Now that we have dealt with which column is which (I’m at last prepared to say definitively that the picture on my previous post IS Trajan’s column), let me report in on an amazing exhibition I saw in Rome last weekend. It’s a tiny show in the Palazzo Massimo Museum near the railway station, and at first sight not much to write home about: a couple of Roman lances, some metal poles and spikes, a few glass balls and a short sceptre. They were all discovered by archaeologists, stashed away in an underground passageway in the foothills of the Palatine, just next to the Colosseum.
They are not half as unprepossessing as they sound. In fact they are almost certainly the remains of the ceremonial symbols of power belonging to a Roman emperor – they kind of thing we have only seen on sculptures and coins up to now. (The ones in the picture of Antoninus Pius and Faustina, from the base of what was originally their column, may be restored, but they give you the general idea.) The poles and spikes had once supported standards. Some of the glass balls had clearly been gilded and would have fitted onto the ends of more sceptres. The lances are the hastae that stood for imperial power. Not quite as glitzy or precious, but this collection is not far from being the Roman crown jewels.
So what was it all doing hidden away?