Trajan and Hadrian Part 1 | Roman Architecture | Second edition

Trajan and Hadrian Part 1 | Roman Architecture | Second edition

Trajan and Hadrian Part 1 | Roman Architecture | Second edition

After the murder of Domitian in ad 96, an aged senator, M. Cocceius Nerva, was chosen as emperor. His chief building activity was to complete and inaugurate in his own name the forum begun by Domitian. Unable to control the army on his own he appointed M. Ulpius Traianus, the governor of Upper Germany, as his co-regent and under his protection ruled for another year. On his death he was succeeded by Trajan (ad 98–117), who was born in Italica in southern Spain of an old Italo-Hispanic family. A soldier by profession, he had dreams of conquering the east like a second Alexander. Following his Danube campaigns of ad 102–103 and ad 105–107 he annexed Dacia, and as a result of his Parthian campaign of ad 114–116 he added Armenia and Mesopotamia to the Roman Empire. Under Trajan, the Empire reached its greatest geographic extent and the money to finance his building projects was gold brought from Dacia. It is said that Trajan brought back so much that its value fell. From ad 107 onwards there was an orgy of spending in Rome and as many gladiators were used in Trajan’s games of ad 107 alone as in all the games during the principate of Augustus. The years of experimenting with concrete were over. Mastery of design, endless supplies of coloured marbles, granite and porphyry, and seemingly limitless wealth resulted in buildings of a scale not dreamed of. Pliny the Younger, in an adulatory oration delivered to the senate in ad 100, exclaimed: ‘How great you are in public building!’ (Pliny the Younger, Pan. 51.3). Trajan’s Baths dwarfed those built by Titus. Trajan’s new forum complex covered more than three times the area of the Forum of Augustus. This new age was epitomised by Trajan’s Column with its cool, factual reporting of Trajan’s Dacian campaigns. It proclaimed calm assurance of Roman superiority and security, and the style of its reliefs was classical, in keeping with the high promise of the new age. How these noble, self-confident figures contrast with the little men that swarm around the Arch of Septimius Severus. They are soldiers of Rome at the height of her power and glory.

Trajan’s architect was Apollodorus of Damascus, who probably designed one of Trajan’s most important projects, the great bath building in Rome, which dwarfed the adjacent Baths of Titus (Figure 8.1). It is one of the buildings in Rome specifically attributed to Apollodorus by Pausanias (5.12.6) and by Dio Cassius (69.4), if ‘gymnasium’ is taken to refer to the Baths. It is also known that Apollodorus built the famous bridge over the river Danube (Procopius, de Aedificiis 4.6.12–13) and that he had a hand in completing the Circus Maximus. He also seems to have built a theatre in the Campus Martius, later demolished by Hadrian (SHA, Hadrian 9.1–2). The main bathing block of the Baths measured 190 × 212 metres and was set in an enclosure whose maximum dimensions were 330 × 315 metres. This places the Baths of Trajan as the first of the giant bath buildings in both Rome and the provinces. The brickstamps show that the work was entirely Trajanic and dated to c. ad 104–109. What remained of Nero’s Domus Aurea was damaged by fire (ad 104) and the Esquiline wing was utilised as

Figure 8.1  Rome: plan of the Baths of Titus, and the Esquiline wing of the Domus Aurea of Nero incorporated into the platform of Trajan’s Baths, dedicated in ad 109. The walls shown solid are still visible, and the dotted lines represent the Trajanic cross-walls built to consolidate the shell of the Domus Aurea.

part of the platform for the baths. Built hard against the hill its shell offered a useful extension of the hillside to support the vast bulk of Trajan’s building. The orientation of the new baths was different from that of the earlier Baths of Titus which followed the same orientation as the Domus Aurea. Its hot rooms faced SW instead of due south, probably to take advantage of the hot afternoon sun.

