Rubbing From Trajan’s Column
Trajan’s Column was erected 106-113 C.E. in Trajan’s Forum
in Rome to commemorate his victories over Dacia. The 100 foot tall
column is made of marble quarried near Cararra and is covered by a
continuous low-relief sculpture depicting Trajan’s Dacian
campaigns. The column and capital were constructed from 20 separate
blocks of marble and the column contains a spiral stair leading to an
observation platform at the top. The pedestal supporting the column is
about 25 feet tall and served as Trajan’s tomb after his death in
117. Originally the column was topped by a bronze eagle, but that was
replaced by a statue of Trajan after his death. The statue of Trajan,
now lost, was replaced by a statue of Saint Peter in 1588. The
inscription over the door in the pedestal has long been regarded as one
of the finest examples of Roman letter forms and has been the model for
many type faces.
The King Library Press collection includes a rubbing of the pedestal
inscription made in 1922 by Ernst Detterer. The rubbing is on paper
which was mounted on a fabric backing and varnished. It was given by
Detterer’s student R. Hunter Middleton in 1968.
A detail of the rubbing showing the first three letters. The size of the
lettering is scaled – those highest are the largest. Those on the top
row are about 12 cm tall while those on the bottom are about 9.5 cm.
The inscription is in capital letters without word breaks and uses
several abbreviated forms. There is some damage and a few letters are
now missing or obscured. Below is a copy of the inscription and an
Senatus populusque Romanus
Imperatori Caesari Divi Nervae Filio Nervae
Traiano Augusto Germanico Dacico Pontifici
Maximo tribunicia potestate XVII Imperatori VI Consuli VI Patri Patriae
ad declarandum quantae altitudinis
mons et locus tantis operibus sit egestus
Ernst Detterer making the rubbing of the inscription with two unidentified men.
FOR FURTHER REFERENCE
See the McMaster Trajan Project
for more information on the column including numerous photographs.