In our article When Emperor Hadrian Destroyed the World’s Longest Bridge, we recounted how the bridge was commissioned by Trajan in 103 AD over the Danube River for the purpose of facilitating the crossing and supply of troops in the imminent Second Dacian War against Decebalus.

The bridge was the most prominent and visually striking element of the road that the legions were constructing to advance into Dacia. Once this road was completed, Trajan ordered the placement of a commemorative inscription.

Thus, in the same year 103 AD, on a rock wall at the Iron Gates, the Latin inscription known today as Tabula Traiana or Trajan’s Tablet was engraved. It was located on the Serbian side of the Iron Gates, the final part of the gorge formed by the Danube that now serves as the border between Romania and Serbia, just past the Romanian city of Orsova.

It is a large rock-carved slab, 3.20 meters wide and 1.80 meters high, depicting two winged dolphins, six-petaled roses, and an eagle with outspread wings. The inscription, whose last lines are practically erased due to erosion, along with the bearded man kneeling at the bottom, was written in six lines of Roman capital letters:

IMP CAESAR DIVI NERVAE F / NERVA TRAIANVS AUG GERM / PONTIF MAXIMVS TRIB POT IIII / PATER PATRIAE COS III / MONTIBVS EXCISI. ANCO..BVS / SVBLATIS VIA .E.

(The Emperor Caesar, son of the divine Nerva, Nerva Trajan Augustus, conqueror of the Germans, Maximum Pontiff, invested four times with tribunician power, Father of the Fatherland, consul for the third time, has excavated the mountains and embedded the beams to make this road)

The upper inscription TABULA TRAIANA was added in 1891 when the Serbian government took measures to protect the slab for the first time.

Between 1969 and 1972, the construction of a dam at the Iron Gates submerged numerous ancient archaeological sites and several Roman commemorative inscriptions similar to Trajan’s.

The Tabula Traiana was spared because the entire rock block on which it is inscribed, a mass weighing around 300 tons, was cut and embedded 50 meters higher to prevent it from being covered by the waters.

Today it is located within the Djerdap National Park, about 2 and a half kilometers upstream from the town of Tekija and near Kladovo. It is only visible from the river due to the configuration of the coast where it is situated, with no other means of access.

On the opposite bank of the river, on the Romanian side, stands the statue of Dacian leader Decebalus, considered the tallest rock sculpture in Europe.


This article was first published on our Spanish Edition on July 12, 2019. Puedes leer la versión en español en Tabula Traiana, la inscripción de Trajano en las Puertas de Hierro solo visible desde el agua

Sources

PanaComp | Romanian Journeys | Danube Virtual Museum | Wikipedia


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