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Monuments: Column of Marcus Aurelius

Presumably set up by his son, Commodus, the Column of Marcus Aurelius copies the basic form of the earlier Column of Trajan. Like its predecessor, the column comprised a base, shaft with central spiral staircase, and a capital originally adorned with a statue of the emperor. It is 39 m tall but was originally taller, since it had the statue on top and was on a stepped base that is now underground. More

As on the Column of Trajan, the frieze that runs around the shaft depicts a pair of military campaigns, in this case Marcus Aurelius' wars against the Marcomanni and Sarmatians, in AD 172-3 and 174-5 respectively. In terms of detailed content and technique, though, the frieze differs markedly from that on the Column of Trajan. The scenes focus far more on actual fighting, are more crowded and carved in much higher relief. All of this makes the frieze much harder to read. The style of the frieze in fact differs quite markedly from contemporary monuments which focus on more symbolic scenes of state ritual - such as the Antonine reliefs incorporated into the Arch of Constantine.

Beckmann, M. (2011). The Column of Marcus Aurelius: the genesis and meaning of a Roman imperial monument (Studies in the history of Greece and Rome). Chapel Hill NC.

Claridge, A. (2005). ‘Postscript. Further considerations on the carving of the frieze on the Column of Marcus Aurelius’, Journal of Roman Archaeology 18: 313–16.

Coarelli, F. (2008). La colonna di Marco Aurelio=The column of Marcus Aurelius (Roma nelle immagini). Rome.

Depeyrot, G. (2010). La colonne de Marc Aurèle (Collection Moneta 104-5). 2 vols. Wetteren.


ObjectType object (1)
Luna Marble (Archaeometric identification)  
ad 180 - ad 192 



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