The ancient Greek term tropaion (τρόπαιον, plural: tropaia) was derived from the words τρέπειν trépein ("to turn; to flee") and τροπή tropé ("to turn; to flee") and originally referred to a symbol that was set up at precisely that point who had turned away from the battlefield and fled. It consisted of a mostly wooden stake or scaffolding, to which the weapons and armor of the underdogs were attached in the manner in which they were positioned with a hoplite (foot soldier); the tropaion thus had an anthropomorphic appearance. Presumably, the setting up of such a “military scarecrow” was accompanied by various religious rites, for example consecration to a certain deity.
This temporary memorial - an expression of the soldiers' exuberant feelings of happiness and at the same time a deterrent for any returning enemies - was erected from the 5th century BC onwards. Immortalized in art and literature. The victorious Greeks are said to have built the first tropaion after the battle of Marathon in 490 BC. Have erected. From then on the term appeared continually in Greek texts, be it in detailed descriptions ( Plutarch , Pausanias ) or as a metaphor for the achievement of victory ( Aeschylus ). The tropaion became a popular motif on coins and now demonstrated the superiority of the respective polis beyond the battlefield. Around 200 years later, the first round sculpture in the shape of a tropaion was made, followed by representations on gems , terracottas, Megarian cups and many other art forms. So the sign of victory finally spread in Magna Graecia until it was in the 3rd century BC. It was taken over by the Romans and soon became the epitome of Roman rulers ideology. The power symbol experienced its heyday from the first pre-Christian to the first post-Christian century, when it visualized the superiority of the Roman Empire in large numbers and in many different ways . A very well-known tropaion from this time is z. B. the Tropaeum Alpium in La Turbie (above Monaco ). From the 2nd century AD onwards, there was a gradual decline in representations, which was finally completed in the 6th century under Emperor Justinian - the tropaion in its centuries-old form was dead.
A tropaion included a helmet, shield, sword or lance and sometimes the opposing fighter's outer clothing. This basic scheme was also strictly adhered to in art and was only variable in a few details: In the 5th century BC. Only the hoplite type is known in the frontal view, which is also shown in profile from the 4th century onwards. At the same time, the type equipped with two symmetrically arranged shields and the disarmed type, armored only with helmet and armor, are added. In Roman times this scope was expanded again and the so-called “overloaded type” emerged, on whose arms and feet weapons and armaments were piled up.
The context gave this general symbol of power a more explicit meaning. Often tied barbarians were depicted at the foot of the Tropaion, whose physiognomy and clothing conveyed the special occasion for the depiction. But the winners were also happy to join the sign of their superiority. Another popular companion figure from Roman times was the winged goddess of victory Victoria , who placed the victory wreath on the weapon stand and thus consecrated it to the gods, in numismatics this type of coin is called victoriatus . The list of gods, heroes, and personifications shown near a tropaion is long; they always served as a more detailed explanation of the previously achieved triumph .
The sign of victory was an indispensable part of the hustle and bustle of the triumphal procession that was held in Rome after every great war won in honor of the emperor ; During the crowded processions, tropaia transported on huge supporting frames (fercula) were part of the basic equipment. Almost every triumphal arch , every victory column , every battle relief from Roman times then also bears the image of the “impaled” enemy weapons. Probably the most important monument that can be mentioned in this context is the Tropaeum Traiani in Adamklissi (today Romania ), which Emperor Trajan had built after his victory over the Dacians in 110 AD. This shows most impressively what central role the tropaion played in the Roman triumphal iconography. Other important representations of a victory mark can be found, for example, on the Trajan Column (113 AD) and the triumphal arch of Constantine the Great (315 AD). The tropaion had become a symbol of Roman rulers' thinking and was still minted on coins as the empire was already approaching its inevitable decline.
- Andreas Jozef Janssen: Het antieke tropaion. Erasmus, Lederberg / Gent 1957, (Nijmegen, Universität, Dissertation, 1957. With a Summary in English).
- Ernst Künzl : The Roman Triumph. Victory celebrations in ancient Rome. Beck, Munich 1988, ISBN 3-406-32899-7 .
- Karl Woelcke: Contributions to the history of the tropaion. In: Bonner Jahrbücher . Volume 120, 1911, pages 127–235, plates VIII – XII, doi : 10.11588 / bjb.1911.0.46345 .