Trajan's column was erected in 113 AD in honor of Emperor Trajan. It was located at the then just completed Forum of Trajan and was hemmed in by buildings. The column commemorates Trajan's victories in Dacia (now Romania).
The column including its base is 42 meters tall (138ft). This was exactly the height of the hill that stood at this site. It had been leveled to create an open space for the construction of Trajan's Forum.
Band of Reliefs
A band of beautifully carved reliefs winds around the column. The band is more than 180 meters (600ft) long. Its width varies from 60cm (2ft) at the bottom to 120cm at the top. There are more than 2000 carved figures depicting the story of Trajan's Dacian war campaigns conducted between 101-102 and 105-106 AD.
It starts with soldiers preparing for the war and ends with the Dacians being ousted from their homeland. The column consists of 29 pieces of white marble, the largest one weighing up to 77 tons. The reliefs were not always in plain white: originally they were gilded and, like many ancient Roman monuments, brightly colored.
Detail of the column's reliefs
Initially, a statue of an eagle topped the column, but after Trajan's death it was replaced by a six meter (20ft) tall statue of the emperor himself. His ashes and later those of his wife Plotina were placed in the base of the column. In 1587 the statue was replaced again, this time by one of St. Peter.
Saved from Demolition
Legend has it that the column was saved from demolition thanks to pope Gregory the Great (590-604). He was so moved by a relief depicting Trajan helping the mother of a dead soldier, that he begged god to save Trajan's pagan soul from hell. God then told the pope that Trajan's soul had been saved. The legend also claims that Trajan's tongue was still intact when his ashes were excavated. The tongue told about his rescue from hell. The area around the column was then declared sacred, thus saving the column from demolition.
The column is located at Trajan's Forum - part of the Imperial Forums - at the Via dei Fori Imperiali, right next to the Piazza Venezia.
Via dei Fori Imperiali