A GLOSSARY OF TERMS AND SCENE/OBJECT INDEX OF TRAJAN’S COLUMN
[last update: 2 February 2017]
Acclamation: An instance where the soldiers of the army proclaim their general as an “imperator,” or “victorious commander.” By the imperial period, however, the title of imperator (from which “emperor” ultimately derives) was restricted to the person of the Emperor. In Scene 77, Trajan’s soldiers appear to perform an acclamation to give their emperor a new title, Dacicus (and hail him imperator for the third time), which signified the conquest of Dacia specifically. Scene 125 may represent Trajan’s fifth acclamation (Coarelli 2000: 198). See also salutatio.
Adlocutio: The act of formal verbal address; a representation of the emperor giving a speech to his troops. The Column represents this scene a total of nine times. Scenes 10, 27, 42, 54, 73, 77, 104, 125 (acclamation?), 137.
Adze: A cutting tool used to shape wood, the blade positioned like that of a hoe (Scene 66).
Agger: An earthwork rampart; the simplest of all fortification types.
Arched Gate: See “Porta.”
Armor, personal: see “Galea,” “Lorica;” “Scutum.”
Ashlar construction: Wall construction using squared blocks of stone. Representations on the Column indicate that ashlar construction was used both by both the Dacians (Scenes 25, 75, where Dacian walls are being dismantled) and the Romans (Scenes 2, 6, 8, 10, 13, 14, 21, 22, 24, 33, 76, 125, 129, 141). In actual practice, most Roman frontier camps were probably built of earth, timber, and sod. In Scene 11, for example, beam ends are interspersed with rows of “ashlars”; which given the rendition probably represent turves. See also “construction scenes.”
Auxiliary: A type of unit within the Roman army outside the cohorts and legions, usually comprising non-Roman (i.e., citizen) troops and different gear—on the Column, they are most often depicted wearing loricae hamatae (s.v.), instead of the legionary’s lorica segmentata (s.v.). Often, auxiliaries formed cavalry squadrons; they are usually participants in heavy combat. “Infrastructural” activities, however, like camp-building, are left to the legionaries. Scenes 11, 21, 24, 37.
Axe: see “Dolabra,” “Securis.”
Ballista: An artillery weapon that was standard equipment in Trajan’s day. The ballista fires a bolt from from a pair of arms that are initially held in tension by torsion springs. When mounted on a wheeled cart the weapon is known as a “carroballista.” Scenes 40, 66.
Barritus: Roman war-cry, accompanied by the crashing of weapons onto shields.
Bastarnae: Allies of the Dacians (cf. Rossi 1971: 22).
Battering Ram: A ramming instrument employed to breach fortifications. Employed by Dacians against Roman defenders: Scene 32.
Beheading (see: Heads, severed).
Bow: See Archer.
Brac(c)ae: Trousers, usually of wool, worn by Roman soldiers (and the emperor) as protection in cooler climates. They are close fitting, extending to just below the knees. Scenes 25, 27, 40, (from back, 42), 61, 72, 77, 104.
Bridge, Danube: The bridge constructed of stone piers linked by a segmental wooden vaults (with clear spans of over thirty meters), designed by Apollodorus of Damascus. Scene 99.
Bucina: One of three main sound instruments used by Roman soldiers. Of these, the bucina is the least understood, but is probably a smaller form of the cornu (s.v.). The bucina was played by the bucinator. See also tuba. Scenes 5, 102, 103.
Camillus: An attendant, represented on the Column as a young boy with long hair, present at a sacrifice who assists the priest; commonly shown holding an incense box (acerra). Scenes 8, 53, 86, 91, 99, 102, 103.
Camp stool: See Sella castrensis.
Capite Velato: “With head veiled;” the phrase used to describe a priest(ess) who has covered his/her head at the moment of sacrifice. The emperor is also velate during rites of official sacrifice in his role as pontifex maximus. Scenes 8, 53, 103.
Carnifex: The man responsible for the killing of a sacrificial animal. Scenes 8, 53, 99.
