Trajan’s Column {The Story of Art}

Trajan's column (detail). Rome, Italy. A.D. 114.

“Another new task which the Romans set the artists revived a custom which we know from the ancient Orient. They, too, wanted to proclaim their victories and to tell the stories of their campaigns. Trajan, for instance, erected a huge column to show a whole picture chronicle of his war and victories in Dacia (the modern Romania). There we see the Roman legionaries embarking, encamping and fighting. All the skill and achievements of centuries of Greek art were used in these feats of war reporting. But the importance which Romans attached to accurate rendering of all details, and to a clear narrative which would impress the feats of the campaign on the stay-at-homes, rather changed the character of art. The main aim was no longer that of harmony, beauty or dramatic expression. The Romans were a matter-of-fact people…”

Ernst H. Gombrich, “Chapter 5: World Conquerors,” The Story of Art, 15th edition