"... and better than Trajan" - The 1,900th Anniversary of the Inauguration of Trajan’s Column in Rome

“felicior Augusto, melior Traiano” ("[be] luckier than Augustus and better than Trajan" – traditional greeting of the Roman Senate for every emperor after Trajan)

12 May 113 CE -Today, 1.900 years ago, Trajan’s Column was inaugurated on Trajan’s Forum near Quirinal Hill

Trajan’s Forum with the Column in the centre and the 18th century curch Santissimo Nome di Maria al Foro Traiano in the background, image found at:


The 125 ft triumphal column celebrates Emperor Trajan’s victories over the Dacians, an Indo-European people inhabiting present-day Romania and neighbouring countries, giving the Roman Empire the greatest extension in its history.

Trajan is listed among the five good emperors, notable not only by his (considerable) military exploits, but through his extensive public building programs and his generally philantropic rule during the almost twenty years of his reign.

Trajan’s column consists of 20 marble drums, each weighing 32 tons, the capital block on which once a statue of Trajan stood, tip the scales at 52 tons that had to be lifted up to a height of more than 100 feet. A considerable feat of engineering, even for Roman master-builders.

The most notable feature of the column is its covering relief, meandering from bottom to top and depicting details of Trajan’s campaign in Dacia, providing us with invaluable details of Rome at war at the height of its power – probably painted back then to give an even more vivd impression.

Inside of the 11 ft wide column, a spiral staircase gives access to the top, providing visitors with a glorious panoramic view of the magnificent buildings around the Quirinal. The ashes of Trajan and his wife were buried in the base, giving the edifice an additional memorial value.

Trajan’s Column was a huge success in terms of being archetypical for triumphal columns for the next 1.800 years, from memorials of other Roman Emperors to the Washington Monument in Baltimore.

The ravages of time did not pass by the column without leaving its marks. Trajan’s statue disappeared during the Middle Ages and was replaced with a statue of St Peter in the 16th century, the leaden wall plugs had been stolen and acid rain and bird droppings did not do much to improve the condition of the relief.

The relief in detail can be found here:


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