Imperial Art in the Age of Trajan



One hundred years after Grigore Tocilescu started his systematic excavations at the Triumphal Monument of Adamclisi1info, there are still aspects that remain a subject of controversy: the unusual appearance at the metopes can neither be understood in the context of the sculptural decoration as a whole, nor can it be read in sequence, so as to decode the original iconographic image of the Monument and its significance, although only five of the fifty-four items in this category are entirely missing. (However, small fragments of the linear frames have been found together with a fragment figuratively inscribed, which was excavated 7 or 8 years ago and remained unpublished, being now in custody at The Museum of National History and Archaeology Constanţa).

We do not wish to present here the hypotheses about the Monument as a whole or about the questions related to its sculptures. The interest in such matters has been revived, nowadays, by the three hypostases of theAdamklissi monograph; we shall quote and use here only the second one2info, which provides an account of the research, just like the others. The questions raised by the sculptures have been central to Roman art specialists, beginning with A. Furtwängler, and it is significant that the aspect of their artisanal appearance has tended, more than once, to situate the edifice in the historical and artistic context of the 4 century AD. Neither shall we linger on the analysis of the numerous assumptions and reflections about the artistic achievement of the Adamclisi sculptures, since R. Florescu3info undertook to summarize it. Nonetheless, we would like to emphasize from the very start of this chapter that the overall conception of imperial art in the age of Trajan depends precisely on the solution given to the complex questions connected to the sculptural decoration of the Adamclisi Trophy4info; in other words, it is in this volume that the key to the entire research is to be found.

In order to make use of the key just mentioned, we need to set up our own system of interpretation in response to the questions directly or indirectly posed by the Monument in connection with its sculptural decoration. This excursus will have value not only as a proof, but also as a synthesis, and will at the same time serve to decode the premeditated artisanal character of the metopes and merlones on the Triumphal Monument.

The hypotheses about the layout of the Monument metopes are intimately related to the ones regarding their iconographic interpretation in view of the event or events that the Trophy itself commemorates.

Gr. Tocilescu and his colleagues accepted that the metopes represented both Dacian wars as follows: the first war is outlined by metopes 1 to 27 and the second war by metopes 29-54; these are separated by metope 28, with its “ideal statuesque representation of the victorious Emperor – a symbol of the first Dacian triumph”.5info In fact, metope 28 is metope 6 “moved”, Tocilescu says, “southern from the place of its unearthing”. By and large, Tocilescu was under the misapprehension that the metopes which slid from the Monument stayed, more or less, in the place where they had fallen, but, on the other hand, he strongly emphasized that “One particular difficulty to note is their (i.e., the metopes) primitive arrangement. Given the way the excavations were conducted earlier, there are absolutely no excavation reports that we can successfully use in the present work. In addition, even if we had a precise map of the material unearthed to show the location of each of the stones under the ruins of the edifice before the research that I initiated myself, it would still be impossible to draw very firm conclusions from such a general picture; this is for the simple reason that we have no information about the context in which the Monument was destroyed or about the alterations in time of the vestigial piles of material. What we are saying is that not only are we unable to indicate the precise position of the pieces in the structure at the top of the metopes, but also, with very few exceptions, we are unable to determine precisely the sequence of the metopes within each unit.”6info

While they reject the idea of a continuous narrative fragmented in the metopes, the first two editions of the Adamklissi monograph state the following: “In our opinion, the metopes represent mere episodes, which are not connected by a plastic art narrative likely to follow the progress of the wars, as a chronicle would”; or “The fact that there is no continuous narrative does not indicate that by contrast to Trajan’s Column, at Adamclisi time is outside nature and history, as S. Bettini stated”.7info The monograph can be said to be indebted to Tocilescu’s hypothesis regarding the representation on metopes of the two Dacian wars and to validate the idea put through by the initiator of the systematic excavations of the Monument with respect to the sequence of the metopes. The author of the Adamklissi monograph made clear efforts to ground his work firmly by bringing in overwhelming scientific and mathematical evidence when he made his metrological case, (very useful for the archaeological record of the Trophy), while he also managed, quite felicitously, to leave behind the purely imaginative ethnographical aspect of his monograph.

Similarly, the author of the Adamklissi II monograph thought that his layout of the metopes and of the dividing pilasters was very convincing, considering the infinitesimal difference between their dimensions, which he correlated with the places of insertion of their clip bolts on the lower acanthus frieze and on the upper one with torsade and palmette. In fact, he made haste to make his discovery public again just before the second edition of his massive monograph was published in the following terms: “Unlike Gr. Tocilescu and his colleagues, who determined the order of the metopes by reference to the places where they were found in the vicinity of the monument or by referring to the subject of the metopes – especially for the metopes discovered further away from the Trophy – the objective architectural study of the lower and upper frieze blocks, supported by mathematical computations, has allowed us to make positive specifications about the sequence of the metopes, which is largely in accordance with Tocilescu’s proposal. At the same time, by using this method we have managed to provide further data regarding the layout and the widths of the missing metopes. Therefore, the issue of the metopes’ sequence, the object of numberless controversies and the apparent major obstacle in the way of the potential restoration of this Monument, was finally resolved”.8info

The victorios trumpeted solution was no more than four years old9info when – in spite of the “objective architectural study… supported by mathematical computation” – was replaced by another equally objective and rigorously exact solution devised by the same person who had created and strenuously demonstrated the earlier one; what we can tell is that the later solution was inspired by the discussions of the author with the late I.A. Richmond, in Romania, who had been preoccupied with the Monument himself and authored a study published in Romanian10info posthumously.

The three editions of the latest Adamklissi monograph – whose Romanian field literature reviews range from simple presentations of the original version11info to more or less formally conducted discussions of historic facts and ancient art theory12info and, finally, to studies that highlighted fundamental historical or iconographic problems and brought necessary corrections to some research and interpretation errors13info – had the frequently invoked merit of calling the attention of historians all over the world to one of the great Roman art monuments, whose research record had been prematurely closed. We wish to stress as early as this that the revived importance of the Adamclisi Trophy is connected to something of more far - reaching importance than the settling of a minor Dacian and Latin patavinitas: what is in question here is an objective necessity of imperial Roman art research, in direct connection with the theoretical and methodological acquisitions started by Wickhoff’s studies and is implicitly on the agenda of our present exegetical and aesthetical work.

This allows us to see the importance, not in the least negligible, of one particular discovery made by the author of the Adamklissi II monograph, which stands apart within the context of the numerous membra disiectawhich this author did his best to tenaciously and thoroughly gather from the vast Dobrudjan area researched and restored to the architectural and sculptural inventory of the Monument. The discovery in question regards block No 1, a part of the lower frieze (Fig. 3a), and represents a calix consisting of acanthus leaves from which springs a stem that ends in a flower with five petals from where it develops, both left and right, the acanthus trailing stem with wolf heads placed in the centre of spirals and facing each other in twos14info (Fig. 4). Along the diameter of the acanthus frieze, this block stands in opposition to block No 62/28, which features a cantharus where the ends of the acanthus trailing stem penetrate from both left and right (Fig. 3b).

The research record which documented Tocilescu’s hypothesis was closed for good after being sanctioned by G.-Ch. Picard’s study, which invoked the iconographical parallel of the Trophy and Trajan’s Column to blame the Adamclisi masters for omitting very important scenes like the fall of Sarmizegetusa and the death of Decebal15info. We shall see that the latter was not, in fact, omitted!

The initiator of the second trend in the interpretation of the metope figuration was, at the beginning of the 20 century, Teohari Antonescu16info. He was the first to point out the importance of the campaign in Moesia during the first Dacian war and to show that the fate of the war was decided at Adamclisi: he underlined that the Trophy, the Altar, and the Mausoleum in the Dobrudjan plateau were erected by Trajan on the site where he had fought the most difficult battle of his life. “Allowing himself to get carried away by enthusiasm when making his observations, this Professor from Iaşi could not refrain from exaggerations, and located in the area surrounding the plateau at Adamclisi all three battles of the campaign (in Moesia, the author’s note), when, in fact, only the third battle could have been fought there, if the city being shown on the Column under construction between the second and the third battles was mistakenly supposed to be Tropaeum Traiani, when in fact it could only be Nicopolis ad Istrum”; and Professor Radu Vulpe17info goes on as follows: “Leaving aside these minor errors, T. Antonescu’s realistic interpretation of the campaign in Lower Moesia remains the only valid one, basically. The Italian scholar Roberto Paribeni adopted it in his monograph about Emperor Trajan. We have retained this point of view, initially formulated in 1938 in Histoire ancienne de la Dobroudja and developed it subsequently in our latest works...”.

Antonescu begins his work to assign series to the metopes at the southern point of the eastern drum, since the counter-clockwise direction had been imposed by the figurative orientation to the right of the majority of the metopes. A cavalry fight was, therefore, naturally followed by the battle near the chariots and then the prisoners’ march, the preparations for the great battle, the actual clash of the armies, the adlocutio (speech) and, finally, the presentation of the praetorian rank.

Although he did not offer a solution to the sequence of the metopes, Radu Vulpe18info strongly stated that “we should not see on the Adamclisi metopes and crenels anything besides evocations of the battle that took place there”.

