The Column of Trajan in the light of ancient cartography and geography

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
John Stephenson Ph.D, Associate Professor (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
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Abstract: The spiral reliefs of the Column of Trajan at Rome present the narrative of the Dacian Wars upon a continuous and elongated cartographic landscape, in which a wealth of landforms, including mountains, rivers, streams, springs, and forests serve not only as a setting of human actions, but become elements of the narrative in themselves, as they yield to the relentless efforts of Trajan and his army and engineers. In depicting the campaigns, the reliefs celebrate to a remarkable degree the military engineers and agrimensores (surveyors) who transformed the land as they cleared, measured, and built during the wars. In a circuit from participation in the historical events to their commemoration, the work of these surveyors ultimately contributed to the design of the Column and the stylistic choices of the Column reliefs themselves. Not only the subjects, but the innovative spiral format and the mode of depiction of the Reliefs are indebted in part to the conventions ofcartographic practice, while the conceptual framework within which the column’s topographic depictions communicatetheir ideological freight is tied to traditions of ancient geography. Writers such as Strabo, Pliny and Dio Cassius, whileproviding inconclusive evidence on the locations of topography in the Reliefs, point to the worldview they express: civilizing,imperial, scopic, rational, organizing, controlling nature. This essay examines the Column reliefs as embedded in widertopographical and geographical traditions during Trajan’s reign and in Roman antiquity, and proposes some new avenuesfor understanding the reliefs in these terms

Additional Information

John Stephenson(2013)"The Column of Trajan in the light of ancient cartography and geography" Journal of Historical Geography V. 40
Language: English
Date: 2013
, column of trajan, agrimensores, periplus, roman, strabo

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