Functions of the Column throughout history

Which functions did Trajan's Column fulfill in the course of time?

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This Wiki is part of the series The Column of Trajan. Other parts of this series are:

Details and surroundings The death of Trajan and his succession The column of Trajan as a funerary monument The column of Trajan as a triumphal monument

This page is not directly related to the other pages of this wiki series. It discusses the functions Trajan's Column has had over time, which gives some insight as to why the column is still standing today. The superficial appearance of the column is relatively easy to read, but the underlying functions are less easy to define. The first of possible functions is linked to the height. The column is an exact 100 Roman feet high making it a mark of height. Secondly, Trajanís ashes are buried sub columna, so the column is, besides being a triumphal monument, also a funerary monument[6]. Over time, the column has had changes in function, among others caused by pope Sixtus V.

1. In the time of Trajan
2. In the time of Sixtus V
3. Current functions
4. Sources

In the time of Trajan

Current studies of the column show us that shortly after Trajan's Column was finished, it obtained three functions. Firstly, it was used as a mark of height, as it was approximately 100 Roman feet high. It was also a triumphal monument celebrating Trajanís victory over the Dacians. Finally, it became Trajanís funerary monument after his death in 117[1]. The column's functions as triumphal and funerary monument are discussed further on other wiki pages.

In the time of Sixtus V

On the top of the column there is a statue of St. Peter, where originally stood a statue of Trajan, which was placed there by pope Sixtus V in 1588[3]. When Sixtus rededicated the monument he explained his reasoning: a monument as Trajan's Column could become worthy to bear the effigy of Christís Vicar on Earth, only if it was rededicated in the cause of the Catholic Church[3].

Statue of St. Peter on top of Trajan's Column [8]

Sixtus busied himself with reforming Rome, introducing major roads and markers on these roads[5]. This was to make the seven churches which pilgrims visited the centre points of Rome. The column of Trajan was such a marker, just as the column of Marcus Aurelius and many obelisks. This way, the column survived Sixtus Vís reign, who destroyed a lot of old monuments, by obtaining a new function.

Current functions

Many tourists visit Trajan's Column.[7]

For scholars nowadays, the column is a large source of ancient information depicted like a comic book. It is the biggest source of information about the region of Dacia and the wars that were fought there[6]. Furthermore it shows us insights into Roman craftwork and construction in the early empire. The construction of the column was meant to be indestructible as current condition proves. Lastly it is a big attraction for tourists from all around the world.


  1. Frank Leppard and Sheppard Frere, Trajanís column, Fonthill media, (November 19, 2015) p 2 Ė p 47
  2. James E Packer, Forum of Trajan in Rome, University of California, (April 1997)
  3. Robert Hughes, Rome, E-book version, p5 of CH7
  4. Julian Bennett, Trajan optimus princeps, Routledge (December 23, 2000) , p 153 - 158
  5. Black Spaces. Design by essentials - Sixtus V's plan for Rome (as accessed on the 4th of October, 2015)
  6. University of St Andrews. Trajan's Column, What Was Trajan's Column For (as accessed on the 26th of August, 2015)
  7. Photosmatic. Tourists in Piazza Venezia, Rome, Italy; Trajanís Column. (As accessed on the 5th of October, 2015)
  8. Sormani, Leonardo. Statue of St Peter on the Column of Trajan. (As accessed on the 5th of October, 2015)