Column, once crowned by statue of Marcian, emperor. Constantinople, Forum of Marcian. 450-452

A distich, set out in four lines:

Principis hanc statuam Marciani / cerne forumque, /
praefectus vovit quod Tatianus / opus.

'See this statue of the emperor Marcian, and his forum, a work which the prefect Tatianus dedicated’.

Our reading follows Mango 1990, 46 (older readings had 'torum’ (throne), instead of 'forum’, in line 2).

DESCRIPTION (from Schazmann in Kollwitz 1941, 73-5, and the published images)
The monument, as measured by P. Schazmann in 1934, has an overall height above the modern street level of 16.52 m. Pierre Gilles (Petrus Gyllius) who recorded the column in the mid 16th century, measured a total height of around 8 m.

The complete monument consists of the following elements, starting from the bottom:

(1) Socle. Of this, only part of the uppermost platform is today visible: H 33, and extending 48.5 cm from the bottom of the pedestal. Pococke in the late 18th century mentioned a stepped socle; Schazmann therefore reasonably assumed that it might have had three steps.

(2) Pedestal of white marble, with moulding at bottom: H c. 2.75 m. Decorated with reliefs on all four sides. The relief fields are defined at the top by a simple fillet. On the west, south, and east sides are christograms (Chi-Rho symbols) on round shields (clipei) surrounded by wreaths and with ribbons below them. On the north face, which was evidently the front of the monumnet, two Victories between them support a clipeus; above these Victories a plain band of marble carries the inscription, originally of inserted metal letters.

(3) Attic column-base: H 51 cm.

(4) Monolithic shaft of grey Egyptian granite (from Syene): H 8.74 m, diameter at bottom c. 1.13 m, at top c. 1m.

(5) Corinthian capital in white marble: H 1.49 m.

(6) Rectangular marble crowning element: H c. 2.70 m, W c. 2 m. This element is divided into an upper and a lower register: the upper register plain, the lower one decorated with eagles at all four corners.

(7) Numerous dowel holes in the upper face of what is now the crowning element suggest that it was originally topped by yet another marble block (Jordan-Ruwe 1995). At the very summit of the monument stood the statue of the emperor. This is lost and it is not mentioned in any literary sources; but its former existence is certain, because it is explicitly referred to in the inscription: 'See this statue of the emperor Marcian ...'.

The column once stood on the forum of Marcian. This forum is not mentioned in literary sources, but was probably situated on the northern branch of the Mese, which split from the main southern branch (leading to the Golden Gate) at the square known as the 'Philadelphion' and headed for the Charisius Gate by way of the church of Holy Apostles (Müller-Wiener 1977, 54-5; Bauer 1996, 214; for a map, see Mango 1990, plan II). The column remains in situ, nowadays on the modern Kıztaşı Caddesi, south of Fatih Camii (Müller-Wiener 1977, 405-11).

The honorand, Marcian, was Augustus 450-7.

The awarder, Tatianus, was prefect of the city of Constantinople in 450-2 (PLRE II, 1053-4 Tatianus 1), which dates our monument to within those three years.

Ulrich Gehn

Main Reference

Janin, R., Constantinople byzantine : développement urbain et répertoire topographique, Paris 1964, pp. 84-5 no. 10

Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum; , III, 738

Kollwitz, J., Oströmische Plastik der theodosianischen Zeit, Berlin 1941, pp. 69-75 pl. 12-14

Discussion References

Bauer, F. A., Stadt, Platz und Denkmal in der Spätantike, Mainz 1996,

Jordan-Ruwe, M., Das Säulenmonument. Zur Geschichte der erhöhten Aufstellung antiker Porträtstatuen (Asia Minor Studien Band 19), Bonn 1995,

Kautzsch, R., Kapitellstudien, Berlin and Leipzig 1936,

Mango, C., Le Développement urbain de Constantinople (IVe-VIIe siècles) (Travaux et Memoires du Centre de Recherche d’Histoire et Civilisation de Byzance, Collège de France, Monographies 2), Paris 1990,

Martindale, J. R., The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire. Vol. II A.D. 395-527, Cambridge 1980,

Müller-Wiener, W., Bildlexikon zur Topographie Istanbuls, Tübingen 1977,