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Of Rome’s three major commemorative columns, the ofAntoninus Pius is maybe the the very least appreciated. Why? Likethe obelisk of Trajan before it and the tower of Marcus Aurelius ~ it, it had abase, shaft, capital, and also gilded copper statue of the emperor whom itcommemorated. But unlike those othercolumns the did no commemorate a military conquest; nor was it decorated v asensational spiral relief or undoubtedly carving of any type of kind (and the obelisk is largelylost in any type of case).

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Yet it did share through those other columns an important function:it offered as an royal tomb. When theColumn the Trajan was a tomb in the strictly sense, real estate in its base thecremated remains of the emperor and his wife Plotina in gold urns, the Columnof Antoninus Pius, prefer the later on Column of Marcus Aurelius, was a cenotaph locatednear the spot where the emperor had been cremated, his Ustrinum (funeral pyre). The model (in the Museo della Civiltà Romana) picturedabove shows where in the Campus Martius it was situated with respect come the Pantheon(E).The column itself (A) was inserted north of thethe Ustrinum the Antoninus (B). Come the east was the Ustrinum that Marcus Aurelius (C), whose tower waslocated southern (D).
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The obelisk was make of red granite imported indigenous Egypt andit to be monolithic, i.e., shaped from a single piece of stone. In ~ 48’ high it had actually less than fifty percent the lengthof the tower of Trajan, composed of north of Luna marble. A mason’s inscription on the surviving lowerend the the column tells united state that the rock had been quarried in ad 106 for use inthe Forum that Trajan. Modern-day coins,such as the denarius shown to the right, help us to imagine the totality monument. It shows up to have had a Corinthian capital,and its pedestal was surrounding by a grating.
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All that continues to be is the marble pedestal. Its engraving records that the shaft was erectedby Marcus Aurelius and also Lucius Verus in memory of your adoptive father: “To theDivine Antoninus Augustus Pius his young (Marcus Aurelius) Antoninus Augustusand (Lucius) Verus Augustus (dedicate this monument).” Antoninus Pius passed away in 161 and it is likelythat this monument was i was delegated at that time. Faustina had passed away some 20 years earlier, in AD140.
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The other three sides of the pedestal are covered withreliefs. Shown over is the front, which challenged the Ustrinum. Itrepresents the apotheosis the Antoninus and Faustina. The imperial pair is gift conveyed heavenwardby a male figure that is youthful and almost entirely nude. Most striking about him space his wings, which span almost the field’s whole width. Hovering end the wings on either side areeagles whose spread wings iterate those of the main figure. In the reduced left corner a seminude number reclines,holding an pillar meant come recall the nearby meridian obelisk of Augustus: he is definitely thepersonification of the Campus Martius, the field of Mars, god of war. In the reduced right edge is Roma, thepersonification of Rome. Leaning ~ above ashield emblazoned with the babes Romulus and Remus being suckled through theshe-wolf, she put on a helmet, v one breast bared, like an Amazon, and also withthe armor the the overcame stacked increase at she feet: the emphasis here is clearlyon war—even much more so than in the other corner. That is not that Antoninus to be a belligerent emperor; indeed, his was themost relaxed reign the the Principate! Rather,the martial figures here stand for not Antoninus’ power in details but themarch of Roman background in general. Andthey room bidding farewell come the magnificent pair.
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But who is that central figure? The characteristics leave the question open: heholds a world encircled by the zodiac and entwined through a snake. The is regularly said to be a genius-figure (a geniusis an alter ego or a guardian spirit), but if so he is the only one v wingsin every one of Roman art. Is that Aeternitas, thepersonification that eternity the we uncover on the coinage of Faustina? yet Aeternitas is a feminine noun, therefore wewould mean a mrs personification. Other proposals:Ascensus,Consecratio,Aion, the Mithraic god of time. Lise Vogel, who devoted an entiremonograph come the monument, arguesfor Aureum Saeculum, golden age personified. She relates the scene to an previously one that Hadrianic or an extremely earlyAntonine date that shows the apotheosis of Sabina.
In this relief Sabina soars to heaven astride Aeternitas,who dead the torch with which she has just lit the pyre (ustrinum)below. The ustrinum is representeddoubly by the flaming structure itself and also by that personification in the formof a youth. Top top the right, her husbandHadrian bids her farewell. Comparisonwith the Sabina relief go indeed present that the Antoninus and Faustina reliefis traditional, even if it does not really assist us to identify that enigmatic centralfigure.

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Finally, permit us revolve to the various other two sides of thepedestal of the shaft of Antoninus Pius. They are identical representations of the armed forces parade or decursio the took place at the moment ofthe consecratio or cremation ceremony. Inthe middle, on a central ground line, we check out ten stand praetorians, 2 ofwhom, encountering each various other at the center, space signiferi, hold militarystandards, while two much more are officers and also the the other six space ordinarysoldiers. All about the soldiers arehorsemen galloping in a counterclockwise one movement. Ten space equites, the whom five bear thevexillum (banner). 6 wear tunic, toga,and calcei (boots). One (bottom center)stands out, isolated and wearing the pallium (cloak). Vogel suggests that the six are the seviriAugustales (priests in charge of the imperial cult) and that the isolatedcentral figure is one augustus: Marcus Aurelius on the one side, Lucius Verus onthe other: that describes why there are two decursio scenes.
The reliefs top top the cut down of the column of AntoninusPius depict 2 moments in the awareness of consecratio (enrollment that theemperor among the gods, i.e., deification or apotheosis). One is the cavalry procession (decursio) that came before the light of the pyre--in this case, there were twodecursiones, each led by one of the deceasedemperor’s adopted sons, that would ascendancy jointly till Verus’ fatality in advertisement 169. This double parade to be a demonstration of theirpietas. The other minute was the main event, the apotheosis that the royal couple. Keep in mind the eagles flanking the emperor and his mam on the relief. Herodian (4.2) states that ~ the light ofthe ustrinum or funeral pyre “from the greatest story (of the pyre) … an eagleis released … and soars up into the skies with the flames, taking the spirit of theemperor from planet to sky … Afterthat that is worshiped with the remainder of the gods.”
This sestertius, dated to 161, was issued ~ above the occasionof the consecratio that is the topic of the obelisk base. Keep in mind that the pyre had four tiers: Herodiansays that each tier was made of wood and also filled through brushwood but alsodecorated through gold-embroidered drapery, ivory carvings, and also paintings. Thebody was inserted in the second tier. Thedecursio was followed by a chariot display, through those in the chariots wearingthe genealogical masks (imagines). Then thepyre to be lit…