The baths set the pattern for the bath buildings of the later empire, except that the bathing block was joined to the perimeter wall on the NE side, whereas in later baths, such as those of Caracalla and Diocletian, it was completely free-standing. A vestibule on the NE side, flanked by changing rooms, led first to a large, almost square natatio (swimming pool), and then to the cold-room (frigidarium) covered with a triple cross-vault supported on eight columns. It had the four plunges which were to become, in Rome at least, a standard feature of such baths. Each side of the frigidarium was a rectangular colonnaded palaestra. Next was a small warm room (tepidarium), whose principal function was to insulate the cold rooms from the hot rooms beyond. The last room in the bathing sequence was the hot-room (caldarium), a rectangular room with three apses, which projected out of the bathing block to gain best advantage of the afternoon sun. At the sides of the tepidarium along the SW side of the block were the other hot rooms, for dry heat (laconica) or for sweating (sudatoria). By placing the frigidarium in the centre of the complex the architect was emphasising the two main axes of the block: one through the natatio, frigidarium, tepidarium and caldarium; the other running through the curved exedras flanking the palaestrae and the frigidarium.

Trajan built the last, largest and greatest of the imperial fora, still largely intact in ad 357 when the emperor, Constantius II, son of Constantine, stood in awe of it (Ammianus Marcellinus, 16.10.15–16). The complex consisted of an enormous colonnaded forum area with two lateral semicircular exedras, a transverse basilica with twin apses echoing the exedras of the forum, the Column of Trajan flanked by a Greek and a Latin library and finally the Temple of Deified Trajan (Figure 3.2). The stepped cuttings in the lowest slopes of the Quirinal, required to create enough flat space for the forum, were hidden beneath a remarkable shopping complex built against the hillside NE of the forum. The whole forum/markets complex seems to have been an entirely Trajanic project, although Domitian had already begun cutting away the spur of hill which had impeded further development NW of the Forum of Augustus. Domitianic brickstamps were found in the enclosure wall behind the Temple of Venus Genetrix and in the tower-like building NW of the Forum of Augustus. According to Aurelius Victor, Trajan’s Forum and Markets were actually begun under Domitian (de Caesaribus 13.5). However, the hemicycle of Trajan’s Market is dated by brickstamps to ad 104–110 and a coin of Nerva was found in the foundations of the Basilica Ulpia. Also, the architectural ornament of the complex shows signs of the Augustan revival, which was a feature of later Trajanic buildings and continued into the early part of Hadrian’s reign.

Access to the forum seems to have been from the Forum Augustum through an almost square, 25 × 27 metres, vestibule with columns running along three sides discovered in the excavations of 1998–2000.1  The same excavations have shown that the SE side of the forum of Trajan terminated not in a gently swelling curve as was previous conjectured, but in a rectilinear wall in three sections, the outer two oblique. Between this wall and the vestibule was a second wall of similar shape creating a room of unknown purpose. According to Meneghini eight columns, 50 Roman feet (14.8 metres) high, stood in front of the central part of the wall facing the forum with four columns en ressault in front of each of the oblique walls. These columns would have been disproportionately higher than those of the SE and NW sides of the Forum, as has been pointed out by Packer.2 The vast open space of the forum, 110 × 85 metres, paved in large white marble slabs, was flanked on the SW and NE sides by porticoes raised on three steps of giallo antico, on which stood 27 fluted Corinthian columns of pavonazzetto, two of which have been re-erected. Pavonazzetto pilasters responded to them on the inner wall and the floors of the porticoes were paved with pavonazzetto squares bordered with giallo antico strips aligned with the columns. In the white Carrara marble attic, stood colossal statues of Dacian prisoners framing busts in elaborately decorated shields (imagines clipeatae). Above were written the words ex manubiis (from the spoils of victory) and the roofline was adorned with gilded statues of horses and representations of military standards (Gellius, Attic Nights 13.25.1).

