Remains of column, once crowned with colossal statue, almost certainly of Leo I, emperor. Constantinople, Forum of Leo I ('Pittakia'). 457-474

No dedicatory inscription is recorded. The identification of this monument with a column and statue to Leo I is convincing, on the basis of its appearance and findspot (see below, 'Provenance and Current Location', and 'Honorand, Awarder and Date'). Byzantine tradition ascribed the dedication of Leo's statue to his sister Euphemia (Patria II, 31). The statue is mentioned in several literary sources of the Byzantine period:

Patria II, 31:
Ὁ δὲ λεγόμενος Πιττάκης στήλη ἐστὶν τοῡ μεγάλου Λέοντος τοῡ Μακέλλη, ἣν ἀνήγειρεν Ἐυφημία ἡ τούτου ἀδελφή
'The so called Pittakis is a statue of Leo the Elder, the slayer, which his sister Euphemia set up'.

Parastaseis 67:
Ὁ Πιττάκης ὁ λεγόμενος Λέων ὁ μέγας ἐστὶν.
'The so called Pittakis is Leo the Elder'.

Cedrenus I, 563, 18:
Ὅτι ὁ εἰς τὰ Πιττάκια κίων στήλην ἔχει Λέοντος τοῦ τῆς Βερίνης ἀνδρός
'The column in the Pittakia has a statue of Leo, the husband of Verina'.

DESCRIPTION (from Peschlow 1986, and the published images)
Several fragments of a columnar monument of marble came to light in the second court of the Topkapı Serail in the late 1950s/ early 1960s. Peschlow 1986 recognized that the pieces belonged together and based a reconstruction of the complete monument on them, with which we concur. The pieces, and their place within the overall monuments, are as follows:

(1) Corinthian capital: H 2.38, W 2.85, D 2.73 m; diameter at bottom 1.78 m. At the centre of each face of the top plate is a small human face. Cut into the top surface are four round dowel holes, for fixing another marble element above, each with a diameter and depth of 16 cm, and each with cast channels.

(2) Complete column drum with a neck ring, the uppermost drum of a very large column: H 1.87 m, diameter at bottom 1.79, at top 2.10 m. The neck ring is about 34 cm high and decorated with a frieze of leaves and a single christogram (Chi-Rho) within a wreath. On the top face almost the entire the surface has been slightly lowered, and rough finishd, as a bedding for the capital above, and has three dowel holes (about 15 cm wide), each with cast channels. Close to one of the holes there is a mark 'Η'. This is the Greek number '8', and Peschlow 1986, 27 argues that it was added to show that this was eighth drum

(3) Fragment of a similar column drum: H 1 m; diameter at bottom 1.79, at top 2.10 m. The bottom of the drum is lost, of the upper part around two-thirds survives. At the top of the drum is a neck ring in the form of a stylized laurel wreath, with a christogram, itself within a wreath, on one side. This neck ring rises above the top surface of the drum, and was designed to cover the join between this drum and the one above it (a technique used on the column of Constantine in Constantinople, LSA-2457). The top face of the drum has two surviving dowel holes with cast channels cut into it (a third one was probably in the area now broken off), to secure it to the drum above. The dimensions suggest that this was probably the second drum from the top (Peschlow 1986, 25).

(4) Impost block: H 1.17, W (at top) 2.93, (at bottom) 2.09 m. The block consists of a plain foot (10.8 cm high), a frieze of large acanthus leaves, and a plain cover plate. The acanthus frieze is partly broken off, and the edges of the cover plate are broken in places. The upper face is roughly finished, with a lowered area for bedding a block above (1.70 m x 1.65 m), with four large dowel holes (22-30 cm in diameter). The outer zone of the top face is pierced by numerous rectangular holes, presumably for securing facing blocks (see below, (5); Peschlow 1986, 26). This impost block sat on top of the Corinthian capital (3).