Radu Florescu’s “hypothesis with rhythms and modules plotted in 6”19info is in the same vein as Antonescu’s vision and follows the mathematical conception of the Adamklissi II restoration. “The modular system of the Monument”, Radu Florescu says, “restored by comparing the dimensions, first measured in meters then converted into Roman feet, of the exterior wall finishing and the architectural parts of the Monument, whether they were still standing or reliably restored, was based on a module of six feet, which was the equivalent of the inter-axis between two small adjacent pilasters that framed the metopes, and had a rhythm that could be rendered by the product 2 x 3...”.20info The same digits, 6, 2 and 3, appeared in the grouping of the 54 metopes to make up six scenes (seven, in Antonescu’s study), of nine pieces each, as follows: I. Trajan, at the head of the cavalry and auxiliaries, ambushes the attackers; II. Trajan attacks the chariot-fortification of the attackers and conquers it; III. Trajan receives the homage of the local population at a recently constructed castrum and the presentation of the prisoners; IV. Trajan issues the order for the beginning of the infantry march; V. Trajan leads a significant infantry battle as victor; VI. Trajan is acclaimed by his military units21info. It is obvious that the six scenes are “programmed” based on the six “imperial” metopes that feature Trajan. The way R. Florescu focuses on the symmetry of the imperial metopes and the schematic symbolism of their representation is characteristic of The Column of Marcus Aurelius in Rome, rather. The art in the age of Trajan has more discrete and subdued iconographic features when it expresses Caesar’s cult. On the other hand, it is considered more than likely that the intervention in the Adamclisi battle of that unknown praefectus castrorum (“the chief for the back lines of the battle”) decided the fate of the battle. This man’s name will have been inscribed at the top of the list of casualties on the Altar situated about 200 m east of the Trophy, and his body will have been buried

in the circular Mausoleum covered by a tumulus, which stood 50 m north of the Trophy22info.

Consequently, R. Florescu retained T. Antonescu’s position with respect to the metopes, considering that they were “grouped into two great historical epic moments”23info and represented the entire campaign of Lower Moesia during Trajan’s first war with Decebal24info. In contrast to F.B. Florescu’s “final solution”, R. Florescu acknowledges the hypothetical character of his considerations and proposals regarding the Triumphal Monument and, in fact, makes the following statement in a note: “both the modular fabric and its regulatory trajectories are hypothetical.”25info It is precisely because R. Florescu mentions, in the same note, Vitruvius’ treatise De architectura26info, that we need to indicate three things that this author mistakenly overlooks: the fact that ancient “modular” architecture had ceased to exist after the end of the classical Greek period, the fact that the rhythm of 2 x 3 had already ceased to represent a modulation and, last but not least, the fact that, owing to its eclecticism and because it used and combined elements of traditional Greek architecture spontaneously, Roman architecture characteristically lacked “canons” (and modern research has proved the complete inadequacy of Vitruvius’ to the Greek architectural reality and the failure of the next generations of Roman architects to resort to the prescriptions of his treatise, cf. note 26). The best illustration of this reality is to be found precisely on the Adamclisi Trophy, where the metope frieze is situated in the middle of the drum, so that it is “readable” from the promenade area of the Monument, rather than having been placed under the cornice, as previously believed. Working jointly with the architects and historians who have drawn up the record for the restoration of the Trophy, R. Florescu himself has brought a substantial contribution to thoroughly placing the respective frieze. After observing the sequence of the concrete layers at the heart of the Monument, the grout, which oozed forth to the surface after laying each of the courses in place and which stiffened before the overlapping course was laid, indicated quite precisely that the exterior finishing blocks had a vertical sequence and that the greatest distance between two layers of stiffened cement in the raw stone filling of the drum corresponded perfectly to the metopes height, observable through the empty space it left precisely in the middle of the central cylindrical body of the Trophy.

Richmond’s hypothesis27info also largely derives from Teohari Antonescu’s. Unlike the Professor from Iaşi, however, Richmond considers that the military operations represented on the metopes followed the wars with the Dacians and anticipated the displacement of legions to Durostorum and Troesmis. This would be mainly the explanation for the connection with the Lower Moesian army, since the Trophy is considered to commemorate the consummation of the victorious military campaigns of this army, which managed to effectively close the old and endless hassle on the Lower Danube frontier and settled the accounts after the previous defeat of the Romans in Domitian’s war. This, for Richmond, would fully account for the dedication to Mars Ultor and for the fact that the Trophy was erected so close to Domitian’s monuments (the Altarand the Mausoleum). It is not the place here to focus on the question of dating the Altar and the Mausoleum. At present, there are still serious purely theoretical options (Em. Condurachi, R. Florescu, H. Daicoviciu and others) and also epigraphic explanation attempts28info to bring arguments in favor of considering the former as being part of the historical context of Domitian’s reign, when Decebal’s Dacians in Moesia defeated and killed C. Oppius Sabinus, the governor of the province. We remain, however, in line with R. Vulpe and others, partisans of the idea, which shall also be directly or indirectly confirmed by the observations and pieces of evidence below, that the Altar, the Mausoleum and the Trophy should be considered together as consequences of Trajan’s Dacian wars, to which we should add that the Mausoleum and the Altar were erected soon after the Moesian campaign of the first war, while the Trophy was erected after the second war, in 108-109.

Richmond postulated that the series of metopes began in the north and followed a counter-clockwise direction (which is in fact obvious for anyone); he also said that the series opened with a single sacrificial scene (which comprised several metopes) and that it had the double function of beginning and ending the campaign; he added that the narrative covered several themes – clausulae – marked by metopes (especially the imperial ones); he also considered that the increase from two to four of the number of figures on the metopes indicated the intensification of fight and that the narrative, though continuous, consisted of segments represented by the metopes because a continuous frieze would have exceeded the sculptural capabilities of the local artisans; he noted that the impression of movement in the representation is given by the repetition of several scenes; finally, he stated that the Monument as a whole had been created by the Moesian army, its figuration constituted a typical sermo castrensis case (it was expressed in the typical military language) and the acanthus frieze carver also designed and drew up the belt of the metopes (a suggestion to which we must pay the greatest attention).

Lino Rossi, this industrious Italian doctor, thought it was a good idea to exert his innovative élan in re-arranging the metopes on the Adamclisi Monument, by adopting the rhetorical rather than the de factopragmatic Anglo-Saxon position regarding Roman art history, as illustrated by Richard Brilliant’s works29info, which Rossi intentionally quoted. The result is a work that stands out through its eclecticism devoid of subtler shades of meaning, where ideas familiar to the readers of Tocilescu and Antonescu’s, in Adamklissi II, of R. Florescu and Richmond’s appear in conjunction but completely unrelated and allow detail or overall explanations to surface completely meaninglessly, with the fanciest comments, worlds apart from the matter in question. We find it pointless, therefore, to deal with such an incomplete compilation.

We hope that the above - mentioned considerations have already served as hints about the main directions to follow in the interpretation of the sculptural decoration and its historical significance. The restoration of Trajan’s Monument at Adamclisi – a significant objective of imperial Roman art and architecture – was conducted most judiciously, which will allow, in future, the materialization in situ of the final solution, as a result of increasingly circumstantial research. At present, all the original parts of the Trophy are grouped and exhibited in a purposefully built museum in the village of Adamclisi, in the vicinity of the Monument. Steps, a promenade area, and parts of the inferior layers were added to the ancient concrete nucleus and the rest of the exterior finishing plates, whether carved or not, were reproduced in concrete and placed on the Roman nucleus in a way that would easily allow any necessary change. This has reconciled the scientific and preservation requirements of the curators in charge with this valuable sculptural treasure, it being their legitimate wish to restore, in all its greatness, the second monument of Trajan’s time (in scale and complexity) after the Column in Rome; it is all the more significant as a monument that sits on the ground whose bi-millennial Latinity represents the key-stone of the Romanian ethnogenesis.

In 1970, Michael Speidel published30info a very interesting Latin inscription on a funerary stele discovered at Philippi (Kavalla) in Macedonia (Greece). The figurative tier on the upper part of the stele represents a rider galloping to the right and an enemy fallen in front of the horse, to the left, with his right hand outstretched, wearing a pileus on his head and holding a diamond-shaped shield in his left hand (Fig.1). The text added to the conventionalism of the scene the specification that the rider was Tiberius Claudius Maximus of the VII legion, Claudia Pia Fidelis; the title of decurion had been conferred on him in the second Pannonian cavalry unit (in ala secunda pannoniorum)… because he had captured Decebal (who was dead) and had brought Decebal’s (severed) head to Ranisstorum (quod cepisset Decebalum et caput eius pertulisset Ranisstoro).

In Scene CXLV (Cichorius) on the Column, Decebal is represented slashing his throat with the curved Dacian dagger (Fig. 5), which is an action confirmed also by Dio Cassius (LXVIII, 14). Before they were brought to Ranisstorum then to Rome, Decebal’s head and right hand (which was first observed next to the slashed head by Cichorius) were exhibited in full view of the Roman army in an opus quadratum stone castrum, which may have been the one in Napoca or Porolissum, as can be easily noticed in scene CXLVII on the Column (Fig. 2). The features of Decebal’s portrait31info on the Column resemble exactly the physical description of the Dacian king as recorded by Dio Cassius (LXVII, 6).

One year after the publication of the valuable inscription from Macedonia, the same Michael Speidel32info noticed on metope IV of Adamclisi (whose upper half is extant but was erroneously restored by E. Mironescu as directed by the author in the second edition of the Adamklissi monograph, pp. 410-411, Fig. 183 a, 183 b) that the Dacian personage who wears a calotte (like so many Dacian noblemen represented on the Column) and carries an oval shield in his left hand (Fig. 9) is slashing his throat with a curved dagger (sica) – as is perfectly visible in all the photographs of this item and on the original one, too – in front of the rider, (the future decurion Tiberius Claudius Maximus), who is attacking him with the spear. The scene is similar with the one on the Column (CXLV), where Decebal is slashing his throat with the curved dagger, one knee on the ground (Fig. 5).

“If these observations are correct, Speidel noted33info, they will have decisive consequences for the interpretation of the Triumphal Monument at Adamclisi; they will finally answer a long-lasting debate by demonstrating that the Tropaeum Traiani commemorates not only Trajan’s indecisive war of 101-102 but also the second war of 105-106, in whose wake Dacia was transformed into a Roman province. The Adamclisi Monument will prove to be the counterpart on the battlefield of Trajan’s Column in Rome, since both recorded the same events. Moreover, we will have a starting point for establishing the original order of the metopes, which is something that still needs to be done. Once this has been achieved, it will be possible to study the sculpted chronicle of the two very important wars that imperial Rome fought, the chronicle being rendered in stone by the soldiers who participated in the wars”.

