Column of Phocas (Rome)

Column of Phocas (Rome)


Description of the Column of Phocas

Column of emperor Phocas does not stand out much against the general Roman Forum, but it should be mentioned anyway. The column reached a height of 13.5 meters. The Phocas Column was erected in 608 AD to commemorate the visit of Rome to the Eastern Roman Byzantine Emperor Phocas on 1 August. A 13.6 m (44 ft) high Corinthian pillar stands on a cubic white marble base. For stylistic reasons, the column, apparently, was made in the 2nd century for an unknown building, and then it was transferred to the monument. Similarly, the statue of the Roman emperor Diocletian once stood on the foundation. The old inscription dedicated to the pagan emperor was shot down and a new inscription dedicated to the Emperor Foke was inscribed.

The base of the column of Phocas was discovered in 1813, and the inscription on it is read in Latin. The inscription on its northern side reports that the monument of August 1, 608, the Exarch of Ravenna, that is, the mayor of the city of Smaragd or Smaragdus, dedicated Phocas, setting a golden statue of the emperor on top of the column:


Optimo clementiss[imo piissi]moque / principi domino n[ostro] / F[ocae imperat]ori / perpetuo a d[e]o coronato, [t]riumphatori / semper Augusto / Smaragdus ex praepos[ito] sacri palatii / ac patricius et exarchus Italiae / devotus eius clementiae / pro innumerabilibus pietatis eius beneficiis et pro quiete / procurata Ital[iae] 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 / die prima mensis Augusti, indict[ione] und[icesima] / p[ost] c[onsulatum] pietatis eius anno quinto


"The best, most gracious and most pious princeps, our lord Phocas, the unchallenged emperor, god of the crown, triumphant, permanent August, Smaragd, former butler of the imperial palace, patrician and Exarch of Italy, devoted to his mercy, for countless merits of his piety and for peace of mind. with the care and preservation of freedom shown to Italy, this statue of his greatness, shining with the brilliance of gold, hoisted this tall column for its eternal glory and consecrated on the first day of the month of August that, in the seventh year of the proclamation of the master, in the fifth year after the consulate of his piety"


The exact reason for this gift to the cities is unknown, although Phocas possibly the reason for such a gift was the official donation of the Pantheon to Pope Boniface IV, who donated it to the temple of all the Roman martyrs and Mary (Sancta Maria ad Martyres). At the top of the capitol of the column there was a “dazzling” gilded statue of Phocas (which probably did not stay here for long). The gilded statue on the column was rather the emblem of imperial sovereignty over Rome, which quickly disappeared under pressure from the barbaric tribe of the langobards, and a personal sign of gratitude from Smaragdus, who was recalled by Phocas from a long exile and was obliged to the Emperor for having gained his power in Ravenna.

In October 610, Fock was overthrown and killed; and his statues everywhere were overthrown by columns and pedestals. Nevertheless, the monument remained until the present day in its original place. The rise of the ground level due to silt and debris completely drowned the foundation of the column of Phocas by the time Giuseppe Wasi and Giambattista Piranesi made the engravings of the Roman forum in the mid-18th century. The square brick foundation was not visible from the beginning, the current level of the Forum was excavated in the 19th century to the level of the ancient Roman republic before the accession of emperors.