Monument of Aemilius Paullus
Monument of Aemilius Paullus was erected in the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi shortly after 167 BCE in order to commemorate the Roman victory at the Battle of Pydna over King Perseus of Macedon. The partially completed pillar was intended to be a base for a portrait of King Perseus. It was originally created to make the Macedonian presence known in Delphi to remind the Delphians of the tradition of friendship existing between them and the royal family. However, the monument was taken over by Aemilius Paullus to celebrate himself and Rome's victory noting that, "it was only proper that the conquered should give way to the victors." The Monument of Aemilius Paullus stood in front of the Temple of Apollo along with two other commemorative pillars to Eumenes II of Pergamon and Prusias II of Bithynia. However, this pillar dominates over the other two. The completed monument was a bronze equestrian statue atop a rectangular pillar that soared over 9 meters high. While the equestrian statue that was originally on top of pillar no longer remains, the cuttings in the plinth show that the horse would have been in a rearing position. An inscription at the base of the pillar survived, L(ucius) Aimilius L(uci) f(ilius) inperator de rege Perse / Macedonibusque cepet, which translated reads, "Lucius Aemelius, son of Lucius, Imperator, set this up from the spoils which he took from King Perseus and the Macedonians."
Details and significance of the frieze
Deployed on all four sides at the top of the rectangular marble pillar, is a relief frieze depicting the Battle of Pydna. The frieze runs 6.5 meters long and 0.31 meters high. The figures are carved in high relief out of white veined marble with a brown patina. The frieze is the earliest known example of Greek sculpture in a purely Roman context. The Hellenistic style reliefs are the first surviving sculpture that depicts a Roman historical narrative. There is no landscape or context filling the space, but only the two armies on horseback and foot fighting one another. It is organized by groups of combatants with dead or dying warriors in between to fill the space. The battle scenes are lively with a lot of foreshortening from the rear and a strong attention to detail. The variance in details between the armor and weapons distinguishes the two sides. The Romans carry large oval shields (scuta) while the Macedonians' shields are rounded. Nude warriors, once thought to be heroic nudes of fallen Romans, are probably Celtic mercenaries serving under Perseus.
On one long side of the frieze, a riderless horse dominates the scene, and alludes to the tradition that the battle developed from pickets skirmishing over an escaped horse (or mule). The story was told that an oracle had said whichever side started the battle would lose. A Roman horse got loose and ran towards the opposition, causing Perseus to assume the Romans had initiated battle. When he attacked in return, Perseus was starting the battle himself. Therefore, the riderless horse marks the scene as a specific historic event — the Battle of Pydna — rather than generic combat between Romans and Macedonians. Some suggest that each panel should be read as a different phase of the battle, from the initial skirmishing to the final rout. Taylor argues that the four reliefs together were intended to depict a single scene of Roman victory, and that the prominence of cavalry throughout alludes to the successful mounted pursuit of fleeing Macedonians after the phalanx had broken.
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- Plutarch, Life of Aemilius Paullus 28.4
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- Plutarch, Life of Aemilius 18.1; Livy 44.40.