Of course, we do not agree with all of Speidel’s considerations about the very important discovery that he made. But he is altogether right about its decisive character for the interpretation of the Monument. To support his identification, Speidel did not insist sufficiently on metope XXX (where Tocilescu still thought he saw Decebal running on horseback, after the fall of Sarmizegetusa, while a Roman foot soldier from the detachments barring his escape was trying to pull him off the horse) and on metope V (which represented a Roman rider attacking three barbarian foot soldiers, two of whom wore bonnets, as A. Furtwängler34infojudiciously noted, being Decebal’s mounted attendants left without horses and about to be executed ); both of these metopes have correspondents in scenes CXLII-CXLV on the Column, which are connected to each other and form a single grand panel which ends with Decebal’s death (Figs. 678).

In the light of the above mentioned observations, a whole series of conclusions of previous researches acquire new meanings and increase their power to integrate things in the hypothesis that we are about to outline. This category of data become notable for their greater coherence by comparison to all the previous variants proposed for ordering the sculptural decoration.

1. In 1885, the Mayor of Enigea discovered, on the eastern side of the Monument, a fragment of the dedicatory inscription. Yet another fragment was found by Tocilescu, in the same place. It is obvious that, given the gradient, the fragments on the upper part of the Monument nucleus could only have come loose from the top to the bottom – their displacement left or right being impossible.

2. One fragment of the dedicatory inscription, published a decade and a half ago35info, attested the existence of a doublet, which was quite logically situated on the opposite side of the upper hexagonal base, i.e. to the west.

3. The bifacial character of the arm trophy at the top and of the double group of two seated female captives with a standing male captive in their midst stresses the bifacial character of the Monument itself also on this last upper level. The bifacial character in an arm trophy is something rare. Not even Domitian’s Dacian trophy, which can be seen nowadays on the balustrade of the Capitol in Rome36info and should be seen as the complement of the Germanic trophy, has (have) two faces, although the two structures that framed this Monument, probably the equestrian statue of the Emperor praised by Statius (Silvae, I, 1, lines 91-94), allowed them to be also viewed from the back, or else these parts would have remained unfinished instead of being wrought with such careful craftsmanship as they appear today.

4. The bifacial character of the Monument is confirmed also by the acanthus frieze through the existence of the acanthus chalice and the cantharus, which serves as receptacle for the two trailing stems. But we need to point to one more precise shade of meaning. Given the symbolic value of the cantharus vessel in Roman funerary iconography, we must place this frieze key (Fig. 3b) on the eastern side of the Monument, i.e., facing the funerary Altar, which was also the point of orientation for one of the dedicatory inscriptions, too (see item 1, supra).

5. The second key to the acanthus frieze, the chalice (Fig. 3a), was implicitly placed at the other end, i.e., to the west and it corresponded, vertically, to the second inscription and approximately to the access from the Roman castrum, which lay in the valley, and to the plateau where the Monument stood. It is obvious that the acanthus bush, as origin of the two trailing stems which issued forth from it both left and right, was bound to be marked on the main face of the monument. We shall return to this when referring to the key metopes (see item 7, infra).

6. Because the acanthus trailing stem has opposed pairs of wolf heads in the centre of the volutes (which represents a more than obvious allusion to the Dacian flag) (Fig. 4), one cannot possibly envisage “the existence of two directions for the unfurling of the acanthus trailing stem with volutes that feature Draco heads in the lower decorative tier and two corresponding axes of symmetry for the dynamic layout of the whole Monument”, as R. Florescu stated37info.

7. The key metope, which may lie over the acanthus chalice on the main face, ought to be an imperial, frontal metope having a central symmetry axis (running through Trajan’s figure) and it ought to have some kind of heraldic character38info (Fig. 10). The front view makes it rather neutral, but Trajan’s head, turned slightly to the right, remains part of the dynamic design of the majority of metopes (running in counter-clockwise sequence). This key metope is metope X (see Plate A and the sequence of images that follows).

8. At the other end, on the eastern side facing the Altar, there should be the metope which represents the equestrian statue of the victor running his horse over the body of a fallen barbarian: this is metope VI (Fig. 11). In view of the far-reaching symbolic value of this iconographic scheme, we can note that the stonemason did not go out of his way to render Trajan’s face. For who but the Emperor should be the avenger of thousands of men killed, recorded on the opposite slabs of the funerary altar? And who else was entitled to have an equestrian statue in the 2 century Empire?

9. If we include the above metope, there are six imperial metopes. Apart from the key imperial metopes, three are oriented to the left and only one faces right (XXVII, XXXII, XL and XLV respectively).

10. The unitary sense of the movement, the variations of the few iconographic battle schemata as well as the pairs of identical metopes are facts observed and highlighted by Tocilescu and Antonescu. Unlike most of our predecessors, we do not think that the pairs of metopes were means of highlighting the mass of militaries or “conferring a modular rhythm” upon the image development. For us, the pairs of metopes are peremptory arguments for the existence of two different actions. The same schemata mark identical moments and have the same meaning. Identical facts ought to exist not only in two, but in all Roman military campaigns. Their image encoding had begun as early as the Republic’s triumphs, when battle-scene paintings were carried along, side by side with spoils and war prisoners. In the chapter dedicated to the Column, I am going to discuss the way in which Lehmann-Hartleben studied the historical morphology and the semantics of these patterns and of others that appear frequently on Trajan’s Monument. The pairs of metopes are: I = II; XXVI=XLI; XXXIX=XLIV; XI=XLII; XIII≠XII; XXVII=XL. Of the six pairs of metopes, the last one is a pair of imperial metopes which represent Trajan followed by a member of his staff, both of them wearing military headquarters uniforms (rather than battlefield uniforms) and being depicted in the adlocutio (public discourse), posture which is identical (also on the Column) to the one summoning people to war, when the Emperor is clad in his armour and battle scenes unfold in front of him. The Emperor’s raised right arm, before some military actions, has also been wrongly interpreted as a gesture of clemency, one that rejected violence in a disgruntled attitude (but such interpretations have long been repudiated). For how could an army commander reject violence aimed at the enemy that decimated its ranks?! One further imperial metope in which the exhortatory (impelling) gesture can be discerned is the odd one, number XXXII, whose figuration suggests a wooded and maybe mountainous setting.

11. In Adamklissi II, there are two misinterpreted metopes: XV and XXV. Metope XV is highly corroded. Here is Tocilescu’s comment39info about it: “Its subject, the marching of war prisoners, indicates that it ought to be a special representation, as it is so detailed, of the war’s end. This invites us to regard it as a piece that completed the whole representation and we should infer that the lost metopes completed it by the representation of a sacrificial scene to the north. A sacrifice can be hardly overlooked and should, therefore, be considered as proven (and we can recall here the similar idea expressed by Richmond, albeit in reference to a different historical and geographical context, author’s note), if it were not for metope XI lying for so long in the Danube water as to be severely damaged and make even its straight grooves indiscernible. I can quote my remark at the time in the excavation log: the entire bas-relief is extant but severely dilapidated; it had also been damaged in ancient times, and grass has grown in its crevices. Three Roman soldiers are visible, two of them with straight pipes in their mouths. Anyway, the sacrificial scene should be to the north, between the beginning and the end of the row and its significance would consequently be complete. For it would, then, have some pro itu et pro reditu value at the same time, connecting the beginning and the end of the whole.” Traces of the shield of the legionary on the right can still be discerned on the stone nowadays and no shields of the two tubicines at his back. In the absence of proof in the relief itself, it is impossible to accept that the three figures might have had their swords drawn, as erroneously deduced in Adamklissi II. Since tubae were, by all means, represented in a sacrificial scene, it is certain that this metope must have been part of such a sacrificial scene.

Gr. Tocilescu found only the upper left corner of metope XXV. Again, E. Mironescu was guided by the author to restore this metope in Adamklissi II, basing his restoration on the doublet of metopes XXXIX= XLIV. One more metope with the legionaries marching was pointless in the narrative. It was erroneously restored because: a) the relief reached as far as the frame of the stone, the extant fragment indicated a big crowd in the composition of the metope; b) the extant heads of two soldiers are not in line, which, in terms of the artisanal perspective, means that the figures were on two different levels; c) under the above mentioned circumstances, the large empty space at the upper right corner is not justified by the doublet of metopes XII≠XIII, where the same group of six people as on metope XXV are distributed on two lines, in a logical manner from the iconographical point of view and according to the artisanal requirements that the figures should not overlap on the axes but on the inter-axes.

Consequently, we reckon that this metope depicts the Suovetaurilia and, through its orientation to the right, we have placed it left of the key imperial metope X on the western side, which imperial metope is located, as mentioned, over the acanthus chalice of the lower frieze. To the right of the key imperial metope X we have located metope XV with its tubicines to compose this unique metope on the Monument by following the model of the sacrificial scenes on the Column (for example, scenes VIII-IX,  Fig. 12).

12. If we do not consider, as shown in paragraph 10 supra, that the pairs of metopes served as a means of highlighting the military mass, this does not mean that we are adverse to the idea that several different metopes composed one scene. We admit this because a complex, for example, a sacrificial scene could not be symbolically compressed on only one metope, especially given the characteristic artisanal manner of the narrative frieze on the Trophy. Similarly, several metopes were employed to suggest the marching order of the Roman army. We adopted the order on the Column, which ran from left to right: horn-players, standard bearers, and legionaries. By retaining the same sequence, which is in fact the reverse tactical order of the cavalry (but in agreement with the order of “reading” the Monument), the speculator (the scout rider) on metope II appears after the cavalry detachment (metope III) to indicate that the former actually precedes the latter in time (in the “reading” order). The strong accent of one military action or its duration might be suggested by different metopes on the same theme or on a similar one, a fact shown by the juxtaposition of these metopes (Plate A).

