The great Column of Trajan, which still stands in Rome, has long been recognised as a primary source for the study of the Roman army, its methods and equipment. Yet it is a very difficult monument to actually view.  As the viewer stands at ground level the great limestone drums of the Column soar into the air, carrying the spiral of writhing sculpture with it. Take binoculars!

As if the height of the upper spirals was not difficult enough for the viewer, even the lower levels can be difficult to interpret, because the sculpture on the Column (along with that of nearly all Roman triumphal architecture) has lost its colouring. To most it therefore seems like a seething undifferentiated mass of bodies.

The Frieze at the Lunt Museum, which runs round the whole space, has restored colour to the story – and provides an excellent way for us to approach and study this mighty edifice, which tells us so much about the Roman army at the very height of its power.  Unfortunately though, because the Frieze is above eye level, many visitors “underlook” it. I therefore thought that a selection of scenes from the Frieze could be usefully displayed here, along with notes on two levels – first for our younger/casual readers, and then for those interested in the details.

The Frieze provides much to chew over, and naturally I hope that others will chip in with their insights. Its important to bear in mind that our Frieze only reproduces part of that majestic spiral in Rome – which itself does not present a narrative of the Dacian War, rather an episodic treatment – more like “Scenes from the Dacian War”.  The actual course of Trajan’s war is poorly documented, and how we wish that Trajan’s own writings had survived!

So, here goes with the first scene…………