Only the NE of the twin hemicycles has been uncovered. It seems to have had two superimposed Corinthian orders internally and it rose above the height of the porticoes to allow it to be lit by large square windows. On the forum side the hemicycles were capped by pediments. The foundations for the famous equestrian statue of Trajan were found in the 1998–2000 excavations, not in the centre of the open space between the two exedras as previously supposed, but about 20 metres to the SE. It is calculated that the overall height of the statue including the base was between 10 and 12 metres. It is also conjectured that the horse faced towards the basilica, leading to the unfortunate conclusion that the first thing which confronted the visitor upon entering the forum was the rear of the horse.

The Basilica Ulpia closed the NW side of this open space, its twin apses projecting beyond the line of the forum and echoing those of the Forum. It was five steps higher than the level of the Forum, and three projecting porches, the central one four columns wide and the lateral ones two, gave access to the basilica. Above were high attics with Dacian prisoners framing large low-relief panels showing heaps of arms. According to coin evidence there were bronze statues above the attics, a quadriga (four-horse chariot) in the middle and bigas (twohorse chariots) at the sides. It is not clear whether the ground floor was walled or open to the forum. The basilica measured 176.28 metres (600 Roman feet) long, including the twin apses, × 58.76 (200 Roman feet) wide. It consisted of a nave, 88.14 metres (300 Roman feet) long × 24.97 metres (85 Roman feet) wide, and double aisles on all four sides. Two storeys of columns divided the nave and the aisles; the columns of the lower storey, of grey Mons Claudianus granite, were c. 10.7 metres (36 Roman feet) high including the Carrara marble capitals, with an entablature c. 3 metres (10 Roman feet) high; the upper columns had cipollino shafts and were c. 9 metres (30 Roman feet) high with an entablature c. 2.1 metres (7 Roman feet) high. According to Packer the upper order had Ionic capitals and the interior height of the basilica was 85 Roman feet (25.16 metres).3 Meneghini on the other hand follows Amici in restoring a Corinthian upper order.4 Amici allows a further 10 metres for the clerestory, bringing the total internal height to 34.8 metres (117 Roman feet). Allowing a height of c. 6 metres (c. 20 Roman feet) for the wooden roof the total overall height of the basilica would have been approximately 40.8 metres (c. 137 Roman feet), less than the overall height of Trajan’s Column including the statue of Trajan at the top, which was 44.07 metres high, according to Packer. One would expect the basilica to have been somewhat lower than Amici’s estimate so that the figure of Trajan would have been visible to anyone entering the forum. The apses, each with a radius of 22 metres (75 Roman feet), were roofed not with domes as earlier generations of scholars have supposed, but with conical timbertruss roofs like those of the hemicycles. The roofing of the main nave of the Basilica Ulpia is more of a problem. Packer’s reconstruction, which he bases on coin evidence, has no upper aisles and his upper order of nave columns directly support a coffered ceiling under a timber truss roof, bringing the total height of his basilica to exactly 100 Roman feet (29.60 metres). As the columns are laterally unsupported by flanking aisles and simply project into the sky, the roof appears unstable.5 Amici, on the other hand, gives the aisles an upper storey and restores a conventional clerestory above the double order of columns. However, the height of his restored basilica means that the top of the Column would have been invisible from the forum.

Behind the basilica, on the main axis of the Forum, stands Trajan’s Column itself (Figure 8.2), surrounded on three sides by a rectangular peristyle, measuring 25 × 20.20 metres, with pavonazzetto Corinthian columns the same size as the Corinthian porticoes on the SW and NE sides of the Forum. The Column stands on a basement, 5.29 metres high, excluding the plinth under the torus. The overall height of the Column proper including its torus, plinth and capital, but excluding the colossal statue of Trajan at the top and its cylindrical plinth, is 29.78 metres (100.61 Roman feet). It should have been exactly 100 Roman feet high, an anomaly explicable as a modification made by Apollodorus, after work had begun on the blocks of Carrara marble, in order to overcome a problem with the internal staircase.6  The cylindrical statue plinth is 3.33 metres high and the statue of Trajan, which disappeared in the Middle Ages and was replaced in 1587 by the present bronze statue of St. Peter, is estimated to have been c. 4.5–6 metres (15–20 Roman feet) high. This makes the overall height of the Column, including the statue and its base, about 42.90–44.40 metres (144.5–149.5 Roman feet) high. The outside of the column is adorned with a continuous spiral of low-relief sculpture, 20 metres long. The sculptures are designed to be read like a scroll, starting at the bottom with the Roman army crossing the Danube and finishing at the top with the triumph of Trajan over the Dacians. The sculptures are in effect a visual record of the campaign,

