Trajan s Plaque – Tabula Traiana

Trajan s Plaque – Tabula Traiana Djerdap Gorge

Tabula Trajana – Tabula Traiana is the Roman memorial plaque stone with the carved Latin inscription situated just above the Djerdap Canyon in the Iron Gate Gorge dedicated to the Roman Emperor Trajan /Marcus Ulpius Nerva Traianus/. The Roman emperor Trajan is said to have started to build the bridge in the year 103 AD as a part of his forays into the kingdom of Dacians, in today’s Romania. The bridge was situated East of the Iron Gates, near the cities of Drobeta-Turnu Severin (Romania) and Kladovo (Serbia). Its construction was ordered by Emperor Trajan as a supply route for the Roman legions and thousands of legionaries conquering Dacia. During the elaborate preparations for the second Dacian War Emperor Trajan undertook a number of construction works. Trajan’s table – Tabula Traiana is the one among the Roman monuments on the co-called “Roman road” that used to lead from Belgrade along the steep mountain sides on the right bank of the Danube River up to the bridge over the river built by the Emperor Trajan. Trajan’s Bridge over the Danube built by Greek engineer and architect Apollodorus from Damascus, ordered by Emperor Trajan was a Roman bridge, the first to be built over the lower Danube. Apollodorus was active in Rome for a time, having among his other undertakings done the Forum of Trajan and Trajan’s column. The Trajan’s Bridge had about 20 pillars of 35 meters height and 20 meters width. At each end was a Roman castrum, each built around an entrance (crossing was possible only by walking through the camp). To build the bridge over the Danube Trajan used oak wood from over 200 hectares. For more than a thousand years the Trajan s Bridge was the longest arch bridge in the world to have been built, in terms of both total length /1079,50 meters/ and span length that were about 20 meters above the water. During time, the Trajan’s Bridge disappeared and only remains of two first pillars are still visible on both sides of the river. One version says Trajan’s heirs destroyed the bridge several centuries later to prevent incursions of barbarian tribes into the Roman empire. Apollodorus from Damascus was banished by the emperor Hadrian perhaps following a disagreement about a temple design, and executed about 130. Another says the bridge collapsed due to the decay of the river bed. Both Serbian and Romanian archaeologists traced the existing seven of its 20 pillars on the bottom of the Danube River and continue underwater expeditions.

The Roman military road through the Djerdap Canyon along the Danube River was completed in 103. Construction of the Roman road with the aim to provide faster and secure sailing as well as many forts built along it testify on the military significance of Djerdap Gorge for the Roman Empire. This great success was completed by stone-cutters /lapidari/ of the VII Claudia Legion /VII Claudia/ and commemorated by the Latin inscription stone-carved in the stone cliff and is known as the Trajan’s Table /Tabula Traiana/. Tabula Traiana contains richly decorated Latin text carved with wonderful ornaments of dolphins, roses of 6 leaves and the eagle with its spread wings, in the stone of dimensions / 3,57×1,62 m/ with the following text :

SVBLAT(i)S VIA(m) F(ecit).

which means the following : Emperor Nerva son of the divine Nerva, Nerva Trajan the Augustus, Germanicus, Pontifex Maximus, invested for the fourth time as Tribune, Father of the Fatherland, Consul for the third time, excavating mountain rocks and using wood logs has made this road.

Just opposite of the Traian’s Plaque on the left side of the Danube River there is the stone-carved sculpture of the King Decebel’s head, /last Dacian ruler who was fighting with Traian/. The Head of the King Decebel was carved in inaccessible cliff in the last decade of the 20th century for the cost of one million dollars by twelve alpinists-carvers as per order of rich Romanian amateur-historian Josif Konstantin Dragash.

After Emperor Traian’s conquer of Dacia, Djerdap no more took the premium transportation role since Djerdap Gorge was no more the Imperial border – limes for the next 150 years after the Roman Empire withdrew its troops from Dacia. Iron Gate looses its military significance and enhance develop of the settlements and trade on the places of former military fortifications. In the 3rd century Djerdap Gorge again becomes the border of the Roman Empire and gains the defense point on behalf of the Byzantium against Avars’ and Slavs’ tribes attacks in the 6th century. Trajan’s Table – Tabula Traiana is located within the Djerdap National Park near town of Kladovo and can be seen only from water.

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