Civilization Under Construction: Depictions of Architecture on the Column of Trajan

Scene XII, roundels on Roman military fortifications
Scene XII, roundels on Roman military fortifications

More than 300 depictions of architectural structures appear throughout the Column of Trajan, illustrating both Roman and Dacian fortifications and settlements. Despite the prevalence of architectural depictions on the column, there has been little attention specifically devoted to these important components of the frieze. While recent scholarship has focused on the composition and message of the column as a whole, for the most part this work has not contributed to the interpretation of architecture on the frieze. Previous discussions of the architectural representations have focused almost exclusively on reconciling the pictorial record with the archaeological record and on explaining away what has been seen as a series of mistakes in the architecture on the frieze. This article demonstrates that the many features traditionally interpreted as misunderstandings actually form consistent patterns that draw a purposeful contrast between a supposedly superior Roman culture and a primitive, barbarian Dacian culture.


DOI: 10.3764/aja.114.1.27