Carnyx: War trumpet.
Carroballista: See “Ballista.”
Cart: See “Wagon.”
Castellum: A permanent fort. See “Castra.”
Castra (castrum): A Roman camp. “Forts” can be referred to by the term “castellum.” It is not easy to distinguish between “camps” and more permanent “forts” on the Column. The plural form, “castra,” is often used to indicate the encampment. “Normal” camps while on the march were constructed by legionaries of turf (sod) or earth with timber framing. Those on the column appear as if built of cut stone (ashlar masonry), regardless of whether such depictions were accurate or not. Scene references: Roman camps (with tents within) and forts; Finished, with tent(s): 8, 13, 21, 28, 43, 53, 56, 61, 62, 66, 98, 102, 103, 107(?), 110, 113, 125, 128, 141. Finished, permanent buildings within: 51, 92?. Finished, interior not visible: 24, 27, 50, 58, 134, 147. Under construction: 11-12, 16-17, 18-20, 39, 52, 60, 65, 68, 127, 129. Log-built: 133. Fortified town or permanent castellum(?): 32, 33, 47.
Cataphract: From the Greek “kataphraktos”, meaning “totally armored,” a cataphract is a cavalryman whose body and whose horse is encased in thick scale armor (lorica squamata, s.v.). On the Column, Sarmatians and warriors from the Roxolani tribe fight in units of cataphracts. Scenes 31, 37.
Centuria: The tactical unit of 60-80 men in a Roman legion. Each centuria was commanded by a centurion and represented by a standard carried by its signifer.
Cheekpiece (on helmet): See “Galea.”
Cingulum: The belt of a Roman soldier; the dagger (pugio, s.v.) is attached to this belt. Scene 106.
Cippus: An upright marker, but also a barrier that can be set up in front of a fortification to impede attack, particularly cavalry charges (Richmond 1935: 37). Scene 25.
Classicum: A musical call made by a Roman military horn (see cornu). Associated with the “emperor’s trumpet call” (Richmond 1935: 11).
Clava: A wooden club used as a weapon (also Latin fustis).
Clavicula: In the military sense, the curved arm of a wall extending from a gateway, forcing entrance from the left and exposing the vulnerable side of an attacker. Scene 128.
Columna centenaria: A column that stands exactly 100 Roman feet high. Cf. G. Boni (1907a: 3) and Florescu (1969: 47; “Colonna centenaria“). The term is also used to reference the Column of Marcus Aurelius in Rome (CIL VI.1585 = ILS 5920).
Columna cochlis: A column with a spiral frieze (and/or a spiral staircase).
Comatus (pl. Comati): A soldier of the Dacian “rank and file;” apparently of lower status than the pileati (s.v.). Usually shown as capless, with shaggy hair. 31.
Congeries armorum: A pile of enemy weapons collected after a victory in battle, assembled to create a monument to success. The square pedestal of the Column is carved with such weapons, as if the shaft is supported on captured Dacian weaponry.
Construction Scenes: For forts and camps, see “Castra.” Refer also to construction scenes under “Bridge” and “Boat.”
Contubernium: A squad, generally of eight men, within a legion, who sleep and eat together in their tent, the papilio (s.v.).
Cornicen: One who plays the “cornu.” See the following entry.
Cornu: A horn used for signaling in the Roman army, particularly in conjunction with the standard-bearers. The instrument was carried over the shoulder and is nearly circular in form. It is played by the cornicen. According to Vegetius (Epitoma Rei Militaris 2.22) each legion had 36 cornicenes; see also Veget. 3.5. See also tuba and bucina. Scenes 5, 8, 26, 40, 61, 103, 109.
Crest (on helmet): See “Galea.”
Cuirass: a chestplate, form-fitting, formal armor worn by the emperor or a senior officer. Scene 54.
Dacia: As a female personification(?) Scene 150.
Dacica: Perhaps the title of Trajan’s personal written account of the Dacian Wars. Only passages and paraphrases are preserved.
