Visualising the enemy:The visual languages of the columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius and their artistic representation of Rome’s barbarian enemies
Borne, L.C.P. van den
MetadataShow full item record
The columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius were both constructed in the second century AD in Rome. Both celebrated two major Roman victories over two important barbarian enemies through a large helical frieze with depictions of the events leading to these victories. Yet the differences between the two columns are conspicuous, especially the way in which they represent the barbarian enemy. On the Column of Marcus Aurelius, images that show the violent and gruesome realities of war are portrayed very expressively, while on Trajan's Column images alluding to the more peaceful and constructive aspects of war prevail. Although this difference has been the subject of numerous scholarly publications, this thesis aims to provide a novel interpretation of the columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius by focussing on their meaning to the contemporary, ancient Roman beholder. It does so by focussing on the visual languages of both monuments. It is argued that the repeated occurences of highly similar and stereotypical images of barbarians, barbarian types, form an integral part of the visual languages of both the Column of Trajan and that of Marcus Aurelius. These types, as well as the different audiences for which the columns were constructed, are of vital importance to our understanding the artistic differences between these two important monuments from the High Empire.