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Current time:0:00Total duration:4:56

Video transcript

VALENTINA FOLLO: We're looking out at part of the Forum of Trajan. And unfortunately, you cannot have an nice [? view ?] of the entire square, because it's been cut by medieval walls. These walls have been kept here because the excavation in this area has been conducted in the '90s with new modern archaeological techniques, meaning that you have to understand the development of a site. So even the medieval aspect of it is important to be preserved. STEVEN ZUCKER: As I'm looking at this remaining piece of the Forum of Trajan, I'm seeing some large marble fragments that are clearly the parts of a column. VALENTINA FOLLO: And if you walk a little further, we can see a little bit of the original flooring. These remains have been left here instead of being brought inside a museum to really show you a little bit of how lavishly decorated these places were. If you just look at the flooring, you had expensive slabs of marble-- green and red, together with green columns, and red columns, and yellow columns. So even the columns were not all white. They were colorful. It was a way of displaying the wealth. Being able to bring marble from all over the empire into Rome meant being a Roman could permit you to bring the empire to you. STEVEN ZUCKER: Let's go take a look at the Column of Trajan. VALENTINA FOLLO: So the column, there are 22 different layers. They are not panels, because they go around. BETH HARRIS: So it's a kind of spiral. VALENTINA FOLLO: And it narrates the two main wars-- two main campaigns, I should say-- that Trajan fought against the Dacians, chronologically. So it goes from the beginning of the war, up to the top part-- you can barely see-- but at the end, there's a scene of sacrifice. If you're looking at some of the scenes, you see that they are building camps, building bridges. STEVEN ZUCKER: Yes, building the fortifications. And as we were saying earlier, in a sense, when you're going to bring your army somewhere, you're going to build the infrastructure that's necessary to actually maintain that place. VALENTINA FOLLO: Yes. And we know that actually the army was the building force during these wars. Because they would [? build ?] camps, and they would remain and would be transformed into cities and roads and things like that. The image of this guy with his back towards us-- this bearded man-- is actually a representation of the Danube River, where the campaign started. We know that-- BETH HARRIS: In Germany? VALENTINA FOLLO: Yes. BETH HARRIS: In what is today-- VALENTINA FOLLO: More or less Austria, Germany, that central Europe. STEVEN ZUCKER: So that's really a personification of the River Danube? OK. VALENTINA FOLLO: All rivers are represented as bearded, half-naked men. Usually they have symbols to identify them. For example, an obelisk for the Nile. The she-wolf and the twins for the Tiber River. In this case, you see that there are a series of boats and soldiers on top. This is the famous description. We know that Apollodorus of Damascus, to be able to cross the Danube, built an entire bridge of boats to do it. And this is a faithful narration of what happened. STEVEN ZUCKER: Can I ask you a little bit about the base? VALENTINA FOLLO: The base is a representation of typical Dacian weapons and cuirasses. So it's a representation-- not of the defeated people. You don't see people there-- but the defeated weapons, so to speak. The enemy here is treated as a valorous opponent, of course. Because if you have a weak opponent, your strength is not-- BETH HARRIS: That impressive. VALENTINA FOLLO: Exactly. The base of the column-- BETH HARRIS: It's a laurel wreath. VALENTINA FOLLO: It's actually an oak. It's a victory crown. BETH HARRIS: Still struggling with how it's made. VALENTINA FOLLO: Those are blocks of marbles carved. Inside, it's empty. You can walk. STEVEN ZUCKER: There's a staircase. VALENTINA FOLLO: Yeah, there's a staircase inside. You can see the small windows. You can go up to the top part. STEVEN ZUCKER: Right at the neck of the personification of the Danube, you can see that that's where two blocks joined. BETH HARRIS: Just to get a sense of scale. VALENTINA FOLLO: There are 22 layers. And each layer is approximately 1 yard. And the base is also huge. BETH HARRIS: They carved pieces of the band and put them together? VALENTINA FOLLO: Exactly. They carved pieces. BETH HARRIS: Was this painted? VALENTINA FOLLO: It was painted over with colors. And the colors would have helped to read it. But still, there was a percentage that was lost. STEVEN ZUCKER: But presumably, at least if you ascended the libraries on either side, you'd be able to gain some elevation. VALENTINA FOLLO: Absolutely, yes. Again, it's a celebration of the army. It's the greatness of the empire, of the Roman people to be able to bring civilization. STEVEN ZUCKER: It's their ingenuity. It's their engineering prowess. It's their discipline. VALENTINA FOLLO: It's their ability to build. STEVEN ZUCKER: And those are, of course, attributes that last beyond the victory. And it makes sense to celebrate them here, because those are attributes that really take into account the entire grandeur of the city and the culture. VALENTINA FOLLO: Exactly. And it's also a celebration, not just of victory, but of the entire reign of Trajan, so to speak. Because he was able to build something, something lasting. If you think about the Forum, it's still lasting today. The idea was celebrate the person in his entirety, not just one of the aspects of his life.