Danuvius: The personification of the Danube River, shown as a bearded, reclining, nude male with river weeds in his hair. Scene 3.
Decapitation: see “Heads, severed.”
Decursio: A formal parade of horsemen before the emperor that can be part of the commander’s inspection of his forces.
Dias: see “Tribunal.”
Draco: The “flying” dragon standard of the Dacian army. The head of the standard is best described as canine and fanged. This was attached to a fabric(?) sleeve which was inflated when held up to the wind. Scenes 25, 31, 38, 59, 64, 66, 75 (surrender scene), 78 (as part of a trophy decoration).
Egg-and-dart molding: A convex Classical molding used on the capital of Trajan’s Column.
Eques: A cavalryman.
Equites Singulares Augusti: Personal cavalry bodyguard of the Emperor. Scenes 58, 102.
Falx: A Dacian long knife used in battle, characterized by a sickle-like, curving blade. Both one-handed and double-grip examples are shown on the Column. Unusually, the blade sharpened with the cutting edge running along the underside (concave edge) of the curve. This weapon combines the hooking power of an ax with the slashing edge of a sword, and the two-handed power of a war hammer. Scenes 72, 96, 78, 97, 145.
Fasces: A bundle of wooden rods (perhaps of birchwood) that holds an axe blade. A sign of authority carried in procession by the lictor (s.v.). Scene 104.
Fetial: Roman priest whose ancient duty was to strike the ground of enemy territory with a spear to formally declare war. On the Column, Trajan holds a spear during an early adlocutio that could be the same type used by the fetials. Scenes 25, 27.
Flute, double: Used at sacrifice (see “tibicen“).
Focale: A neck cloth used by Roman soldiers to absorb sweat and the prevent chafing from armor. Scene 72.
Fording: Wading across streams where there is no bridge. Scene 26.
Forestry: Cutting and clearing trees for roads or construction. Scenes 15,
Fortifications: For Roman forts and camps see “Castra.” Dacian fortifications of polygonal masonry: Scene 114.
Fossa: The deep trench or ditch that could be dug in the front of a fortification wall. Soldiers at the base of the wall in Scene 20 appear to be digging such a trench.
Galea: A distinctive Roman helmet, with hinged cheek plates, a ribbed dome, and a large section that flares out behind to protect the back of the neck from downward blows (Scenes 10, 62, 66, 72, 114). A ring on the top of regular legionaries’ helmets is probably an attachment point where a crest can be attached (32, 57, 104, 150) and the leather straps that tie the cheek straps together can be affixed, making the helmet much easier to carry on a pack while on march. Scenes 4, 66, 101, 106, 114; view of the top (42).
Gladius: Short stabbing sword carried by Roman legionaries. Scene 33.
Glans (pl. glandes): The bullet used by a slinger. Many lead examples have survived. Those shown in Scene 69 are round in shape, perhaps an indication of a missile made of stone or clay (Richmond 1935: 17).
Gates: See “Porta.”
Hasta: A spear.
Heads, severed: Roman auxiliaries are shown presenting the severed heads of Dacians to Trajan in Scenes 24 and 72. A Dacian head is held by the hair in clenched teeth in Scene 24. In Scene 113 an auxiliary holds the head of a Dacian while climbing an assault ladder. Dacian heads are displayed on poles (Scene 56); Roman skulls displayed on Dacian walls (Scene 25).
Helmet: See “Galea.”
Imaginifer: A junior officer who carried an image of the emperor for the legion.
Imperium: Supreme military command held by the imperator.
Iumenta: Pack mules. Scene 15.
Ladder: Used for assaulting a stronghold. Scene 113.
Legatus legionis: The senior commander of a legion. Scene 97.
Lictor: The lictor carries the fasces (s.v.) and accompanies important magistrates and, on the Column, the emperor: at once a mark of his charge’s authority and an honor guard. Scene 104.
Lignator: a soldier-craftsman who specializes in woodcraft, including the cutting and transportation of logs. Scene 15.
