Marcus Aurelius‘ column was actually not built by Marcus Aurelius himself but by his son Commodus, about 180-190 AD. Commodus wanted to remind people in Rome about his father’s victories in a war against the Marcomanni north of Rome (in modern Switzerland). It’s a lot like Trajan’s Column, but art styles had changed eighty years later, and this column has much deeper relief and more violence than Trajan’s Column does. Also, Marcus Aurelius was not as successful in his war as Trajan had been, so there are more sad scenes on this column.
All around the column, there are pictures of the Roman soldiers fighting the war. In this picture you can see Roman soldiers crossing the Danube river in boats.
Just like on Trajan’s column seventy years earlier, the Romans wanted to emphasize their engineering and technical skill. They showed the boats they used to cross the river. And they showed how Roman soldiers could create a pontoon bridge for soldiers and horses to cross the Danube river even more easily.
But other scenes from the column of Marcus Aurelius are sadder and grimmer than anything on Trajan’s Column.
There are scenes that show Roman soldiers cutting off the heads of their German prisoners. Frightened women try to protect little children.
Learn by doing: draw a series of panels that illustrate an event from your own life.
You Are in Ancient Rome, by Ivan Minnis (2004). For younger kids.
Ancient Rome: A Guide to the Glory of Imperial Rome, by Jonathan Stroud (2000). A day as a time-travelling tourist in ancient Rome, for kids.
Spend the Day in Ancient Rome : Projects and Activities that Bring the Past to Life, by Linda Honan (1998). Has an activity for making your own column out of a paper-towel roll.
Roman Art: Romulus to Constantine, by Nancy and Andrew Ramage (4th Edition 2004).The standard textbook.