Constantinople, Column of Marcian


Column of Marcian: honorific monument in Constantinople.

Column of Marcian
Column of Marcian

The Column of Marcian in Constantinople was erected in 455, to honor a ruler who had been in charge of the Byzantine Empire for five years, had condemned Nestorianism at the Fourth Ecumenical Council (451; Chalcedon), and had repelled attacks on Syria and Egypt.

Nowadays, the monument is known by the people of Istanbul as the Kız Tası, "the column of the girls", because there is a Nike (Victoria) shown on one of the faces of the pedestal.

In the neighborhood was another column that may once have had the same surname: this was the Column of Venus, which once played a role in a magical ritual to establish whether a girl was a virgin. It no longer exists.

The Column of Marcian itself stands about ten meters tall and was made of grey granite that was imported from Syene in Egypt. The marble capital is decorated with eagles and will have served as base for a statue of the emperor.

Column of Marcian, capital
Column of Marcian, capital

The square pedestal, which stands on three steps, is decorated with slabs of marble. On the western, southern, and eastern sides, you can see a christogram (☧), a damaged symbol (a fish?), and a Greek cross, all surrounded by laurel wreaths. They may represent the victory of the emperor's Christianity over alternative interpretations. On the northern face of the pedestal, one can see a globe, carried by the two Nikes already mentioned.

The inscription, in bronze letters, was above the representation of the globe and the Nikes; the bronze has been removed, but we can still read the elegiac verses, which are known as CIL 3.738).

Column of Marcian, inscription
Column of Marcian, inscription


Which means

Observe this statue of the Emperor Marcian and its column,
a work devoted by the prefect Tatianus.