Lilia: Pits holding sharpened stakes placed defensively in front of fortification walls as traps for men and horses. These are shown as Dacian defenses on the Column; they were employed as well by Romans. Scene 25.
Lorica: A general term for armor worn by Roman soldiers. Legionaries (and never auxiliaries) on the Column wear segmented body armor fashioned from horizontal strips of iron (lorica segmentata, e.g., Scenes 4, 15, 40, 56, 66, 106). The armor had been invented in the mid-first century. The lorica segmentata shown on the Column are “schematized, and inaccurate in detail” (Lepper and Frere 1988: 266; also Richter 2004: 25-37; Robinson 1975: 174). Chain mail (lorica hamata) may have characterized the body armor of the auxiliaries, as is depicted on Scene 72 of the Column. In many cases the surface detail of the carving isso worn that the chain-mail tunics appear smooth. Scale body armor (lorica squamata) is seen on auxiliary cavalry and on Sarmatian riders (Scenes 37, 66), and is prominently featured as prized war booty on one of the trophies exhibited at the end of the first Dacian War. Scene 78.
Lower Moesia: Roman name for the province that comprised southern Dacia.
Lustratio (exercitus): A ritual purification of an army and its encampment. Scene 8. See also suovetaurilia.
Manica: Metal forearm protection; a vambrace.
Moors: African riders who serve as Roman “irregulars.” Scene 64.
Murus Dacicus: The Dacian building method has been described as masonry fortifications comprising facing walls of large polygonal stones (cf.”polygonal masonry” in this glossary) and a rubble core fill. Transverse timber beams were also employed to tie the two faces together (and provide resistance from rams). This is similar, if not essentially the same, as the so-called “Gallic masonry” (Murus Gallicus) described by Julius Caesar (Gallic Wars 7.22-3). Scenes 113-114.
Navalia: A boat shed. Possibly shown as a series of barrel-vaulted chambers in Scene 79.
Nyx: The personification of “Night,” believed to be represented as a female personification on the Column in the battle of Scene 38.
Ocrea: Metal leg protection; a greave.
Pack animals: See “Mules” and “Oxen.”
Paenula (Germ. Mantel; cf. also sagum): A heavy cloak, something like a modern “poncho,” used for travel and for protection against cold and rain.
Papilio: See “Tent.”
Pilum: A javelin or spear. While a common weapon used by soldiers, pila are underrepresented on the Column today, probably because many were added as metal attachments now lost (see, for example, the empty hands of the marching soldiers in Scenes 106-7). See those in low relief on scene 5. In Scenes 20, 29, upright pila stuck in the ground support helmets and shields while the soldiers work on a fort. Richmond notes that the “regular weapon” for resisting siege, a sharpened wooden stake known as the pilum murale, is not represented on the Column (1935: 28).
Polygonal masonry: Blocks of stone of irregular (polygonal) shape that are fitted closely to one another. It is an Italic technique used widely in limestone regions of central Italy during the Republic and also shown as a Dacian building technique in Scene 114.
Pons: See various entries under “Bridge.”
Pontoon Bridges: See “Bridge, pontoon.”
Porta: The gateway to a fortified town, military fort or camp. The gates take many forms (e.g., arched: Scenes 3-4, 14, 46-47,100; (with log cornice? 21), 48, 76, 91). The gates to the camp were distinguished from one another as porta principalis, porta decumana, porta praetoria. A gate may be protected by an overlapping curved inner wall (clavicula, s.v.; Scene 128).
Portico: A colonnaded enclosure, open to the sky. Scene 81.
Praefectus Castrorum: A senior officer in charge of the organization of the legion, including equipment and training.
Principia: The headquarters building at the center of a Roman camp.
Prisoners, Dacian: Within the walls of a Roman camp, Scene 43.
Profectio: The formal setting out or march that initiated a military expedition; cf. Scene 4.
Pterygia: Vertical flaps, usually in two rows that border the bottom of the cuirass. Scene 6.
Pugio: Roman soldier’s dagger.
