Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Trajan's Column

(above)A scale coat. I think it is made from many small bronze scales sewn to an underlying soft leather tunic. Looks nicer than mine!

Above, a chain mail coat. Now doesn't that look "exactly" like mine! http://www.southtower.on.ca/LiveSteel.html

I think I kind of like the ship's figurehead. A crocodile, I think. And those nice big oval shields. I mean, how often do you get a view of the "inside" of a shield?

An archer's tunica, and quiver of arrows. Looks like a nice light outfit to take to a fight! This is clearly a quiver full of arrows, but I'll be darned if I can find a depiction of a bow anywhere. I would be grateful to be corrected!

And the gorgeous "lorica segmentata", the ultimate infantry armour. Note the tunica coming out from underneath the armour. You need that to keep the metal from chafing of course. I am more than a little convinced that the sculptor did not ever actually SEE a real lorica segmentata, but was going by the sketches made by a guy who had! Farther up the column are lots of examples of tough hairy legged infantry men clubbing wild Dacians in the column above, all wearing variations on these armours!

Now for the narrative....
Right at the head of Number One Trajan Place (the world's first and best located shopping mall evvv-errrr) is a great big column depicting Trajan defeating the Dacians. Since the Roman empire is now defunct, and the Dacians are pretty much gone the way of the dodo, one feels a little sorry for the poor infantry man who pulled this minor miracle off. He got his name in print, hopefully forever by the turn of the millenium war correspondant who sketched everything down, and Trajan paid for those sketches to be wrapped around a column in bas relief. Good choice since laid out on a sidewalk, the same story would require about half a kilometer of un-interrupted space. (Caracalla had the same idea some 2 centuries later, HIS column is in the appropriately named Piazza Collona) Local legend has it that one of the early church fathers thought the statue of Trajan was actually a statue of St. Peter, and so left this one column alone instead of incorporating it into whatever basilica that was being built that year. Sure...however, it is true that now, a statue of St. Peter is gracing the top of the column.

The only real problem with trying to see this thing is the scaffolding they placed all around the base. I have no idea why the scaffolding is there. Its not holding anything as far as I can see...perhaps it is keeping the general public back from falling pigeon poop. A likely reason as any.

Fortunately, the scaffolding is only around the base of the column, ten feet of pretty solid marble. Beautifully carved in "trophies". Trophies are an actual architectural item....they are normally painted or bas relief depictions of piles of shields, swords, spears, armour, helmets, even later on cannons, drums and flags, all lovingly rendered in bas relief on the walls of great houses and armouries. Often found decorating gates of castles. I have a great fondness of "trophies", and perhaps someday will do a post just on trophies which have caught my eye over the years. However, the grand daddy of trophy depictions is the base of Trajan's column. (Sorry about all the scaffolding...you have to sort of look around the pipes to see the 2000 year old carvings.) The bottom five are details of that great column base and the top two are large 1 megabyte images that you have to click on to see them in their true glory.

No comments: