The Column of Marcus Aurelius

The Genesis and Meaning of a Roman Imperial Monument

By Martin Beckmann

264 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 10 drawings, 59 illus., 1 map, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6863-5
    Published: November 2021
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8078-3461-9
    Published: June 2011
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-7777-7
    Published: June 2011

Studies in the History of Greece and Rome

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One of the most important monuments of Imperial Rome and at the same time one of the most poorly understood, the Column of Marcus Aurelius has long stood in the shadow of the Column of Trajan. In The Column of Marcus Aurelius, Martin Beckmann makes a thorough study of the form, content, and meaning of this infrequently studied monument. Beckmann employs a new approach to the column, one that focuses on the process of its creation and construction, to uncover the cultural significance of the column to the Romans of the late second century A.D. Using clues from ancient sources and from the monument itself, this book traces the creative process step by step from the first decision to build the monument through the processes of planning and construction to the final carving of the column's relief decoration. The conclusions challenge many of the widely held assumptions about the value of the column's 700-foot-long frieze as a historical source. By reconstructing the creative process of the column's sculpture, Beckmann opens up numerous new paths of analysis not only to the Column of Marcus Aurelius but also to Roman imperial art and architecture in general.

About the Author

Martin Beckmann is assistant professor of classics at McMaster University.
For more information about Martin Beckmann, visit the Author Page.


"[The Column of Marcus Aurelius] is lucid and engaging, and will be of real value to those interested in the Column itself and also in the wider questions of. . . understanding ancient structures."--Times Literary Supplement

“A valuable adjunct to anyone interested in Roman military operations at the very height of the Empire.”--NYMAS Review

“Very interesting and enlightening as to the Roman military in the late second century A.D.”--Lone Star Book Review

“This book is a strong addition to the study of Roman sculptural monuments. . . . Its writing style is clear and avoids technical jargon. The black-and-white illustrations are excellent and well chosen.”--American Journal of Archaeology

"This impressively detailed study, the first treatment of the Column of Marcus Aurelius in English, makes an extremely valuable contribution to the historical and artistic contexts of this much neglected Roman monument."--Hazel Dodge, Trinity College Dublin

"Beckmann's engaging, enlightening study gives readers a better understanding of the construction of the Column of Marcus Aurelius and illuminates contemporary Roman perceptions of its structure and sculpted decoration."--Diane Atnally Conlin, University of Colorado