Having outlined the overall framework for the discussion through the above-mentioned observations, we should precede our presentation and argumentation of the solution proposed for the sculptural decoration of the Trophy by an enumeration of what is historically and artistically certain about the group of monuments located on the plateau of Adamclisi.

1. The Trophy was constructed at Trajan’s orders after the second Dacian war and it was finished and inaugurated in 109.

2. From the architectural and sculptural point of views, the Trophy is an entirely unitary chronological work. None of its elements was added after 109. The figures’ eyes do not have plastic pupils, which represents a sculptural clue: they belong to the artistic climate of Trajan’s time. (R. Vulpe mentions the exception of one single plastic pupil on metope I).

3. Three barbarian ethnic groups appear also on a large number of metopes that represent battle-scenes and prisoners: Dacians, Sarmatians with long curved and pointed swords that could be used in both hands and Germans with their nodus (Buri). The presence of prisoners from the three ethnic groups as well as the metopes (IX, L,VIII) which represent the pacification of the population of the Southern Danube region together with the particular place where the Trophy was erected clearly indicates that the decisive battle of the Moesian campaign in Trajan’s first Dacian war was fought precisely there and that it was the only battle represented on the metopes showing the combatants from the three nations.

4. The Moesian campaign40info, represented also on the Column (Scenes XXXIII-XLVIII), and the final battle at Adamclisi, in particular, with its great number of Roman casualties, decided the war in their favor. As a whole, this Roman victory, which had been so hard to win, was to blame, however, for Trajan’s failure in his Dacian war. It led to a peace treaty that Trajan had not anticipated, as he thought he would liquidate Decebal and his kingdom in a single military action, albeit not a short or simple one. Such a “victory” had to be vindicated and Dacia had to be conquered for good. To this end, Trajan mustered substantial and very costly military engineering forces unprecedented in Rome’s fighting against her adversaries, which exceeded those of the first Dacian war41info.

5. The battle at Adamclisi, just like the Moesian campaign as a whole, proved once more the geopolitical unity of Pontic Dacia (Dobrudja) and north-Danubian Dacia. The fact that the north Danubian Getae kings had control over Pontic Dacia had been known since the classical Greek and Hellenistic period, and it had been true (excepting the existence of the kings as such) ever since the beginning of the Iron Age. The proof of the strength and extent of this unity is to be found precisely in what happened to Trajan in Moesia and Adamclisi sixty years after Getian Dobrudja had come to be administrated by the Romans, not to mention the losses of Domitian’s armies in the same area, the defeat and death on the battlefield of C. Oppius Sabinus, the governor of the Moesian province, all these being caused by the daring politics and courage of Decebal yet again. In other words, in time, both Domitian and Trajan came to realize the strength of this century-old unity, well-known to Decebal and his Dacians; in fact this was the reason why Trajan, who had superior strategic reasons, planned to conquer Carpathian Dacia, whose alliance with Pontic Dacia, as shown in the previous chapter, encouraged the rapid coalition of anti-Roman forces along the entire left shore of the Middle and Lower Danube Basin.

Speidel’s essential observation42info about the representation on metope IV of Decebal’s suicide raised again the issue of the symbolic image of the second Dacian war (105-106 AD) on a great number of the Monument metopes. We have already mentioned that as a representation of this war metope XXX should be also added, which Tocilescu justly interpreted as featuring the pursuit of Decebal on horseback. There are other three metopes at least which determine and localize the representation of the second Dacian war. They are, as follows:

1. Metope XXIV, where the Dacians are thrown off the crags (Fig. 13), which is an indication of the mountainous landscape around Sarmizegetusa.

2. Metope XXXI, where the Dacian archers who are in the trees are hunted by the Roman legionaries (Fig. 14), suggests the woods of the last spot where the Dacians of Transylvania resisted the Romans because there is no other metope showing any warrior, of the three nations involved in the battle of Adamclisi, in the act of using, as a weapon, a bow and arrow.

3. Metope XXXII, which features Trajan with the lorica and the paludamentum, while making a gesture of exhortation (with his right hand up) and followed by two soldiers of his guard. The wood in the background of the relief indicates a similar theatre of operations, with mountains, and trees where the last two remaining centres of Dacian resistance in Transylvania were routed. The three metopes are parts of intensely dramatic scenes.

In view of the existence of the metopes with chariots, with Dacians, Sarmatians and Buri, on the one hand, and of the metopes that represent Decebal’s suicide and his pursuit, then the routing of the Dacian fighters in Transylvania, on the other hand, the thematic solution and order of the narrative frieze metopes become self-evident. One hemicycle of the Monument represents the Adamclisi battle and the victory at the cost of so many Roman lives, which delayed by some years the final subjection of Dacia (achieved, as already shown, by great military efforts and financial investment); the other hemicycle features a symbolic representation (possibly more intense than the opposite one) of the second Dacian war, won by the Romans, who in this way avenged the very bloody Adamclisi victory.

Whereas the Romans’ opponents on the Adamclisi hemicycle are the Dacians, Sarmatians and Buri with the nodus, on the hemicycle with the final Dacian war the Romans’ opponents are the Dacians only.

The dedication of the Monument to Mars Ultor (Mars the Avenger) is not merely a formal generality, but has a concrete allusive sense, which is strongly individualized by the narratives on both hemicycles and, especially, on the metope IV with Decebal’s suicide and on the metope VI with the imperial statue of Trajan as the executor of this divine vengeance.

Mars Ultor was not the only hypostasis of worshiping Mars in the military milieu. As it is known, the epithet ultor was introduced by Augustus who wanted to honour by a specific cult the fact that Caesar’s death had been avenged. The cult of Mars Ultor only became familiar as a cult devoid of avenging significance in the 3 century AD. In the age of Trajan, it still had specific reference, and the inscription as such attested to events that called for vengeance (for this, see the presence of the Mars Ultor legend on the “oppositional” coins of the years 68-70 AD, mentioned in the previous chapter on page 85). Mars militaris, Mars militiae potens, Mars campester were common invocations of the war god in the first two centuries of the Empire, Victoria aeterna and Victoria redux 43info were also associated with him.

*infoM A [ r t i ] Y L T O R [i]

I M [ p(erator) Caes]A R D I V I

N E R V A [e f(ilius)] N [e] R V A

[Tra] I A N V S [Aug(ustus) Germ(anicus)]

[Dac] I [c] VS P[ont(ifex)] M A [x(imus)]

[trib(unicia) potes] T (ate) X I I I

[imp(erator) vi co(n)s(ul)] V P(ater) P(atriae)

[ ? v i c t o e x e r c] I T V D[acorum?]

[ . . . ? e t S a r m a t a ] RVM

[ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ] E

[ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ]

Translated as: “To Mars, the vindicative God (Mars Ultor), Emperor Caesar, son of the divine Nerva, Nerva Trajan, the Augustus, vanquisher of the Germans, vanquisher of the Dacians, the Great Priest, having for the XIII time the power confered by the fact that he was tribune of the plebs, proclaimed, for the VI time imperator by the army, elected consul for the V time, Pater Patriae, [after he defeated the armies of the Dacians and Sarmatians, he dedicated this Trophy with the help of his legate...].

The lines between the last parenthesis are reconstructed by deductions and assumptions. Regarding the name of the respective legate (the governor of Lower Moesia at that time) it cannot be accurately specified in the current stage of knowledge”.

The easterly orientation of one of the two (identical and diametrically opposed) dedicatory inscriptions of the Monument (facing the same side as one of the faces of this bifacial arm trophy) clearly shows that the avenged people were those commemorated on the slabs of the Altar and these dead had lost their lives in the battle that had taken place on this site. The highest ranking deceased Roman was that praefectus castrorum, whose Mausoleum stands very close to the north of the Trophy. In order to do homage to his memory, the hemicycle with the narrative of the Adamclisi battle stands with its front to the north. This is not the only argument in favor of this orientation as we shall see below.

Consequently, for a man who would climb the hill coming from the castrum in the valley, the access to the plateau was implicitly from the west. Coming from here, he could see on the Monument, more or less frontally, one of the faces of the arm trophy and then a dedicatory inscription, exactly on the vertical, the front heraldic metope of Trajan in its full significance, framed, in its turn, by two more metopes (XXV and XV) which formed the sacrificial scene of the beginning as well as the end of every military action (Tocilescu’s idea supported again with arguments by Richmond). Under the key-imperial metope he could also see the block of the acanthus frieze where the chalice with flower was sculpted, from which sprang the two trailing stems, one to the left and one to the right.

Since the trailing stem did not indicate any priority in the direction to follow, one wonders how the viewer was supposed to read the Monument. The orientation to the right of the majority of the scenes on the metopes indicated the direction at first sight or made him turn back if he had begun his reading inappropriately. The double temporal value of the sacrificial scene forced the acanthus trailing stem not to follow a specific direction, while it also suggested the antithesis and complementary character of the two narrative hemicycles due to the fact that the opposed pairs of wolf heads faced each other, being sculpted in each of the spiral centres of the trailing stem.