Quadriga: A war chariot pulled by four horses. Scene 33.
Sacrifice: Trajan pours an initial libation: Scene 8; The emperor, velate, sacrificing: Scene 53; Victimarii (s.v.) and bulls stand before altars: Scene 85; Scene of libation by Trajan before an altar and a stunned bull: 86; Trajan, pouring a libation and victimarii (s.v.) and bulls in the background: 91; Trajan pours a libation in front of the Danube bridge: 99; Roman troops greet the emperor with sacrifice: 102; Trajan, velate, pours a libation before a ritual suovetaurilia (s.v.): 103. See also “altar.” Compare all six scenes of Trajan presiding over sacrifice.
Sagmarius: A pack-saddle. Scene 15.
Sagum (cf. also paenula): A rectangular cloak worn over armor. More common than the officer’s paludamentum (s.v.).
Salutatio: Soldiers may respond to the presence or address (adlocutio, s.v.) or the emperor by saluting him with raised arms. See also “Acclamation.” Scene 77.
Scamnum: A block within the camp containing the tents of the tribunes.
Scutum: The shield carried by soldiers. The legionaries carry a shield rectangular in shape (Scene 20); those of auxiliaries are oval in form (Scene 33). Round shields are also carried; by standard-bearers in Scene 113. Dacians also use an oval shield that is used in combat and figures prominently in the surrender scene (75) and the trophy scene at the end of the first Dacian War (Scene 78). See also Scenes 61, 72. The center of the exterior of the shield is often distinguished by a protruding circular boss, or umbo.
Securis: a form of woodsman’s axe with a poll but no pick opposite the blade.
Sentries: Soldiers standing guard, often at the entrance to a camp. Scene 11 (legionaries).
Shield: See “Scutum.”
Ship: See “Boat.”
Sica: The word has been associated as a variation of the falx (s.v.; i.e., a one-handed version). Contra, Coulston 1990: 293-94: “The word ‘sica‘ is employed [by Lepper and Frere] for the curved Dacian sword. This is a common misapplication of a term denoting a curved, double-edged sword or knife, particularly associated with Thracian gladiators. The Dacian falx is only superficially similar, its most important feature being its single edge on the inside of the blade’s curve.” For additional discussion see falx.
Sickle: The curved agricultural tool used to harvest grain. Scene 110.
Signa: See “Standards.”
Signal Towers: Towers with torches for signalling. Scene 1.
Skulls: set up on Dacian walls to frighten Roman soldiers, Scene 25.
Standards: Categories of military standards are: 1) legionary eagles; 2) signa; 3) vexilla; 4) imagines (see Rossi 1971: 105). Legionary eagles are shown on columnar-like pedestals (Scenes 4, 8, 48, 61, 104). The signa may take the form of superimposed wreaths (Praetorian type), miniature shield portraits (e.g., Scenes 33, 42, 99, 104) or a vertical line of disks (paterae) like those used for pouring libations (these “patera” type reference the legionary signa; Scenes 4, 10, 22, 24, 47, 48, 61, 128). Legionary signa topped with an open hand (manus) may indicate reference to a legionary maniple (Scenes 24, 48, 77). The vexillum (s.v.) is represented as a pole topped with a crossbar and a hanging, tasseled square cloth. Miniature versions can top the praetorian standard. Finally, some standards were topped with representations of animals such as the ram of Legio I Minerva (Scene 48). See Images of Roman Military Standards with additional descriptions.
Stool, camp: See “Sella castrensis.”
Suovetaurilia: The sacrifice of a boar, a ram, and a bull to the war-god Mars, an important religious ritual of the Roman army. On the Column the emperor himself presides over these events, which are conducted to “purify” the army at the start of a campaign or invasion. The standard representation shows the sacrificial victims being led to sacrifice around the walls of a camp, accompanied by musicians. Scene 8 marks the first such sacrifice, a others are shown in Scenes 53 and 103.
