Column of Theodosius
The Column of Theodosius was a monumental column located in the Forum of Theodosius in Constantinople built during the reign of Theodosius I (379-395). It was modeled on the columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius in Rome, with spiral reliefs, an internal spiral staircase and an imperial statue crowning it. The column was located on high ground overlooking Propontis, it was visible to anyone approaching Constantinople by sea. Furthermore it was located on the Mese, the main street of Constantinople, placing it at the heart of the city. It was also part of the attempt to rival the city of Rome during this period.
The reliefs celebrated Theodosius achievements against the Goths in the Balkans. He had become emperor in the wake of the catastrophic Roman defeat at Adrianople in 378, and subsequently reimposed a degree of security in the Balkans. After preventing the tribe of the Greuthungi from crossing the Danube in 386, Theodosius entered Constantinople in a triumphal procession.
Like the columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius and the later Column of Arcadius, it was made of white marble and decorated with reliefs in a spiral band, ascending from left to right. The reliefs showed victorious warfare against Goths and the destruction of their settlements. The surviving relief fragments mainly show on the march or in battle, and occasionally city fortifications. In addition, one fragment depicts a soldier in a boat.
The Column of Theodosius was probably around 40 meters tall and certainly would have dominated the forum. It was once crowned by colossal statue of Theodosius I in the Forum of Theodosius. This statue fell during an earthquake in 480. It must have been of bronze, like the statue of Anastasius which replaced it in 506. It is possible that this statue was destroyed during riots in 512.
When the column was demolished in the early 16th century, fragments of it were built into the foundations of the Beyazıt Hamam. Some of these fragments are still visible on the external wall of this hamam, while others were moved to the Istanbul Archaeological Museums. More fragments came to light in 1973 during work on the foundations of the University Library of Istanbul, which are also located at the Istanbul Archaeological Museum.
Fragment in the Beyazıt Hamam Museum
Detail of a map of Constantinople by Braun-Hogenberg (1572)
Based on map by Magdalino
Fragment of the Column of Theodosius
Soldiers on the march in front of a city
Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium by Jonathan Harris
Brickstamps of Constantinople by Jonathan Bardill
Statue of Theodosius I (Oxford Late Statues of Antiquity)
Two Romes: Rome and Constantinople in Late Antiquity edited by Grig and Kelly
Forum of Theodosius (Byzantium 1200)