Consequently, the viewer who came from the west was directed right by the narrative sense of the metopes. Proceeding from this side, he saw (for reasons to be shown later) the symbolic course of the second war. Thus he had the image confirmation of what he had read at the beginning of the Trophy dedication. He could see for himself what the vengeance of Mars Ultor’s consisted in. Through its second version, the second part of the dedicatory inscription reminded him of what this vengeance was referring to: Victo exercitu dacorum... et sarmatarum (as the army of the Dacians and Sarmatians was defeated)44info and he had the instant confirmation when he followed the northern narrative hemicycle of the Trophy. Through the pronouncement of the imperial title that came after the beginning of the inscription, he also found out that the Monument had been inaugurated in 109, namely after the revenge had taken place. The viewer might have wondered instantly why should a Roman “victory” over the “army of the Dacians… and Sarmatians” should be avenged, to which the Altar to the east of the Monument, placed more or less in the direction of the axis of the key-imperial metope with Trajan’s triumphal equestrian statue (metope VI) and also facing the metope with Decebal’s suicide, gave clear answers through its dedicatory inscription and the immense list of names of dead Roman soldiers who had brought about this victory.

After the (hypothetical) display of Trajan’s imperial name and title – which implicitly helped date the Altar to 102 AD, it was stipulated that it had been erected “in honor and memory of the bravest men who laid down their lives in the Dacian war fighting for their homeland” (in honorem et in memoriam fortissimorum virorum qui pugnantes pro re publica morte occubuerunt).

The Altar was a 12 m wide and 6 m high square construction whose walls were inscribed with the names of the soldiers who had fallen in the Adamclisi battle, amounting to 3,800. “This”, R. Vulpe45info says, “is the battle, usually mistakenly located near Tapae, which Cassius Dio describes, in a text damaged by Xiphilinus’ cuts, as the most savage of battles, in which many soldiers fell on both sides, but the number of Roman casualties was so great that, since the bandages were not enough, the Emperor himself tore his clothes to shreds to tie the wounds and had an altar (a bomós in Greek) erected in memory of the deceased for performing services to commemorate them here every year.” 46info

Thus the Trophy acquired another significance than that of a triumphal monument and became also a cenotaph. However, it cannot be considered the only Roman edifice of its kind with funerary symbolism and utility. The cantharos on the acanthus frieze will have been placed so as to point in the direction of the Altar and it therefore represents the second key of this frieze; as receptacle for the two acanthus trailing stems it alludes to the funerary significance of the Trophy. The very form of the Monument, drum-shaped with a tapered roof that serves as the pedestal for the arm trophy is connected, as will be seen in due place [p. 241], with the Italic funerary architecture at the end of the Republic and in the first two centuries of the Empire. But we have already mentioned the fact that there were also other triumphal monuments which had funerary utilitarian functions or implications. The most illustrious of these was Trajan’s Column in Rome, which housed in its base the urns with Trajan’s and Plotina’s earthly remains. Likewise, the Arch of Titus in Rome, the capital of the Empire, which commemorated the triumph in the Hebrew war, seems to have served as a cenotaph for the Emperor.47info

The triumphal and funerary compound on the plateau at Adamclisi48info consists, therefore, of the circular Mausoleum and the Altar, both erected after the Moesian campaign of 101-102, and the Trophy, which was inaugurated in 109. We have seen how the three objects are complementary to each other in terms of their significance; the most imposing of the three represents the testimonial of the divine retribution for the sacrifice of thousands of Romans who died on the site where the military downfall of Decebal’s Dacia was decided. This testifies once again in the conscience of the contemporaries, and of Trajan himself, that Decebal was in fact defeated in Dobrudja and the monument dedicated to this hard-won and major victory was to be subsequently erected here rather than on the site of Dacian or Roman Sarmizegetusa. In fact, the narrative hemicycle of the second Dacian war brings on the battleground at Adamclisi, both in symbolic images and for expiatory reasons, the corollary of the battle which took place there; without this victory, the second war and the final conquest of Dacia would not have taken place or would have happened only much later. All the above give the Adamclisi Trophy a place apart in triumphal Roman symbolism, which allows us to rank it with the Trophy of Augustus at La Turbie49info (in the Cottian Alps), but only in terms of the construction’s monumentality.

In order to follow the sequence of the metopes which will be presented later, it is necessary to view it in conjunction with Plate A [pp. 214-215]. We have avoided assigning numbers of our own to supplement the countless previous numerations and have decided to renounce any useless complications, leaving the door open for proposals of more judicious patterns for the display of the metopes within the hemicycles. We would like to emphasize that we are going to appeal to the Latin digits used in the Adamklissi II monograph when referring to the metopes, which correspond almost entirely to Tocilescu’s numeration.

While considering, for reasons outlined before, that the main imperial key metope is situated west of the narrative frieze (metope X) and consequently in the centre of the sacrificial scene which consists, to the left, of metope XXV, which belonged to the northern hemicycle and, to the right, of metope XV – the sequence of the southern hemicycle representation of the second Dacian war would be the following: metope XLI presents three standard bearers to the right, with their heads turned left, this being the transition piece between the sacrificial scene and the rest of the narrative. The next in order is a Roman army marching scene, structured just like the other metopes in temporal rather than topographical sequence: so, metope XLII (the cornicines) and metope XLIV (the foot soldiers). The cavalry avant-garde was depicted in front of the foot soldiers (metope III) with a speculator (riding scout) preceding it temporarily, rendered on metope II. The start of the foot soldiers’ attack is then presented on the metope which features three legionaries with drawn swords (XIV). They are preceded by two standard bearers (metope XLIII). In this case, we thought the sequence XIV→XLIII would be visually more logical, although it runs counter to the previously adopted criterion. The placing of two standard bearers on foot before two galloping riders is quite hard for the eye to take. Metopes XIX, XXI, XXIX and XXXIII all share the same theme: clashes of bare bodies between Roman and Dacian foot soldiers. Because each of them consists of two figures, the mentioned metopes suggest the multitude of places where the Dacians came under simultaneous attack. The last two seem to depict some Dacian prisoners taken at the point of the sword before Trajan, who is presented in an exhorting posture but wearing a battle-camp outfit, which would suggest the fact that the narrative about the first part of the second war ends there; the next represented episode is the extermination of Dacian resistance witnessed by the Emperor himself. In other words, the imperial metope XXVII is followed by that of the praetorian guard (XXVIII). By making the heads of the standard bearers look left, metope XII links the previous and the following scenes (the legionaries with their shields and spears ready for attack in the foreground of the same item). Thus it opened the grand finale of exterminating the Dacian resistance. We believe that five metopes are missing from this sector of the narrative (and only remains of the frame in four of them have been found). Metope XXIV shows Dacians falling off high cliffs (Fig. 13), while metope XXXI illustrates Roman legionaries hunting the Dacian archers hidden among the trees (Fig. 14). On metope XXXII, Trajan, followed by his praetorian guard, encourages the liquidation of the last opponents from the vantage point of a wood. The Roman cavalry is pursuing Decebal who is on the run. They attack his retinue and decrease its numbers (metope V), and one legionary attempts to pull Decebal off his horse (metope XXX). Finally, Decebal commits suicide (metope IV, Fig. 9). The key imperial metope on the eastern side comes next: the equestrian statue of the triumphant Emperor crushing the Dacian enemy under his horse’s feet (VI).

Apart from the two key imperial metopes (X and VI) there will be 26 metopes on each hemicycle. On the southern hemicycle of the second Dacian war, the enemies represented on the metopes were, as it has been said before, exclusively Dacian. On the northern hemicycle of the Adamclisi battle, the enemies were Dacians, Sarmatians and Buri. Here is the sequence of the metopes of this hemicycle: after the imperial key metope, VI, the battle opens with the scene of an imperial adlocutio, which consists of three metopes: the cornicines (XI), the legionaries with shields and spears (XXXIX) and the Emperor followed by an adjutant (XL). The scene ends with the standard bearers, of which the last on the left has his head turned to the Emperor (metope XXVI). There follows an attack of the Roman cavalry: a speculator (metope I) and a rider beheading an enemy (metope VII). Next, the action of the foot soldiers is opened by the doublet-metope XIII. It did not seem to me necessary to set the following metopes in order by taking into account the number of enemies that appear on them (which, according to Richmond, indicated a more intense fighting), because the enemies were combined differently every time to underline their multitude and variety. Consequently, there appear a Sarmatian (XVIII), a Sarmatian and a Bur (XX), two Dacians and a Bur (XXIII) etc. The sequence we propose is: XVI, XVII, XVIII, XX, XXII, XXIII, XXXIV.

Having crushed the defense of the barbarian foot soldiers, the Romans arrive at their chariot citadel, slaughtering their enemies (metopes XXXV and XXXVI). The carnage was total, and metope XXXVII is an eloquent testimony. Trajan and an adjutant (metope XLV) turn their backs on this scene to indicate that the fight is over. The Emperor accepts to survey the parade of his captives of both sexes (metopes XLVI, XLVII, XLVIII, and XLIX). The orientation of the figures on these metopes is to the left, so as to face Trajan. With metope IX (a family of peaceful barbarians in the cart), the sense of the figures changes to the right, again, which indicates the beginning of another scene. Metope L comes next: it represents two women, one of which holds a child, followed by metope VIII, with the small cattle. These last three metopes recall the final scene on the Column: the relocation of the native population (men, women, children and domestic animals), in new settlements prescribed by the Roman power. In fact, metope VIII, with the small cattle, also makes the iconographic transition to metope XXV, which probably represents the suovetaurilia.

This hemicycle also has some compositional similarities with the scenes on the Column. They go beyond the understanding of historical facts as a whole and testify to a certain forma mentis that is held in common with the iconographical patterns, which is why we shall deal with this more extensively in the following chapter.

We find it significant that the sacrificial scene, consisting of three metopes, of which one (X) is the main imperial key metope, belongs both to the northern hemicycle (through the metope with the suovertaurilia, XXV) and to the southern hemicycle (through metope XV with the tubicines.) The symbolic situation of this scene in both hemicycles indicates the fact that (just as Tocilescu and Richmond showed) it performs the double function of closing the battle of Adamclisi (and of the Moesian campaign) and of opening the second Dacian war, which avenged the bloody victory in the Dobrudja (in our interpretation).