Symmachiarii: Roman “barbarian” allies, conventionally shown on the Column as stripped to the waist, barefooted, and wearing long trousers rolled at the waistband (Rossi 1971: 129). Scene 108.
Tents, tentage: The tents (generally, papilio, sing.; papiliones, plur.) used by the Roman army are depicted on the Column as squares of leather sewn together to make larger waterproof sheets. These were placed over wooden frames to make a house-shaped structure with vertical sides and a double-sloping roof. At the fortress site of Vindolanda in northern England, parts of actual tents have been recovered; these were made from sheets of goat leather (Bishop and Coulston 1993: 194). Scenes 8, 21, 43, 61, 103, 104, 109-10, 113, 128, 141.
Testudo: Roman tactical formation comprised of a unit of soldiers interlocking shields over their heads and around the sides of the tightly packed group. This formation was an excellent defense against ranged weapons, and proved ideal for the long approach to the wall of a city under siege. A notable depiction is found in Scene 71.
Theater: Scene 86.
Thrace: Region comprising portions of modern-day Bulgaria, Greece, and Macedonia. Thrace had very many cultural and technological similarities to Dacia, e.g., the weapon the Romans considered so characteristic of Thracians that the “Thrax” type of gladiator was the sica (s.v.).
Torus molding: a convex molding used on the base of the Column; in this case decorated with laurel leaves in relief.
Torture: Nude and bound men, perhaps Roman soldiers, are tortured with firebrands by a group of women in Scene 45.
Trajan: Roman emperor (r. 96-117) who led his legions against Dacia in two campaigns (101-102 and 105-106 CE). He appeared on the Column at least 56 times, 19 of which where placed on the side of the Column that faced the Basilica Ulpia and the Forum of Trajan. Beginning with Scene 8, is is shown presiding over a sacrifice six times.
Tribunal: A raised platform for an official; on the Column usually reserved for the emperor himself (Scenes 6, 10, 27, 104). The term may also be used to describe a platform built for artillery, such as that seen in Scene 65. See also “adlocutio.”
Tribunus militum: Officers who work under the legatus legionis.
Tropaeum: A “trophy,” traditionally made from an assemblage of captured enemy arms. The end of the first Dacian war is prominently indicated by a Winged Victory and a pair of trophies in Scene 78. Military trophies are also depicted decorating an arch in Scene 101.
Tuba: An important sound instrument used by the Roman Army. The tuba was a straight horn, something like a modern trumpet. It was used to announce the beginnings of watches, during engagements to sound advance and retreat, and used in sacrificial processions such as the suovetaurilia of Scene 8. The instrument was played by the tubicen. There were 38 tubicenes in each legion, according to Arrian (14.4). See also bucina and cornu. Scenes 8, 9.
Umbo: See “Scutum.”
Vexillum: A military banner, often fringed, and carried on a pole. While characteristic as a Roman military standard, some Dacians are shown holding vexilla, possibly these have been captured from the Romans (Lepper/Frere 1988: 126), but they are also figure prominently in the Dacian surrender scene that ends the first war (Scene 75). See also “standards.” Scenes 4, 6, 8, 40, 54, 79, 105, 106.
Victimarius: An attendant responsible for leading an animal to sacrifice, usually shown wearing a long kilt-like garment, bare-chested, and bearded when cows or bulls are being offered. Scenes 8, 53, 85, 91, 99, 103.
Victoria (Victory): The goddess Victoria is conventionally represented as a draped winged female deity. She appears (as a flying pair) on both the pedestal of the Column and at the midpoint of the shaft; here, on the Column itself, she is shown inscribing an account of Trajan’s first victory over the Dacians on an oval shield. Scene 78.
Wagon: Wagons and carts with spoked wheels are depicted in seven scenes on the Column: general-purpose, with eight-spoked wheels: Scenes 38, 49; twelve-spoked(?): 107; specially fitted to carry artillery (i.e., eight-spoked carroballistae, s.v.): 40, 66; designed to carry barrels employing both eight(?)- and twelve-spoked wheels: 62, 129.