Column of Phocas

The Column of Phocas (Columna Phocae) was erected by Smaragdus, exarch of Italy, for Emperor Phocas (602-610) in 608. It was the last monument built in the Roman Forum (Forum Romanum) in Rome. It is located near the Arch of Septimus Severus.

The white marble column is fluted and has Attic base and Corinthian capital originating from an early imperial monument (which perhaps dates to the 2nd century). It was originally crowned with a gilded statue, without which it now has lost most of its grandeur. The column rests on a high plinth atop a pyramid of steps faced with white marble, though the steps the pyramidal base on the north and east sides were removed in 1903.

Phocas was a brutal centurion in the Byzantine army murdered the emperor Maurice and his five sons in 602. He also gave the Pantheon to Pope Boniface IV in 608 for use as a church, making it the first temple in Rome to be Christianized. Phocas was himself brutally murdered two years after this column was erected.

INSCRIPTION

Optimo, clementiss[imo piissi]moque / principi, domino n(ostro) F[ocae, imperat]ori / perpetuo, a d(e)o coronato, [t]riumphatori, / semper Augusto, /(5) Smaragdus, ex praepos(ito) sacri Palatii / ac patricius et exarchus Italiae, / devotus eius clementiae, / pro innumerabilibus pietatis eius / beneficiis et pro quiete /(10) procurata Ital(lia) ac conservata libertate, / hanc sta[tuam maiesta]tis eius, / auri splend[ore fulge]ntem, huic / sublimi colu[m]na[e ad] perennem / ipsius gloriam imposuit ac dedicavit, /(15) die prima mensis Augusti, indict(ione) und(ecima), / p(ost) c(onsulatum) pietatis eius anno quinto.

To the greatest, most merciful and most pious ruler, our lord Phocas, perpetual emperor, crowned by God, triumphant, forever Augustus. Smaragdus, former prefect of the imperial bedchamber (praepositus sacri cubiculi), patrician and exarch (exarchus) of Italy, devoted to his clemency, because of the innumerable good deeds of his (= the emperor's) piety, and because of the peace gained for Italy and the preservation of freedom, placed and dedicated to his eternal glory this statue of his majesty, gleaming in the splendour of gold, on this tall column; [dedicated] on the first day of the month of August, in the eleventh indiction, in the fifth year after his piety's consulship .

Sources

A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome by L. Richardson, Jr.

The Roman Forum by David Watkin 

Column of Phocas by James Grout (University of Chicago)

Column of Phocas (Oxford Last Statues of Antiquity)

Resources

Roman Monuments Album (Byzantine Legacy Flickr)

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The Byzantine Legacy
Created by David Hendrix Copyright 2016