Let us now “test” our layout of the items into hemicycles in accordance with the solution presented. This time we shall begin with the northern hemicycle. In the light of what has been shown, it will have six doublet metopes (XI, XXXIX, XL, XXVI, I, XIII), of which one is imperial (XL). Another imperial metope (XLV) certainly belongs to this hemicycle because it is preceded by the display of the prisoners’ parade (including Sarmatians and Buri with nodus). The other metopes, which we have placed on the northern hemicycle, do not raise problems about their belonging to this hemicycle because they all depict adversaries who participated in the Adamclisi battle (Dacians, Sarmatians and Buri with nodus). Metope IX is also part of the final scene of the re-settlement of the peaceful population in Moesia, because there is a cart shown on it, which integrates it in the themes of this hemicycle. Metope L, with the two women, one of which, holding a baby in her arms (Fig. 15), certainly belongs to the respective scene, because the woman on the left is looking with a smile on her face towards the woman holding the baby, apparently inviting her to respond to the gesture of the old man on the cart (metope IX), who, with his arms stretched, invites them to join him. They are obviously widows of the local Dacian soldiers, who have lost their families. Metope L is in fact one which makes the forma mentis in question manifest in some iconographic patterns on the Monument and the Column, as we can find a somewhat similar group on the Column scenes XXXIX or LXXVI (Fig 16). Metope VIII, with the small cattle, which rounds up the scene, finds its proper place here, for it would not fit anywhere else. Metope XXV, with the suovetaurilia, comes next, and is the last on the hemicycle and the first in the sacrificial scene. This amounts to 26 metopes. The replacement of any non-double metope by another one of the other hemicycle is impossible, a thing easily ascertained in Plate A. It is also impossible to place any of the five missing metopes on the northern hemicycle. The existence of doublets and of imperial metopes on the respective hemicycle excludes the reference of this hemicycle to events of Domitian’s time, which would allow Mars Ultor in the dedication to refer to avenging any earlier defeat. In fact, the figural narrative allows us to clearly infer that the Romans were not defeated but victors. When regarding all these considerations together, there appears one last argument for dating the Mausoleum to Trajan’s time and of the layout of the above-mentioned narrative on the northern part of the Monument, in the direction of the Mausoleum. I do not think it is worth our while to argue further about the layout and sequence of the metopes on the southern hemicycle. These are things to come out naturally from all the above-mentioned. We would insist, however, that four of the doublet-metopes (XLI, XLII, XLIV, II) on this hemicycle are to be found at its beginning and their doublets are approximately diametrically opposed, at the beginning of the northern hemicycle. This stands to reason, since they are metopes that present the opening of a war or of a battle, and the author of the iconographic programme wished to underline also in this way the meaning of the dedication to Mars Ultor: the victims of the previous battle were avenged through the battle that led to victory.

Nonetheless, there is one legitimate question we must ask: Why was the large number of casualties, dead many of them, not marked, not even symbolically, on any of the metopes of Adamclisi, while the Column does record the losses suffered by the Roman army in the battle in question. The answer involves two complementary aspects: the Trophy itself is complementary to the Altar and the Mausoleum on the plateau at Adamclisi – or vice versa. The Column in Trajan’s Forum was meant to show and justify before the Roman people the human and material sacrifices which the army, the Emperor and the State had made during these two difficult Dacian wars (for the idea of the Emperor’s justification to the State in Pliny the Younger, see above, our chapter I, p.37). However, things were different at Adamclisi. Here, the spectator, for whom the frieze had been moved down onto the lower half of the drum, had to pay heed to the Roman legions’ invincible strength. Trajan had attempted, and succeeded, to inculcate a similar awe, for almost a century, to the Parthians, when he started the war against them (cf. Chapter I, p.99). The great number of Roman names inscribed on the Adamclisi Altar was sure to persuade any military opponent of the Empire that no matter how high the death toll, Rome was not going to hesitate to pay the price for imposing its will. Trajan’s military greatness consisted precisely in this supreme determination and example he set.

Consequently, the five missing metopes of the narrative frieze on the Trophy all belong to the southern hemicycle and they were very probably situated in the area indicated on Plate A, where they laid emphasis on the divine retribution objectively shown through the routing of the Dacian warriors, which culminated with Decebal’s suicide. Given the complete sequence of the northern hemicycle and its ethnic and military specificity, the five missing metopes could hardly have included doublets, too. But it is not impossible that of all the great pieces which came off the Monument, the five metopes were lifted first, since they might have been most in the way of carriers coming up the hill this way from the village of Adamclisi. This may have happened a few centuries ago. And this is a mere conjecture.

We have avoided to deal with the equality in the number of scenes in the two hemicycles, since we did not want to direct our study towards discoveries about absolute symmetries or towards the “modular and rhythmical fabric”, so remote from our mentality and results. In addition, we have wished to leave the question of the sequence within the hemicycles of the metopes open, because the future may well bring more judicious solutions (which is very likely, especially for the southern hemicycle with the five missing metopes and less likely to happen for the northern hemicycle, it appears, which would call for extremely precise, detail arguments so hard to obtain in the current archaeological state and preservation condition of the metopes on the Monument).

If we admit that the syntactic and logical analysis of the dedicatory inscription(s) correlated with the “reading” of the Monument so as to place the revenge, namely the second Dacian war, on the southern hemicycle and the reason for this revenge, namely the bloody battle (victorious in extremis) at Adamclisi, in the northern hemicycle – was insufficiently convincing, let us try to change the location and see if this is possible. The sacrificial scene (metopes XXV, X, XV) remains in place, with the key imperial metope X in the centre. The other key imperial metope (VI) representing the statue of the triumphant Emperor is diametrically opposed to the sacrificial scene. If we move the Adamclisi battle on the southern hemicycle, this would mean that metope VI came after metope VIII (with the small cattle) and after the entire scene to which it belonged. Consequently, Trajan would be the one to seal the defeat of the enemy after a peaceful episode, and, moreover, in the immediate vicinity of a flock, which would be ill justified, and truly nonsensical, both in our understanding and in the understanding of the creator of the Adamclisi iconographic programme. But, then, Decebal’s suicide would have appeared before the metope with the suovetaurilia (XXV), which does not represent an iconographical impossibility. If it were moved here, Decebal’s suicide would not face the area of the funerary Altar and would separate the Monument from the compound on the Adamclisi plateau, which would run counter to the historical evidence that we have accepted as valid. Supposing, however, that this was not significant either, there is tough one metope on the southern hemicycle (Plate A), the second in the order prescribed for this hemicycle reading (metope XLI), which comes first after the sacrificial scene; this metope represents three standard-bearers, to the right, with their heads turned backwards. The location we assigned to it makes it be fully meaningful: the standard bearers look towards Trajan and close the scene at the same time; through their direction of movement, they establish a connection with the following scene. If we moved it to the northern hemicycle, it would come straight after Trajan’s equestrian statue, which would make a kind of iconographic nonsense that the creator of the Trophy’s narrative frieze cannot be suspected of being guilty of, either. Mutatis mutandis, if the first three metopes of the northern hemicycle became the first of the southern one, this would mean that, in his address (metope XL), Trajan would be staring at Trajan in the first key imperial metope (X), where the Emperor’s head was turned right. Trajan would be addressing himself after an interval of three metopes! This would be yet another piece of iconographical nonsense.

We believe that, through this second chain of arguments also we have managed to show quite clearly all the reasons for which we have chosen to explain the metope layout and sequence as shown on Plate A*info. Some of the most famous edifices of Roman funerary architecture with a circular plan are the tombs of Caecilia Metella (about 40 BC), of Augustus and Hadrian – all three in Rome, and one lesser known, but closer in size to the Trophy at Adamclisi, namely, the mausoleum of Munatius Plancus at Gaeta (near Naples), which was dated to Augustus’ time.

The upper part of the drum is decorated with a frieze with metopes (with arms), with a cornice and a festooned attic. Q. Giglioli (1921) and Grigore Avakian51info were among the first to notice the formal and dimensional similarities between the Gaetan Monument and the Monument at Adamclisi. In his turn, Rudolf Fellmann52info drew up a catalogue of mausoleums of this kind spread all over the Empire and dwelt longer upon the Trophy at Adamclisi, which he included in a series of 17 similar constructions of which only the one at Adalia (in southern Anatolia) stands in the Orient (here a drum is placed over a cube with sides of over 5 m). Most of these mausoleums were found in Western Europe, while only three were found in Algeria; of the latter group, two were pre-Roman. The fact that the Dobrudjan Trophy was included in the mentioned typology, was later confirmed by J.M.C. Toynbee53info and Richard Brilliant54info; in the Foreword to his book’s translation, we ourselves55info picked up again the question of the typology of the Adamclisi Monument to highlight the information reproduced here, and we set out from the older idea, also discussed by R. Brilliant56info, that the Trophy lies among those cenotaphs with tumulus erected on a drum, whose form was adopted also in the western part of the Empire, as well as at Adamclisi.

If, from the point of view of the architectural form it has been noticed that older and newer research consider the Trophy perfectly fit to be included in the Roman West-European typology, we find it equally interesting to investigate the origin of the sculptural decoration and to implicitly deduce, so far as this is possible, the origin of the qualified workforce, stonemasons and chisellers, of the sculptors who worked in the Greek and Roman tradition or of those skilled in artisanal work.

Having given up, albeit formally, the idea of ancient art decadence in referring to the narrative frieze of the Adamclisi Monument, Tocilescu57info replaced it with another, equally unconvincing explanation. He claimed that the metopes were the creation of improvised chisellers of local origin or of military effective members, who worked for the building of the Trophy. In this way, he came close to the conception about the art of the legions, which Furtwängler had put in circulation at about the same time (see the Introduction, p. 27); he, therefore, pleaded that this important Dobrudjan objective had artistically originated in the military sculptural milieu of Northern Italy58info; from here it had helped spread this sort of uncouth, artisanal art to Roman Europe, where it was brought by the legions.

