10-foot statue of Trajan found in Laodicea

A monumental statue of the Roman emperor Trajan has been discovered in the ancient city of Laodicea near the modern city of Denizli in what is now western Turkey. The statue is three meters (9.8 feet) high and depicts the emperor dressed in full military regalia towering over a much smaller figure of a prisoner with his hands tied behind back. The quality of the sculpture is exceptional, with fine details carved on the emperor’s breastplate, face and clothing. It dates to 113 A.D.

Laodicea was in the province of Phrygia (the bound prisoner is wearing a Phrygian cap), located on an important trade route that brought it great wealth and prosperity. It was so rich, in fact, that when an earthquake destroyed the city in 60 A.D., the residents refused any aid from the empire and rebuilt it with their own funds. They rebuilt it in grand style, its most prominent citizens sponsoring the construction of theaters, baths, temples, a stadium and a myriad other public buildings and works of art. It was granted free city status under Roman making it autonomous and self-governing. It even minted its own coins.

It was also highly seismic. The statue was found broken in 356 pieces, all of them clustered together. Archaeologists believe it was toppled and broken in an earthquake and was buried under a fountain. That’s why it survived almost entire in one place despite the extensive breakage. The sculpture was discovered in the same location as the Water Law, the incredibly long and detailed inscription describing the many and varied penalties for violations city water laws.

The statue depicts Trajan wearing a short chiton and has a cloth falling from his left shoulder, which, according to [lead excavator Professor Celal] Şimşek, is worthy of attention.

“The images on the armor can be observed very clearly. On the upper part of the armor, there is the thunder of Jupiter, the celestial god of thunder. Medusa is located right in the middle of the chest, which is important because it shows the emperor’s frightening side. There are two reciprocal griffons [a legendary creature with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion], which are the symbol of the god Apollo. We see Apollo as the god that protected the fine arts. With this, what to comes to mind is that the emperor did protect fine arts at his time,” he said.

“There is a water can in the middle. The griffons stretched their front legs towards the water bowl. Given the Water Law, it shows that he was an emperor who brought waterway to Laodicea with arches and pipes made of travertine. He gave 30,000 Denarius. I matched it with today’s money, and it is about 300,000 Turkish Liras. After that, because Laodicea was a very rich city, they built a great statue and put it at this fountain. Perhaps people from all over the world will come and see this work here. This statue is important in this aspect. Indeed, in terms of both proportion and portrait, we are truly happy to find this statue of the emperor,” he added.


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Comment by Dr. E
2019-04-02 08:05:56

What a huge discovery, both literally and figuratively. When is the last time a Roman sculpture of this scale was found?

Comment by Sur Le Pont
2019-04-02 13:23:16

Apparently, the Emperor died in 117 in nearby Selinus (gr: Σελινοΰς), Cilicia, now Gazipaşa, Antalya Province, in what is currently Turkey.

The Alcántara Bridge in Spain, from Arabic ‘al-QanTarah’ (القنطرة), meaning “the bridge”, was built 1913 years ago, “Municipia provinciae Lusitaniae stip conlata quae opus pontis perfecerunt”, i.e. “bridging the cities of the province of Lusitania to each other”, over the Tagus river, by the order of “Imp. Caesari divi Nervae f. Nervae. Traiano Aug. Germ. Dacico Ponti f. Max. Trib. potes VIII. imp. V. cos V. PP.”, i.e. “Emperor Caesar, son of divine Nerva, Germanicus, Dacicus, TRAJAN, made highest priest and ‘bridge builder’ [‘Pontifex Maximus’], given eight times the power as Tribune power, given five times the government; Father of the Fatherland”. –Notably, that Bridge had been suffering more damage from wars than from the elements over the years. Here, contrastingly, 12 cities had apparently been made to come up for the initial bridging expenses.

BTW – Laodicea on the Lycus, i.e. Laodicea ad Lycum (Λαοδίκεια πρὸς τῷ Λύκῶ), grew cotton and lived of pilgrims that visited the sacred waters of Hierapolis. Apparently, there was a red root –beetroot? ;)– that dyed -diluted with the sacred water- black cloth into royal purple. Maybe more elegant, at least smelling much better than to mess up with all the crushed snails and the urine :eek:

Comment by George M.
2019-04-02 14:33:05

The prisoner is also wearing trousers which, to the Romans, was a sign of barbarism.

