Trajan’s Column

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So who made the first cartoon in history – forget about Walt Disney – the tradition is much older than him. It dates all the way back to Trajan.

Trajan was born in a non-patrician family in Hispania Baetica (in modern day Spain) but he had a splendid career in the Roman army and rose through the ranks. When the childless senator Nerva became emperor he was forced to adopt Trajan as his son – and when Nerva died Trajan became emperor as the first of the line of successful adopted emperor – one of the few Roman Emperors who made it to heaven among the just rulers in Dante’s Comedia.

The first time in history somebody decided to produce a major cartoon to tell the history of their own exploits was done by Trajan. He decided the story of his impressive victory against the Dacian’s back in 101 should be told to all his countrymen in Rome – hence he had a giant column erected on the imperial forum in Rome.

The story of the victory is displayed on the column snarling its way to the top of the column with lots of different carvings which tells the story of how he won the battle. There are different pictures of how they sailed across the sea and how the battle was won. On top of the column used to be a golden statue of Trajan himself – but this statue has disappear many years ago and it has been replaced by a new statue of Saint Peter.

The column was an inspiration for a later column made by Marcus Aurelius which stands next to via Corso. If you are walking around the area of the Forum Romano and Piazza Venezia you will pass through Trajan’s Column – so you might as well stop for a minute and have a closer look at the marvelous carvings from ancient times.


    1. That’s really too long between Rome visits. They find new old stuff All the time. When I went last year they had found some columns at the Forum Romanum which weren’t there at my previous 2011 visit. And this year they had found more stuff close to Trajan column because they are trying to make a New Subway line next to the forum. I guess they send in archaeologiest first.


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