(5) Marble block: H 1, W 1.78, D 1.69 m. The bottom is broken off, and the block is chipped on all sides. On each side there are two square and two rectangular holes; on one side there is also the remains of a hole used for hoisting the block. The top face is finished with a point and has round dowel holes at all four corners. The dimensions of this block correspond closely with those of the central area of bedding carved into the top of the impost block (4), and it seems likely that it was set on top of this block in order to form the core of the pedestal for the statue above (Peschlow 1986, 26). The statue must have stood on a plinth, secured to our block by the four dowels in its upper surface, and additionally with cramps on the sides.

No trace of the socle, pedestal and base of the column has yet been found. However, by analogy with the proportions of the column of Marcian (LSA-2461), Peschlow calculated an overall height of the monument (without statue) of around 23-26 m, with a column shaft of about 15 m made up of eight drums, and a socle, pedestal and base of nearly 7 m (Peschlow 1986, 27). Engemann 1989 argues that a drawing of 1561 by Melchior Lorichs shows the lost pediment of our column; it shows an elaborate relief on one side of a pediment, and the bottom of a column which is ringed by a wreath with a central Chi-Rho medallion, similar to that found on our column (see above, (2) and (3)). Other scholars, however, have attributed this drawing to Constantine’s column (LSA-2457), or to yet another monument (Jordan-Ruwe 1995, 135).

The colossal bronze statue that once crowned our column may survive. Peschlow 1986 made a strong case to connect the Barletta colossus (LSA-441), which almost certainly came from Constantinople, with this column. The size of the statue suits the column well (better than other known columns in Constantinople; Peschlow 1986, 26-7 with fig. 6), and there is no obvious evidence against the identification (Peschlow 1986, 32-3).

The several fragments of this monument were found in the second court of the Topkapı Serail in the late 1950s and early 1960s. John Lydus in the 6th century records a forum of Leo I in the area called 'Pittakia' (Bauer 1996, 215), while later Byzantine sources testify to a statue of the emperor on a column in the same area (Parastaseis 67, Patria II, 31, Cedrenus I, 563, 18). The Pittakia were located northeast of St Sophia and St Eirene (Bauer 1996, 117; Müller-Wiener 1977, 52), which coincides closely with the area of the Topkapı Serail (in roughly the same area, was found the base of the porphyry column to Eudoxia, LSA-27).

The surviving pieces are today displayed in the second court of the Topkapı Serail, close to where they were found.

The capital is stylistically close to that of the column of Marcian (emperor 450-7, LSA-2461), and must date from roughly the same period (Peschlow 1986, 28). Since a monument on this scale must have been imperial, the likely contenders are the two emperors who flanked Marcian's reign, Theodosius II (408-50) and Leo I (457-74). A column of Theodosius II is indeed known from literary sources, but this was on the Sigma, far to the west of the findspot of our monument. On the other hand, the location of the forum of Leo in the Pittakia, suits our findspot well (see above, 'Provenance and Current Location’). There is therefore little doubt that our column was that of Leo I, emperor 457-74.

According to a Byzantine tradition (recorded in the Patria) whose accuracy cannot be tested, the awarder was Leo I’s sister Euphemia (PLRE II, 422-3 Euphemia 3; Bauer 1996, 216).

Ulrich Gehn

Main Reference

Peschlow, U., Eine wiedergewonnene byzantinische Ehrensäule in Istanbul, Studien zur spätantiken und byzantinischen Kunst, Friedrich Wilhelm Deichmann gewidmet. Teil 1, pp.21-34, Bonn 1986,

Discussion References

Bauer, F. A., Stadt, Platz und Denkmal in der Spätantike, Mainz 1996, pp. 215-17

Engemann, J., Melchior Lorichs Zeichnung eines Säulensockels in Konstantinopel, Quaeritur inventus colitur. Miscellanea in onore di padre Umberto Maria Fasola, B., 249-65, Città del Vaticano 1989,

Jordan-Ruwe, M., Das Säulenmonument. Zur Geschichte der erhöhten Aufstellung antiker Porträtstatuen (Asia Minor Studien Band 19), Bonn 1995, pp. 165-9, 193, 199

Martindale, J. R., The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire. Volume III A. D. 527-641, Cambridge 1992,

Müller-Wiener, W., Bildlexikon zur Topographie Istanbuls, Tübingen 1977, pp. 52, 232 fig. 263