Marvels

The Plutei of Trajan

The Roman Forum

The so-called Plutei of Trajan were found in 1872 in the Roman Forum, between the Comitium and the Column of Phocas, and are now on display within the Curia Iulia. The original location and especially the function of this pair of marble balustrades remain uncertain. According to some scholars, they were used to close off the area of the ficus Ruminalis, a tree sacred to Romans, and the statue of Marsyas. Similarly uncertain is the identification of the historical scenes represented on each side of the plutei and of the emperor presiding over them. The most likely identification seems to be Trajan cancelling the debts of the Roman people and instituting a welfare program to help poor children (alimenta). There is however no doubt of the reliefs’ enormous archaeological importance; the monuments represented in the background of each scene provide a precious image of the southern side of the Roman Forum as it appeared in the early 2nd century AD.