The Column of Marcus Aurelius
click to read article
Dedication: The military campaigns of Emperor Marcus Aurelius
Built: after 176 and before 193ad.
Marcus Aurelius spent more than half of his reign as emperor campaigning on the northern borders of the Roman Empire against various germanic tribes who had made incursions into roman territory. The column recounts episodes in the wars against these tribes which lasted from 169ad until the death of Marcus Aurelius in 180ad. It is clearly inspired by the Column of Trajan, erected around 60 years earlier, and is intended to draw a parallel between Marcus Aurelius and the highly admired Trajan.
The most famous episode depicted on the column is that of the 'rain miracle', showing a bearded god with arms outstreched causing water to pour down on the roman troops. This miracle, which is also recounted by Cassius Dio in his Roman History, was later claimed by Christian authors as having been the work of their god in response to the prayers of Christian soldiers in Marcus Aurelius' army, although Dio attributes the prayers to the Emperor's egyptian magician. He tells how a legion had been surrounded by the enemy and enclosed in an open field. with the sun beating down on them and food and water running out, they were facing certain defeat when a sudden thunderstorm burst over them, providing water and renewed energy with which they were able to fight their way out of the seige.