Figure 8.2  Rome, Trajan’s Column.

the sculptural equivalent of war notebooks (commentarii) of the kind Julius Caesar wrote to record his campaign in Gaul. The column is constructed of 21 horizontally cut drums of Carrara marble, which weigh 32 tonnes on average. The jointing, which does not correspond to the windings of the spiral, is so carefully managed that one is not immediately aware that half of the scenes had to be cut from two separate blocks of marble. This means that the sculpting was done after the column was erected and may well have continued into Hadrianic times.7  The column rests on a podium, 6.155 metres high, which acted as the tomb chamber where the golden urns containing the ashes of Trajan and his wife Plotina were probably placed. Externally the podium is decorated with spoils of war in relief sculpture and a doorway gives access to a spiral staircase which winds its way up inside the column, lit by small rectangular holes which can be seen at intervals. Over the doorway an inscription recorded that the Column marked the height of the hill that was cut away ‘for such great works’. This was taken to mean that the column marked the place where the hill was cut away (Dio, 68.16.3), but early 20th century excavations revealed a road near the bottom of the column, suggesting that the Column simply indicates the height of the clearance works in general.

The Column was flanked on the SW and NE sides by the libraries, both 20 × 32 metres. Each library was a rectangular room divided internally into two storeys by Corinthian columns with walls lined with niches for the books or scrolls. Perhaps the roofs of the libraries were accessible as viewing galleries for the upper part of the Column whose details are invisible from ground level. The Column of Trajan inspired the creation of the Column of Antoninus Pius, a plain granite shaft with a sculpted base, and the sculpted Column of Marcus

Aurelius. Both the Column of Trajan and that of Marcus Aurelius have been described as ‘wonders of heavy engineering.’8 Constantine erected a porphyry column, 35 metres high, at Constantinople in ad 330 with a statue of himself as Apollo on top. Theodosius (c. ad 393) and Arcadius (ad 402) erected sculpted columns at Constantinople. Closer to our own time, two sculpted columns, 40 metres high, were built at the sides of the Karlskirche of Vienna in 1737, and a bronze column, modelled on the Column of Trajan, was erected in Place Vendôme in Paris in honour of Napoleon (1810, rebuilt 1874). Plain fluted columns were erected in Dublin, the Doric Nelson’s Pillar, 40.8 metres high (1809), and in London, the Corinthian Nelson’s Column, 51.59 metres high (1840–1843).

Most reconstructions have the columnar court enclosing the Column of Trajan as a vestibule to the Temple of Trajan and Plotina, which is usually reconstructed as a massive octastyle temple with grey granite columns 17.7 metres (60 Roman feet) high. The upper half of one of these, along with its capital, 2.08 metres high, was found in the 19th century and now lies behind the Column. However, recent excavations under the 16th century Palazzo Valentini are said to have revealed nothing which can be interpreted as the remains of such a temple. As a result, some scholars have reconstructed a colossal octastyle porch of grey granite columns leading into the library courtyard from the NW, taking the column/library complex to be the real Temple of Deified Trajan.9 A porch of such dimensions is not at all likely, but for the time being all that we can be certain of is that the temple, whatever form it took, bore the name of Hadrian as builder (SHA, Hadrian 19.9).

