Imperial Fora, Forum of Trajan
The Column of Trajan was set up in the middle of the circular piazza located on the western edge of the Forum of Trajan. The column stood in the middle of the piazza, set between the two libraries, the Greek and Latin libraries, which were located on the northern and southern edge, and the Funerary Temple of Trajan, which stood to the west of the column, and sealed the piazza. It seems that the column was carved before the death of Trajan. However, the emperor was buried in a golden urn, together with his wife Plotina, under the column, following the order of his successor, Hadrian. The column included a huge pedestal, the column itself, and a bronze statue of the emperor at its top. In 1588 the statue was taken down, and replaced with a statue of Saint Peter. The whole structure was originally 35 m height. The base of the column consists of a huge cubic-shaped pedestal, decorated with four reliefs on the sides, depicting the weapons and the armors taken from the enemy, and set up as trophies. The column itself, 30 m high, was made with thirty huge drums of Carrara marble. The main characteristic of the column is its spiral frieze, which winds up for the length of 190 m, no less than twenty three times around the shaft (Kleiner, Roman Sculpture, p. 214). It seems that the frieze was the work of Apollodorus of Damascus, Trajan’s chief engineer during the Dacian Wars, as well as the main architect of the project. He was assisted by various artists who carved the reliefs on the spot. The main characteristic of these reliefs is the use of the “aerial or bird’s eye perspective,” which appears for the first time in Roman art. In fact, it seems that the origin of the reliefs stemmed from sketches taken by artists who followed the army during the campaign. These sketches were transformed into huge canvases, which depicted various battle scenes, or poignant moments of the campaign, and which were carried during the triumph with the purpose of narrating visually the development and outlook of the campaign to the population of Rome. The reliefs may have originally been painted.