Plutei of Trajan

By the Editors of the Madain Project

  • This article is a stub as it does not provide effective content depth for the core subject discussed herein. We're still working to expand it, if you'd like to help with it you can request expansion. This tag should be removed, once the article satisfies the content depth criteria.
    What is this?

The "Plutei of Trajan" (Plutei Traiani), most commonly called the Anaglypha Traiani, refers to a set of marble reliefs or parapets discovered in the Roman Forum and believed to have been commissioned by the Roman Emperor Trajan. These decorative elements were either part of the Rostra, Lapis Nigera or the monumental architectural complex that included the construction of the Basilica Ulpia and the Trajan's Column, both of which were integral components of Trajan's Forum, completed around 113 CE.

See Subject Home > Europe > Italy > Rome > Forum > Curia Julia > Plutei of Trajan


The Plutei (singular: Pluteus) served both practical and aesthetic purposes. They were installed as protective barriers or enclosures around certain sacred areas or altars within Trajan's Forum. The reliefs on the Plutei depicted various scenes, often religious or mythological in nature. The intricate carvings showcased the skilled craftsmanship of Roman artists during the Imperial period.

While the exact placement and function of each Pluteus are not entirely clear, they are thought to have delineated spaces within the Forum for specific rituals or ceremonies. The scenes depicted on the reliefs typically included sacrificial or religious themes, emphasizing the imperial connection to the divine and the emperor's role in religious ceremonies.

The discovery of fragments of the Plutei of Trajan during archaeological excavations in the Roman Forum has provided valuable insights into the grandeur and artistic sophistication of Trajan's architectural projects. These reliefs exemplify the fusion of practical and symbolic elements in Roman monumental architecture and contribute to our understanding of the visual language and religious practices of the Roman Empire during the early second century CE.

List of the Plutei

circa 110 CE

Institution of Alimenta
The relief depicts emperor Trajan in the Forum Romanum, where he institutes a charitable organisation for orphans (known as the alimenta). Trajan is seated on a podium in the middle of the Forum, together with a personification of Italia carrying a child on her arm. In the background again a number of notable structures from the antiquity are carved including; the speakers' platform in front of the Temple of Divus Julius; the Arch of Augustus; the Temple of Castor and Pollux; the Vicus Tuscus; the Basilica Julia; the Ficus Ruminalis and the statue of Marsyas.

circa 110 CE

Destruction of Debt Records
The relief depicts a group of attendants, in the presence of the emperor Trajan (or probably Hadrian in 118 CE), preparing to destroy the records of the debts incurred by the Roman citizens to pay taxes, cancelled after the conquest of Dacia (circa 105 CE). The wooden tablets with the tax records are carried forth and burned in the presence of the emperor, who is standing in front of the Rostra. Part of the carving on the right side is missing. The relief contains the carving of notable structures in the background; including the Ficus Ruminalis and the statue of Marsyas; the Basilica Julia; the Temple of Saturn; the Temple of Vespasian and Titus; the Rostra; and the missing part most likely depicted the Temple of Concord.

Gallery Want to use our images?

See Also


Let's bring some history to your inbox

Signup for our monthly newsletter / online magazine.
No spam, we promise.

Privacy Policy