One of the most intricate ancient landmarks in Rome, the enormous Trajan's Column near Quirinal Hill was built in the second century to commemorate Emperor Trajan’s victory over the Dacians. The triumphal column is decorated with bas relief carvings that constitute a diary of battle scenes.
Trajan’s Column tells the story of war triumphs via an intricate frieze that spirals up the column, running chronologically from base to top. The column was originally topped with a statue of Emperor Trajan, but it was replaced with a sculpture of Saint Peter in the 16th century by Pope Sixtus V. The column contains a staircase leading to a viewing platform, but the stairs are closed to visitors; to see the bas relief carvings up close, visit Rome’s Museum of Roman Civilization, which displays plaster casts of the scenes.
The bas relief scenes on Trajan’s Column are difficult to interpret, so join a tour with a guide who can explain the frieze in detail. Private and small-group walking tours of ancient Rome visit the column, as do tours by bike or Segway. Most ancient Rome tours also include skip-the-line access to the nearby Colosseum and Roman Forum.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Ancient Rome tours require a significant amount of time outside, so be sure to wear a hat and sunscreen.
- The column is visible only from the outside, and is accessible to wheelchair users.
- The column is lit at night, so can be seen during either a daytime or night tour.
- To see the bas relief scenes at the top of the column, bring a pair of mini binoculars for an “up-close” view.
How to Get There
Trajan’s Column is located on the side of Quirinal Hill adjacent the Trajan’s Forum area along Via Quattro Novembre, a five-minute walk from Colosseo metro station (line B).
When to Get There
Visit Trajan’s Column during early spring or late fall, when the temperatures are mild in Rome, and crowds are smaller. This sight can be enjoyed during a daytime or nighttime tour, as the column is illuminated at night.
Friezes in the Museum of Roman Civilization
Roman history enthusiasts can see the entire frieze cycle up close at the Museum of Roman Civilization in the outlying EUR quarter of Rome. Plaster-cast replicas of the battle scenes are on display in horizontal rows at eye level, along with a vast collection of original pieces and casts of artifacts dating from the founding of Rome to the fourth century.