Abstract: Building Trajan's Column


Trajan's Column is best known for its sculpted spiral frieze depicting Trajan's victories in the Dacian Wars (101-106 AD), but it was also a great technological achievement requiring a great deal of site organization. The blocks making up the Column of Trajan are among the heaviest to have been lifted during the Roman Imperial period (the largest of which weighed as much as 77 tons). In this talk I examine the evidence for how the blocks were quarried, transported to the site, and then lifted into place. I also propose a hypothetical reconstruction of the lifting tower used to raise the blocks. The proposal is based on archaeological evidence from the site itself and from other Roman sites, on literary evidence from technical writers such as Vitruvius and Hero of Alexandria, and lastly on a comparative analysis of the way in which Domenico Fontana lifted the Vatican obelisk in 1586.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

 L.C. Lancaster, "Building Trajan's Column", American Journal of Archaeology 103 (1999): 419-439

Dig Deeper

Email the AIA Facebook Instagram YouTube Twitter
Subscribe to the AIA e-Update

Sign Up!