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The column of Phocas is a column that refers to the ruler in the 7th century AD, but it was in fact a column erected in the forum piazza to correspond with the late honorary columns, so it probably dates originally to Diocletian or Constantine. The structure is oriented to greet the people walking down the Argiletum approach into the forum.

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From Platner & Ashby’s (1929) Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome:

A monument in front of the rostra in the forum which, according to the inscription (CIL vi. 1200) 1 on the marble base of the column, was erected in 608 A.D. by Smaragdus, exarch of Italy, in honour of Phocas, emperor of the East. 

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The monument consists of a fluted Corinthian column of white marble, 1.39 metres in diameter and 13.60 high, on which was placed the statue of Phocas in gilt bronze. This column stood on a marble base, which in turn rests on a square brick pedestal which was entirely surrounded by flights of nine steps made of tufa blocks taken from other structures. The steps on the north and east sides were removed in 1903. The whole monument cannot have been erected by Smaragdus, for the brick pedestal belongs probably to the fourth century, while the column, from its style and execution, must be earlier still. The pedestal was probably built at the same time as those in front of the basilica Iulia, and the column set upon it. Smaragdus simply set the statue of Phocas on the column and constructed the pyramid of tufa steps around the pedestal (as Nichols in Archaeologia lii. i. (1889) 183-194 had already supposed). Cf. Jord. i. 2. 246; Mitt. 1891, 88-90; 1902, 58-59; 1905, 68; Atti 577-580; HC 96-97; RE Suppl. iv. 501, 502.

Where in Rome is the Column of Phocas?

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Cite this page as: Darius Arya, The American Institute for Roman Culture, “Column of Phocas” Ancient Rome Live. Last modified 01/25/2021.


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