By Dr Jon Coulston
Last updated 2011-02-17
Column of Marcus Aurelius
The Column of Marcus Aurelius stands in the Piazza Colonna in Rome and was both modelled on - and improved upon - the earlier Trajan's Column. A helical frieze depicts the Marcomannic Wars of Marcus Aurelius (168 - 175 AD and 178- 180 AD), waged against Germanic and steppe nomad tribes across the middle Danube.
There are fewer windings of the frieze, fewer human figures, less scenery, more deeply carved relief and reduced sculptural detail than on Trajan's Column. The result is that the visual impact is more effective for the viewer below. While this makes for a more effective propaganda monument, there is also far less of an historical framework or an attempt to depict specific historical events. This frustrates historians wanting to use the reliefs as a source for the Antonine period.
The wars are depicted as the brutal extermination of barbarian peoples without the magnanimous treatment of the defeated seen on the earlier column. No inscription or pedestal reliefs survive, and the date of the Marcus Column is unsure, but it was certainly a posthumous monument to the achievements of Marcus Aurelius (ruled 161 - 180 AD).
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