Tocilescu indicated as an instance of “ugly” sculpture applied on a fine architectural work the Arch of Augustus at Susa (in the Cottian Alps); we could enlarge his class to include the other Arch of Augustus at Carpentras (Gaul) or, to a certain extent, even the Arch of Tiberius at Orange (France, about 25 AD).

Gilbert-Charles Picard, who had prematurely closed the record of the Adamclisi Monument by taking into consideration Tocilescu’s hypothesis, as seen supra., adopted the opinion of the Romanian archaeologist in this respect also, but refined it by claiming that the creators of the metopes were decorators and sculptors (of Oriental origin, all) who belonged to the team of the Monument architect; to save money, they were required to chisel the narrative frieze too, even though they were not specialized in anthropomorphous representations59info. Anyone who looks at the figural decoration of the Trophy might well retort to G.-Ch. Picard: if they were specialized in chiseling vegetal trailing stems, for example, why did these craftsmen prove so little able in representing the vegetal elements on the metopes and on the merlons (battlements) in particular? If we admit that the Arches of Susa and Carpentras were decorated with sculptures of the artisanal kind for economical reasons, does G.-Ch. Picard think, we wonder, that even the narrow artisanal continuous frieze under the cornice of the Arch of Titus in Rome, which is only extant on the part facing the Via Sacra, was placed there for similar reasons of pecuniary stint? We shall not dwell any longer on finding counter-arguments for such explanations. We can only refresh the reader’s memory, by a reference in our Introduction about the notional framework and its context and we must insist that the bipolarity of Roman art is manifest even on the same monument; we can add to the formerly mentioned examples more famous ones: the artisanal frieze on the Altar of Domitius Ahenobarbus (of the end of the 2 century BC or of the early 1 century BC); this is now in the Louvre and represents the collection of the census and a sacrifice and is a frieze placed side by side with another, on the same construction, whose sculptural tradition was Hellenic, and which represented the procession of some marine deities (which is now to be found in the Munich Glyptotech). Augustus’ Ara Pacis has two narrow artisanal friezes [Fig. 31] inside the marble precinct, on the sides of the altar proper. This means that no one should invoke financial reasons but sound iconographical policy reasons for the bipolarity of Roman art, found on official monuments.

There is bipolarity also on the Monument at Adamclisi – not due only to the sculpture workshops (a number of six or eight for the metopes, from which two were responsible for the acanthus frieze – and are, more or less, theological subjects of meditation because of the state of preservation of most of the items, which leaves place for certainties only in respect to the acanthus frieze60info). This is a case where the precise intentionality of an iconographic policy can be detected; R. Florescu, for instance, has no clue about this either in its essence or through its consequences in the context of Roman art aesthetics, when he states: “Rendered eternal when carved in stone by some Romanized barbarians, it (the Monument, author’s note) addressed other barbarians, who were constantly threatening the Empire from outside its boundaries, by using a language that these people understood; this language was magically binding them, as they saw themselves paralysed, unfit for action.”61info

It is obvious that the acanthus frieze, the arm trophy and the statuary groups on both faces of the Monument, together with the arms frieze on the upper part of its base can be grouped in the same artistic unit as the execution is concerned; this is the line of the Hellenistic and Roman decorative sculpture tradition. It is, also, obvious that the festooned attic (the balustrade and battlements-merlons), the upper frieze and the pilasters between the metopes belong to the artisanal manner, perhaps Oriental, and they directly reflect structures and patterns of the “cult” decorative Greek and Roman sculpture, not to call it „aulic”, by using a word which has been emptied of its meaning because it has been employed too intensively and indiscriminately (Introduction, p. 59). Lastly, metopes are indubitably marked by the artisanal of the Empire’s European provinces. They certainly were not carved by stonemasons recruited from the ranks of the local population, stonemasons who ordinarily produced funerary steles, because, typically Roman big scale funerary steles only came to be used in Dobrudja at the beginning of the 2 century AD and were diffused along the Danube valley from Central Europe down to the outflow of the big river into the sea62info. Chronologically, the steles erected in Pontic Dacia by Attas63info, Posses’ son, for his wife Mama (an item excavated at Dulgheru, Constanţa County and now stored at the Museum of National History and Archaeology, Constanţa) and for his son Iustus (which was found by V. Pârvan at Ulmetum and is currrently housed at the “Vasile Pârvan” Archaeological Institute, Bucureşti), seem to have been the first.

The comparison made by R. Florescu64info between the image schemata of several metopes at Adamclisi and the military funerary steles (which represented the deceased in military outfit) of Central and Western Europe and, suggesting the same artisanal milieu of both the metopes and the steles, is also inadequate because the military steles in the mentioned regions of the Empire were dated to a period not later than the last quarter of 1 century AD65info. The question of the artistic origin of the sculptural decoration of the Monument is far from simple and cannot be dealt with by direct simplifying analogies.

On the occasion of some excavations in the perimeter neighbouring the Trophy in 1960 and 1963, a slab fragment from the promenade pavement66info was discovered, on which were inscribed the Greek lettersEΛΚΗΡ, later fully rendered as EΛΚΗΤΗΡ = dragger: the name of a construction work which, when preceded by a proper name, probably designated one of the transporters of the stone blocks. This is a valuable indication which attests that the workforce for erecting this objective could be of Oriental Greek origin (from Asia Minor), if one takes into consideration also the fact that the casting-in-place technique shows signs of precision and perfection characteristic of qualified stonemasons in the Roman Orient.

Another eloquent element is the sculpture of the battlements-merlons. The relief is not only slightly higher than that of the metopes, but the human figures have a more organic character by comparison with those on the narrative frieze. The captive barbarians, with their hands tied to the back and propped against trees, are frontally treated with considerably skilled lines to render their anatomical details. They have nothing in common with the “lack of harmony” of the figures on the metopes or with the schematic stiffness in rendering the Roman militaries, the Emperor included. The detail, repeated on all the battlements-merlons, which singles these sculptors out from “the ethnical” point of view, is the carving of “scales” on the tree-trunks. If they were from Dobrudja, the artisan sculptors in question could not have failed to observe the pattern, in some cases at least and by mistake so as to replace the trunks of the Meridional palm-trees (or of the trees from the beech family) by the smooth or rough trunks of the trees specific for the vegetation in the Pontic Dacian province. Through the comprehensive fidelity of its representation, [crenel] merlon I leaves us with not even a shade of doubt67info: they had in mind the vegetation of their native places, since the leaves on the trees are definitely the palm tree leaves and there is even a bunch of fruit to the right. The sculptural quality of the merlons stands clearly apart in the mass of artisanal reliefs of the Trophy. It is reflected in the minute and thorough execution of the captives’ costumes. The high level of craftsmanship of these artisans, that we assume to be Oriental, prevented them from failing to comply with the task of plastically rendering the complex iconographical programme, which was conceived by a single artist who had obtained Trajan’s approval for its representation in stone.

In our opinion, there is an architect who designed and (perhaps) supervised this construction and a sculptor in charge with the concept of the entire decoration of the Monument and who controlled its carving. We may feel tempted to accept that the artisan stonemasons had the initiative of carving the tree trunks (as their leaves stem directly from the trunk and are often cut shorter for lack of space, while observing throughout the detail characteristic of this family of trees) and they followed a familiar image for them as inhabitants of the Meridional zone, but it is hard to demonstrate that their own free will was also responsible for the decision about the separating pilasters of the metopes, which, as we also claimed earlier, could be seen to resemble the upper frieze and the battlements-merlons in the way they were executed. The latter are also important because, thanks to them, at Adamclisi we have, for the first time, an extensively documented facies of the Roman artisanal from Asia Minor, which had been barely traced in other parts of that area – the Greek Orient - totally dominated by formalism and the Hellenic plastic tradition.

Because they were placed between metopes crafted in artisanal manner, the alternating grooved pilasters and double trailing stems had to be executed, obligatorily, in the artisanal manner. They fell to the lot of the craftsmen from Asia Minor who sculpted the upper frieze with torsades, palmettes and battlements-merlons.

Not long ago 68info, I signalled the similarity, if not, indeed, the identity, of the conception behind the decoration of the grooved pilasters and trailing stems, and their alternation, traced on the Trophy at Adamclisi and the Nympheon at Miletus, two monuments which differ so much though contemporary.

It is C. P. Jones that we should thank for bringing to the fore his little though pricelss epigraphic contribution69info to ancient art, a domain he had never dreamt to reach. Around 100, Dion of Prusa led to Rome a delegation sent to Trajan by the orator’s native city (Discourses XL, 13-15; XLV, 3-4). Further to this embassy, Dion would claim that the privileges granted to Prusa were not to be found in any other town, except forone, which was among the most renowned in Asia and had “so much influence upon the Emperor that, when the god gave him there a prophecy about his rule, this was the first town to proclaim him Emperor of the world”. The only one of the gods entitled to make such prophecies was Apollo. An oracle of his functioned at Claros and was controlled by Colophon. But there is no written or archaeological testimony about the privileges granted by Trajan to Claros or Colophon.

Things fared very differently with the great temple and oracle of Apollo at Didyma-Miletus. At the end of the 19 century, one large stele with a Latin inscription was discovered in situ at Didyma. Fragments of the Greek version of the same text were found in several other places at Miletus and Didyma. The corroboration of all the epigraphic testimonies in question led to the conclusion that in 101-102 Trajan (who was then a consul for the fourth time, but not yet Dacicus) restored and improved (in fact, reconstructed) the sacred road from Miletus to Didyma (viam necessariam sacris Apollinis Didymaei) by shaving off hills and filling in valleys (excisis collibus, conpletis vallibus). All these works were placed under the control and supervision of Lucius Passerius Romulus (curam agente L. Passerio Romulo legato pro praetore). A milestone was also discovered next to Apollo’s sanctuary at Didyma, which marked the terminus of the terrestrial road that extended for 11 Roman miles, from the metropolis to the oracle. The distance between town and temple was originally covered by water, but this access route was uncomfortable for such a small distance.

