Base of the column of Antoninus Pius, Vatican Museum


161 C. E.
marble, base about 97¼" H



The co-emperors Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, the successors of Emperor Antoninus Pius (138-61), set up a column to honor the deified Antoninus. One side of the base has a dedicatory inscription, two sides record the funerary decursio, a ceremony performed by the Roman cavalry, and one side shows the ascent of the emperor and his wife to Heaven. The column itself has not been preserved.

Marble relief of the Apotheosis of Emperor Antoninus Pius and his Wife, Faustina

A winged genius (or sometimes identified as Aion, Eternity) carries the royal couple to Heaven. The Emperor holds a sceptre crowned with an eagle. Eagles also accompany their ascent.
 

Personifications of the Campus Martius and Rome

The personified figure (left) holding the obelisk represents the Campus Martius. Augustus had placed the obelisk there as a sun dial and it was the site of the ritual of the imperial deification. The personified female figure represents Rome. Roma's shield depicts the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus suckled by a wolf. She seems to salute the royal couple.

 

The two sides depicting the decursio, or the ceremonial maneuvers as part of the deification ritual

On these two almost identical sides, members of the cavalry circle the standing figures, two carrying military standards and the rest fully armored. These scenes are often criticized for their lack of stylistic sophistication.

The scenes lack a sense of space and perspective. The viewer is given both a bird's eye view of the circular maneuver and a ground-level view of each figure.
 

Details of the Decursioand decorative border





See also the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, Roman Forum.

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