Guest writer Ana Soviany puts the spotlight on a monument located in Rome, but which is crucially important in the history of the Romanian people: Trajan's Column.
As it is the case with almost all things related to our own ancient history, we as Romanians don’t really know much about Trajan’s Column. Sure, Romanians vaguely remember textbook stories on Decebalus and the Dacian wars, but the truth is that most of us never actually felt the need to ask “what on Earth is that Column thing and why should we care?”.
Firstly, the facts: the Column was completed by May 113, 7 years after the ending of the war between the Dacians, the ancient inhabitants of today’s Romania, and the Roman Empire ruled at the time by Emperor Trajan - who emerged triumphant from the war. The monument, which is 30 meters high and built by Apolodor of Damascus, was meant to be a visual depiction of the wars, but also to serve as a dignifying final resting place for Trajan. According to historical documents, after his death in 117, Trajan’s ashes where buried in the monument’s base, but have since gone missing. However, the Column is still in excellent shape. Though the rest of the Trajan's Forum (the architectural complex built in Rome after the Dacian wars) is mainly a ruin, the Column is almost intact, and it still clearly shows the bas-reliefs of Dacian and Roman soldiers.
It should be noted that the Column was erected at a time considered to be a peak of Roman art. Maybe that’s why, apart from being a historically meaningful monument, the Column has had, across the ages, an enormous impact on world art.
Among the artists who studied the Column and created works inspired by it were huge figures like Michelangelo, Raphael and Rubens. Michelangelo is actually noted to have said in awe: “There is only one Trajan’s Column!” Also, surrealist master Salvador Dali is believed to have said that, in order to have a better understanding of the world, people should rather study Trajan’s Column than reading the all so different kind of columns, those found in a newspaper.
Since its completion, the Column has inspired the design of some of the world’s best known monuments: Nelson’s Column in London, Colonne Vendôme in Paris and the Washington Monument is Baltimore, USA, among many others.
Surprisingly enough, art is still influenced by the Column. Even now, 1900 years after the monument’s completion, there are still artists who create works inspired by the Column. A selection of these works, made by Romanian artists, can be found here.
Why should we care about a column erected 1900 ago? Because history is part of our cultural heritage and thus part of who we are.
Also, we don’t get the chance to say “Happy 1900th birthday!” too often, do we?
The Association for Contemporary Cultural Identity is organizing an anniversary gala dedicated to Trajan’s Column. The event will take place on Friday, the 24th of May, at ArCuB Showroom ( Batistei 14), from 6.30 PM. For more information on the Column, you can visit http://columnaluitraian.ro (Romanian only).
Ana Soviany, guest writer
(photos: Columnaluitraian.ro, Wikipedia)