During the construction of the road, Trajan became prophet of Apollo at Didyma and towards the end of his reign he had been granted another honorary title, i.e., stephanophoros. The Emperor must have done much more for Miletus than constructing the sacred road in question, since the inscriptions that referred to this road made the following distinctions: “et in hoc quoque...” (precisely in this respect..., of the road, author’s note). It is then not surprising that the Emperor was honoured at Miletus by several statues, the earliest of which was dated 103/104, immediately after the completion of the sacred road.

We have no idea about the privileges and favors granted by Trajan to Miletus until the construction of the road, namely, in the first years of his reign. One thing is sure, that Trajan erected, at Miletus, an imposing Nympheum in the north-eastern corner of the Buleuterion (the Council building) square, thus hiding the modest façade of the old Hellenistic gymnasium which stood on the northern side of the square70info (Fig. 17); the Nympheum was meant to honour the memory of his father, Traianus pater, who had been governor of Asia in the years 79-80. The Nympheum was an imposing three-side construction. The flanking sides had two storeys (that resembled two-level porticoes), while the central wing had three. Here the niches with gables supported on columns, grooved pilasters and pilasters decorated with a trailing stem (used for all architraves) alternated both on the horizontal and on the vertical with open niches without gables, columns or pilasters (Fig. 18). The initial project may have envisaged the placing of some statues in the niches. We believe that Trajan’s great urban and sculptural works in Rome and Beneventum interrupted, as they say, temporarily, but in fact for good, the sculptural completion of the Nympheum, whose construction probably started after the completion of the Miletus-Didyma sacred road. Gordian III (241-244) undertook to decorate Trajan’s edifice with statues. Twenty-nine images of deities, replicas of some renowned statues of the Classical Greek and Hellenistic period, were wrought in Micale marble and each was set in its place. There are extant fragments of 25 of these nowadays, and the less deteriorated ones are a Hercules of the Farnese type, an Artemis of the Colonna type and a Lateran type Asklepios. Another monumental Nympheum was erected also in Trajan’s time at Ephesus, but it was the work of a different architect from the one who worked at Miletus.

It was very likely that the Didyma prophesy about Trajan was made during the pro-consulate of his parent (79-80), namely, during the reign of Titus and it remained entirely secret because the man it was meant for remained untouched, unlike others, for similar reasons at the time of Domitian’s totalitarian Principate (chapter I, p. 92). Just as Alexander the Great, who was a protector and stephanophoros of the sanctuary, Trajan, whose thirst for glory and military victories made him comparable with the illustrious Macedonian (but we should not suspect that he suffered from Alexandromania in the least), and with the famous Spanish conquistadores at the end of the Middle Ages, went beside himself to beautify not only Miletus and the neighbouring temple but also other cities in the Empire (Rome, in the first place) through constructions and monuments aimed at making his name and deeds eternal.

The existence at Adamclisi and in the Nympheum at Miletus of the mentioned kind of pilasters acquires, under the circumstances, almost the value of a testimonial document. If we add to these conditions the fact that Manius Laberius Maximus, governor of Moesia Inferior in 100-102 and commander of that Roman army, who took Decebal’s sister prisoner in the first Dacian war (Dio Cassius, 68, 9, 4), was a great protector of Histria (an Ionian colony of Miletus) because he had offered to Histria a very convenient decree which fixed the limes of its great rural territory (the decree was known as Laberius Maximus’ horotesia, and it survived in both Latin and Greek copies) and, at the same time, he was a friend of the Emperor’s together with whom he had been a consul in 103, then one hypothesis becomes increasingly clear: that the person who conceived the Adamclisi sculptural programme must have been the one to create the architectural decoration of the Nymphaeum at Miletus.

It is not in the least unlikely that Apolodor drew up the plans for the Adamclisi Trophy, and a person who belonged to the administration like Lucius Passerius Romulus did, (it might be precisely him ), might have directed the construction of the monument, while the anonymous Milesian sculptor created its sculptural ornamentation. We should emphasize once more that the creation of this unitary ornamentation did not entail its unitary execution, too. These three categories of reliefs were delimited first. What is particularly important is that there are some scenes of the Moesian campaign and the second Dacian war, which come considerably before the Column and have several points of convergence with some of its constitutive segments. Should we, then, feel entitled to see in the Milesian sculptor the “master of Trajan’s achievements”*info as R.Bianchi-Bandinelli called him? This question will be taken up in the following chapter.

Consequently, we have not doubts about the origin from Asian Minor of the person who designed the sculptural programme and of the craftsmen of various skills who transposed it in stone. There is one exception: that of the metopes. The metopes were categorically sculpted by skilled stonemasons attached to the Moesian army, people who worked, just as the rest of the craftsmen, by observing the drawings of the masterdesigner (and this is proved by what appears as a contrary fact in connection with metope XXXIV: the barbarian showed to be killed in the upper left corner indicates the artisanal perspective of a remote plan and is not a testimony of the horror vacui, invoked quite frequently in connection with barbarian art. If the iconographic schemata had been devised by artisanal stonemasons, such figuration, just as the casting of the killed men off the cliffs as shown on metope XXIV would have been utterly impossible. We recognize in the man who falls on metope XXXIV a detail met within previous battle schemes that were perpetuated until as late as the 3 century AD on the reliefs of Roman sarcophagi, and, in the composition of metope XXIV, we identify

echoes of the Assyrian reliefs that cannot have been unknown to the author of the iconographic programme who worked, as could be seen, with an easy precision and concision typical of a great artist).

One wonders about the reason why this masterful artist “might have missed this” if not blatant, then noticeable iconographic oversight (which was actually constant) in depicting the Meridional trees on the battlements-merlons of the Trophy. We believe that this was his symbolic way of inscribing his “signature” on the verge of the discreet and the invisible. Can we, then, identify an analogous signature on the Column, too?

We shall return, to conclude, to the artisanal manner in which the metopes were crafted. A continuous (unbroken) narrative frieze would have been an absurdity on a Monument situated at such a great distance from any important urban settlement. Setting aside the difficulties inherent in the superior artistic fashioning of continuous narrative, the latter is less easy to read because the groups of figures should have that particular legato feature implicit in larger scenes, which confer fluidity to the narrative, from the point of view of its imagery. In general the Roman, Italic as well as provincial artisanal does not resort to continuous narratives on a large scale due to its immobile conception whose psychological and aesthetic justifications shall be clarified in our final chapter. The artisanal manner in short continuous narratives is usually encountered on an official monument and it represents an act of iconographic policy (p. 245).

On the other hand, a continuous narrative framed at the top and at the bottom by a continuous frieze would have granted a different accent to the Monument, since the figurative sculptural belt would have been an exception to the rhythms of the decoration which was postulated by the metopes and battlements-merlons in the programmer-artist’s conception and wich was then implemented, a thing easily recognizable in the reconstruction of the Trophy, which points to the original artistic intention more precisely than a scale model would.

The metopes give the onlooker a chance to understand the scenes exactly, no matter how great their symbolic value is. They divide the narrative into acts then recompose it into a whole, both on the Monument and in the mind of the onlooker. In this, they point to what was specific to the Roman aesthetic conception, as encapsulated in a single sentence by R. Brilliant: [the capacity to] decompose reality and show its constituents so as to recompose them for an objective artistic statement including the “message” destined to be read by the eye of the onlooker.

Even in the Greek artistic paideia the continuous sculptural narrative appeared rather late, in the Hellenistic age, its prefiguration being in the friezes on the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (353-349 BC). The continuous narrative, therefore, can only embody a complex factological, iconographic, sculptural, aesthetic and ideological message once a superior stage in the artistic expression has been reached, in harmony with an identically advanced stage in the artistic reception.

It was even less likely, then, for a continuous narrative to figure on a monument situated on an empty hill in a limitrophe province since the message was probably destined for onlookers who were complete strangers to the Greek and Roman artistic paideia, which, for them, would be virtually meaningless. The programmer-artist of the sculptural decoration was aware of all the psychic, social, ethnic and political coordinates that inhered in the location of the Monument he was working at. Consequently he divided the narrative into metopes and suggested to the Emperor, who was about to give his final approval, that the metopes should be wrought with the usual stonemasons employed in the army, in the Moesian army, for that matter.

Thus, the Adamclisi Monument became an imperial monument owing to its artisanal specific manner, being (partly) addressed to the inhabitants of the Pontic Dacian regions situated on the limes of the Empire in order to glorify the Emperor, his courage and manhood (virtus), the force and grandeur of imperial Rome and of the valiant invincibility of the Roman army.

The Trophy raises once again the issue of the artisanal presence in imperial art, by observing a manner that opens new vistas in the understanding of the latter. The appearance of the artisanal on official monuments cannot be conceived as a matter of chance but has to be understood as a fact that testifies to a deliberate iconographic policy. If it is true that the artisanal gains ground at the expense of Hellenic formalism and is inversely proportional with the recessive Hellenic formalism, the pages above show that it is not exclusively related, as R. Bianchi-Bandinelli believed, to the social changes in the Roman society. Only a deliberate imperial option in favor of the artisanal can account for its unexpected outburst on the official monuments and saves us from interpreting it as an art endowed with extraordinary and inexplicable synchronic powers, as the late Italian scholar above mentioned explained, when he propounded his “Romantic” theory about the “dolore di vivere” (the pain of living).

All these problems of Roman art aesthetics in the 2 century AD will be dealt with in a whole chapter: the last one.