions. At the same time, there is a decrease in the level of elaboration of details of weapons and clothing.
The base was decorated with reliefs lost during the restoration carried out by Domenico Fontana in 1589, when on top, instead of the original depicting the Roman emperor, a bronze statue of St. Paul was placed. A spiral staircase runs through the interior, receiving light from small crevices.
Along the surface of the Column, in a continuous frieze covering the entire shaft, the narrative of the two military campaigns of Marcus Aurelius against the Germans (172-173) and against the Sarmatians (174-175) is conducted separately from the personification of the winged Victory, writing the triumph of the Roman Empire on an oval shield.
The oldest and most famous series of photographic reproductions of the marble frieze dates back to 1896 and was published in the volume Die Marcus-Säule auf Piazza Colonna in Rome, edited by Eugen Petersen, Alfred von Domaszewski and Guglielmo Calderini. In this edition, a division of the frieze into individual scenes (from I to CXVI) was established, which was subsequently adopted in all industry studies.
The following photos were taken in 1988 by Roman photographer Pasquale Rizzi on behalf of the Rome Archaeological Survey and show the state of preservation of the Column at that time.
The images fully reproduce the frieze covering the shaft in 21 turns, from bottom to top and to the left. The beginning of the turns is located on the axis of the slots corresponding to the original door of the base. Four window axes divide each reel into quadrants. Each quadrant is represented in 4 photos, each turn in 16 photos. The photos show overlap by 1/3 or 1/2 of the figure; the sequence is slower in accordance with failures and new projects.
Next to each series of images is also reproduced a description of scenes from the text by Tom C. Caprino, A. M. Colini, J. Gatti, M. Pallottino, P. Romanelli, the Column of Marcus Aurelius, illustrated by the municipality. Rome (Studies and materials from the Museum of the Roman Empire, 5, published in Rome, for Bretschneider's Erma types, 1955
Photos of the reliefs are divided into two sections: the first relates to the campaign of 172-173 AD, the second-to the German-Sarmatian war of 174-175 AD. In an additional section, a description of Marcus Aurelius ' Germanic Wars, written by Dio Cassius (Roman History, LXXI, summary of Xiphylinus), published by Filippo Coarelli in La Colonna di Marco Aurelio, Rome, ed. Colombo, 2008.
Scene 1: Houses, stockade and guardhouse along the Danube
Four houses line the banks of the Danube, on the outer side of a palisade that may have covered the port of Carnunto. The first, second and fourth have a Roman structure: two are built of stone, a square structure of the isodomic type and covered with gable tile roofs.
Being outside the palisade, the second, third and fourth houses, in turn, are surrounded by defensive fences made up for Roman-type houses from pointed poles, very similar to lime trees .. The slightly open door of the fence of the second house has a hammer in the form of a lion's head. On the other hand, the structure of the third and its enclosure is different. It is of the native type, covered, it seems, with layers of reeds even in the gable roof, and with a quadrangular plan; the enclosure consists of poles separated from each other, connected by horizontal lintels, and the windows are similar to those of Roman-type houses, and the arched door is of the local type, usually in houses of this type depicted on the column. Behind the houses are piles of logs, reeds, and hay gathered around a central pole used for remote signaling, and three guardhouses with Roman sentries facing the river next to them, armed with a spear in their right hand, leaning on the ground. , and to the left of the shield. The security rooms are protected by palisades equipped with an observation deck, and from the window of one of them protrudes a pole, which Petersen considers a lantern.
Scene 2. River connection to Carnunto
On the banks of the Danube is the village of Carnunto, the emperor's headquarters. Barrels and perhaps crates are piled up on the embankment of the small river port; three full boats are parked near the shore, and in two of them, the first and third, two Roman soldiers unload or load barrels. The palisade surrounds the settlement here, which surprises with its beautiful construction: a building with a colonnade with columns and pillars, houses built in the form of a square and in which numerous windows open, a two-story building. A tree stands in front of one of them, and cypresses adorn the courtyard of another, perhaps not a private house, but a sanctuary.
Scene 3. The Romans cross the Danube.
In the cave, from the waves of the river rises the personification of the Danube, the bearded one, from which only the upper part is visible, visible from the back, but obviously imagined lying down, according to the iconographic scheme common to the river. deities; a god with a benevolent expression and outstretched right hand invites the Roman army to cross the river.
The crossing takes place on a stable bridge, as indicated by two arches rising at the end, supported by nine boats and a parapet. The rear of the column, which runs in three rows, consists of legionnaires with lorica segmentata on their tunic, some also with pterigs and helmets topped with plumes, oval shields, a spear and sword hanging on the right side. cingulum . In the center is the emperor (whose face is badly damaged), dressed in armor and a vest, holding a spear in his lowered left hand. Next to him are two officers, one of whom may be a Pompeian, the son-in-law of Marcus Aurelius, and the other, unrecognizable, without armor, but with a spear in his right hand.