Comment by Sur Le Pont
2019-04-02 15:37:08

The ‘Galatians’ (Γαλάται) were descendant of ‘Gauls’ or ‘Kelts’ (Tectosages, Boii, Tolistobogii/ Τολιστοβόγιοι, Trocmi, Volcae Tectosages of the Hercynian Forest – etc. pp.) from the Celtic settlement(s) of Southeast Europe in the 3rd century BC were also active in Phrygia –i.e. No wonder they wore trousers! :lol: Γαλατία was an area in the highlands of central Anatolia.

Comment by David Barchard
2019-04-04 05:53:16

Surely there was no Roman province of Phryria in Trajan’s day? Laodicea was in Asia, i.e.the Western Anatolian seaboard and interior, and in the region generally known as Caria. Phrygia was further north, but not an administrative area. It seems more likely to me that the captive was a conquered barbarian than a central Anatolian.

Comment by Sur Le Pont
2019-04-04 08:20:08

What I could come up with, is a map that shows the Roman provinces in Anatolia as in 117AD with, e.g., ‘GALATIA’ and ‘LYCIA ET PAMPHYLIA’, but it might indeed be that ‘Laodicea ad Lycum‘ was not in ‘Lycia‘ itself, but close to its border in its western neighbor ‘Asia’ [..note here one of the rare occasions, where ‘Asia’ actually lies to the WEST(!)] – Indeed, no administrative Roman ‘Phrygia’.

My point here, or one of them, was that by the time the ‘would-be Galatan’ invader populated the area, there was no Roman provinces in the first place. Also, I doubt that the Galatan would have seen a sign indicating ‘trespass without trousers only’, as he had already trespassed –WITH trousers– all his way from Europe. Let us hope, therefore, that he had at least one pair of trousers spare – He he.

‘Phrygia’ is a greater entity in Anatolia, i.e. it consists of connecting parts of Roman provinces of 117AD. You could even say ‘Anatolia without the coastal parts’. The Phrygians seem likewise to have come via ‘Tracia’ (also a later Roman province). Antiochos I. Soter (Ἀντίοχος Σωτήρ) died 261BC and gave Galatia to the Galatians (opposing Ptolemaios II against whom he lost in the First Syrian War, 274–271BC?).

There were ‘Phorcys’ and ‘Ascanius’, who ‘led the Phrygians from afar in Ascania’, mentioned in the Iliad: Φόρκυς αὖ Φρύγας ἦγε καὶ Ἀσκάνιος θεοειδὴς τῆλ᾽ ἐξ Ἀσκανίης· -but beware- μέμασαν δ᾽ ὑσμῖνι μάχεσθαι. In Greek mythology, during the Trojan War, the region by the Lake İznik was held by Phrygians, who sent troops to the aid of King Priam, led by the two. Those type of pants were referred to as βράκαι :yes: , but I would not know, if Homer mentioned any phrygian ones, and Trajan’s marble chiselling guy from 113AD might have seen them elsewhere.

Comment by Sur Le Pont
2019-04-04 15:54:12

…LSJ, Ancient Greek, has: βράκαι [“Brakai”] (cf.: Lat. ‘bracae’, Eng. ‘breeches’), trews [or trousers] worn by [e.g.] the Gauls:

[Tacitus, ‘Historiae’ book 2, chapter 20.1] … ipsius municipia et coloniae in superbiam trahebant, quod versicolori sagulo, bracas barbarum tegmen indutus togatos adloqueretur. uxorem quoque eius.. [in 68/69AD, the ‘Year of the Four Emperors’ Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian].

“His manner [Aulus Caecina Alienus’, leading troops from Mainz back into Italy, and having crossed the Alps] of dress, the towns and colonies interpreted as a mark of haughtiness, because he addressed civilians [in Italy! ;) ] wearing a parti-coloured cloak and breeches. His wife even..”

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