The layout of the Forum with the basilica at the far end lying across the main axis was later adopted, for example in the Severan Forum of Lepcis Magna (Figure 9.13). As Trajan was a soldier-emperor, it has been suggested that Trajan’s Forum may have been based upon the principia or central administrative area of a camp.10 In a camp the central square of the principia was flanked by a basilica beyond which were the rooms where the military archives, the accounts and the legionary standards were kept. The Basilica Ulpia occupies a similar position to the basilica of a principia, and the column and libraries have a similar relationship to the standard and archive rooms of a camp. Seen in this light the Forum complex can be seen not only as the greatest of the Roman fora, but as a singularly appropriate monument to commemorate the military achievements of the emperor. However it has been pointed out that as early as the first century bc many cities in northern Italy, Gaul and Germany had a so-called ‘tripartite forum’ with forum, basilica and temple built as a single complex over three city blocks (Vitruvius, de Arch. 5.1). This in many ways foreshadows the layout of the Forum of Trajan.11

The Markets of Trajan, although related to the Forum, formed a quite separate complex (Figures 8.3 and 8.4). The Romans probably regarded the markets simply as utilitarian buildings, but they are most ingenious in terms of structure and engineering and as such are a good example of Roman skill in turning the problems presented by a difficult site to entirely practical use. Behind the NE exedra of the Forum is a large hemicycle of shops, entirely built of brick-faced concrete. It is visually shut off from the forum by a high peperino wall, meaning that it was never intended to be seen as it is today. That probably explains the low relief decoration of the brick façade which springs into sharp relief when seen at close quarters. The ground floor of the hemicycle contains 11 extremely shallow barrel-vaulted shops. Externally a travertine-clad doorway with a small rectangular window above formed the façade of each shop. It may be noted that the paved street which runs around the hemicycle becomes a little wider towards the middle as the hemicycle and the exedra of the Forum are struck from different centres (Figure 3.2). Staircases at the ends of the hemicycle lead up to the middle storey, where a barrel-vaulted corridor, lit by 26 round-headed windows, gives access to ten shops, each considerably deeper than those on the ground floor. The brick

Figure 8.3  Rome, Markets of Trajan, c. ad 100–112.


Figure 8.4  Rome, Markets of Trajan, c. ad 100–112: axonometric view. Centre foreground hemicycle of Trajan’s Forum; left foreground, one end of the Basilica Ulpia. (After A. Boethius and J. B. Ward Perkins, Etruscan and Roman Architecture [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970], figure 96.)

Tuscan pilasters framing the windows and the full, half and segmental pediments they support subtly animate what would otherwise have been a dull façade. On the top floor of the hemicycle, now largely destroyed, there was a corridor corresponding to the one below, but it did not communicate with the shops on this level. Instead it seems to have been a promenade gallery which overlooked the Forum. The ten shops of the top floor opened onto the Via Biberatica behind, a road which runs gently downhill from south to north. Therefore the floor levels of the shops of the top floor become progressively lower from south to north, which means that the barrel-vaults of the shops of the middle floor below also become progressively lower. However this is so skillfully handled that it is seldom noticed. The hemicycle is flanked at each side by a big half-domed hall, its curve turned against the hillside to take the thrust. Behind the NW hall is another half-domed hall at a higher level. Such halls were used as schools or auditoria, at least later in the Empire.

On the NE side of Via Biberatica, opposite the hemicycle, was a further complex, four to five storeys high. This building was not divided into shops as was the hemicycle. Instead there were groups of rooms, mostly intercommunicating, which suggests that the block may have been used for the administration of the complex as a whole and perhaps for the storage of some perishable items, such as foodstuffs. Some of the rooms had wall niches which suggests that they contained records. Via Biberatica continues northwards and stops abruptly against the foundations of the modern Via Quattro Novembre. The last section of it ran straight and is extremely well-preserved. The roadway was paved with basalt and on each side ran a pavement of travertine blocks (Figure 8.5). There were shops on each side, the ground floor ones with slightly projecting balconies above them, as at Ostia. The shops on the west side form part of a larger block which abuts onto the hemicycle. The shops on the


Figure 8.5  Rome, Markets of Trajan, the street later called Via Biberatica with the main market hall to the left.




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