The Emperor's horse, harnessed and richly saddled, is led by one of the three bodyguards who follow him. One of them wears a lorica hamata (knitted cuirass), and the other, who also wears a valley shield, a lorica scaly cuirass; the third has no armor visible because it is covered by a horse. All three of them have helmets with a hanging ring, they wear something like sagumai and are armed with spears. The march is opened by other legionnaires, two cornichins with a knitted cuirass and wild hide on their heads, a guardsman with a knitted cuirass, breeches and sagum, who leads the horse under the reins, and a standard bearer, also with a knitted cuirass and clothes covered with wild leather.
The Danube was first crossed by the Romans in 172 to advance on enemy soil. According to Domaszewski, the transition of the Romans took place in Carnunto (today Petronell), according to Gnirs, instead of Bratislava (formerly Presburgo).
Scene 4: Marcus Aurelius ' Address to the Army
On a rocky rise, between the four characters of the retinue, stands the emperor with a spear and a vest, but without armor. On either side of the podium are two signifera with scaly lorics and a wild hide on their heads, and a curved rod bearer, possibly a lictor without ligaments; below, legionnaires (left) and imperial bodyguards (right) are facing the emperor, who is delivering an adlocutio preceding the start of hostilities.
Scene 5. Roman march to a stable camp
The stage is badly damaged. Knights and infantrymen with flags and insignia move forward, accompanied by two knights in vestments, one of whom could be Marcus Aurelius, in front of a castle or stable built in a square shape. This castle hints to Zwicker that even before the great offensive began, the Romans built this fortification to protect an important road along the Morava River (the ancient Marus, a tributary of the Danube).
Scene VI. The sacrifice
Here, too, the image was badly damaged, and many details were restored by Petersen for comparison with similar scenes in Trajan's column. It seems to depict the lustratio exercitus, that is, the sacrifice that precedes the outbreak of war. In the stable or castle from the previous scene, near which he stands guard, a figure wearing a toga appears to identify himself with Marcus Aurelius, surrounded by his retinue. The animals of his ovetaurilia , a bull, a ram and a wild boar led by Camilli , were also identified , and finally the officials, victims, and wind musicians seen through the door.
Scene 7. The Romans, having reached an abandoned German settlement, destroy it.
After the door of scene 6, Petersen recognized the footprints of a Roman reclining on the ground with his head disappearing in the background against the wall, against which a shield is leaning and a horse next to it. Zwicker does not accept Petersen's interpretation that he is a fugitive or a messenger, a messenger that would cause a sortie of knights, infantry, legionnaires, and bodyguards rushing to the right, while upstairs some observers watch the scene. The tracks of the transport wagon were also identified by Petersen. Ahead is the emperor with his spear lowered to the left, who, along with two retinues, watches the entry of soldiers into the abandoned village and its destruction. Houses are set on fire with torches; at the edge, two legionnaires, one of whom has laid down a shield, also seem to be working on the destruction with a pickaxe. Next to them grazes a horse, obviously a Roman knight, because it is harnessed, and the seeds are depicted, clearly hinting that it has a summer effect. Four houses in the village have a round plan, and the fifth – square. They are built of logs connected at intervals by a tangle of ropes. After while the fifth one will appear square. After lustratio (scene 6), the army crossed the border of the empire.
Scene 8. German horsemen in the presence of the Emperor
On a rocky ascent, in front of the large tent of the Roman camp, the wall of which is depicted below, Marcus Aurelius in armor, waistcoat and spear on the left, surrounded by three officers, receives two Germans on horseback without saddle and bit, led by a standard-bearer in knitted armor and other warriors, apparently vexillatio. With the two barbarians on horseback, Zwicker, along with Petersen and the others, does not believe they are prisoners, but rather deserters begging for protection. At the same time, the assumption falls that they are facing the same fate that threatens the barbarian above at the hand of a Roman officer holding a sword against him, a fate from which he tries to escape by crying out to heaven. Two other barbarians have been executed and are already dead on the ground; because of the difference in clothing, one of the Germans should be considered high-ranking, and the other, like the one who is about to be slaughtered, should be considered of a lower status. Barbarians have smooth heads and beards that completely cover their cheeks. Two sentries near the tent - restoration.
Scene 9. The Emperor reads an order to the troops
Between Pompey and another character, the emperor reads from a scroll a proclamation to the troops, bodyguards, and legionaries gathered below, from the top of a rocky rise. The standard and significators frame the scene.
Scene 10. The Germans defend the river crossing
At the confluence of the river, at the fork of which there is a beech tree, under a large oak tree, stand four Germans of inferior condition, who, armed with slings and stones, look menacingly and hostilely at Markus. Aurelius, who on the opposite bank has emerged from a fortified Roman castle and is speaking to them. Next to the emperor is a fully armed retinue character, and behind him are legionnaires and bodyguards protecting him with their shields. Marcus Aurelius does not wear armor, but holds a spear in his left hand.
Soldiers watch from the top of the castle. The castle is further proof, according to Zwicker, that the Romans were preparing an offensive even beyond the Danube. For the Domashevskis, these barbarians and representatives of the next Quadi scene, the event takes place on the southern border of the territory of this people, that is, where the Taya (Die) flows into the Morava. On the other hand, for Gnirs, this is the confluence of the Iglava and Svartsava (Svratka), which meet in the north of the Taya, into which they flow.