Close-up’s of Marcus Aurelius’ Column in Rome, Piazza Colonna & Roman Highlights


After the death of Marcus Aurelius in 180 AD, his son Commodus commissioned a memorial column depicting the events of the Marcomannic War to honor his father. It’s a fascinating monument to the Emperor, and equally brutal in it’s depiction of the battle on the Danube frontier. It was inspired by the monument erected by Trajan documenting the Dacian Wars (101–102, 105–106) which stands today near Trajan’s Forum in Rome. There are some fascinating scenes of soldiers, barbarians, battles and the like. The most riveting image is the fascinating “Rain Miracle”.

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Alex Guinness as Marcus Aurelius in The Fall of the Roman Empire
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Marcus Aurelius from his Column in Piazza Colonna

Two famous miracles apparently occurred during the the year of 174 AD against the treacherous Quadi and Iazyges tribes on the Danube frontier. The first incident happened in June and the Iazyges and became known as the ‘Lightening Miracle”. It involved a thunderbolt which came from heaven and destroyed an enemy siege engine. The emperor himself was said to have summoned it. This incident was later commemorated with coin propaganda showing Marcus Aurelius with a thunderbolt in hand.

The other incident in July of the same year did not involve the Emperor directly but one of his generals, Pertinax (yes, the same mis-fortunate who would rule the Empire after Commodus’ death for about 3 months!) and a very intense battle his troops had with the Quadi. The Romans were apparently surrounded and desperately short of water (it was July, of course). A terrible disaster like Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (during Augustus’ reign) loomed. Preventing the Romans from reaching fresh water supplies, the Quadi were prepared to hold back and let the Romans die of thirst. Outnumbered, exhausted and thirsty, the Romans prepared for the worst. Then suddenly, out of a clear blue sky, a rain burst! The thirsty and thankful Romans captures the delicious rain from the sky in their helmets and shields. The gods were on their side! The Roman morale soared as the Quadi initiated their attack, the Roman soldiers apparently gulping water and blood in equal measures. Then riotous lightening strikes and hailstorms rattled the Quadi so much that they fled the field, leaving the Romans victorious. This was henceforth known as “The Rain Miracle.”

Several sources tried to proclaim the miracle as their own, including the Christians (who forged letters from the Emperor to try establish their link), Egyptian mystics, Chaldean priests and representatives of the Roman religion. The figure on the Aurelian column, however, looks like no specific god – it is a hoary looking Nature God with dripping outstretched arms who seems to encompass the carnage of battle around him. It was amazing to see this figure on the column in person!

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When in Rome, one must visit the incredible Capitoline Museum. Below are some of my favorite highlights, including the incredible equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius; Commodus as Hercules; the Capitoline Wolf (the symbol of Rome) and the Dying Gaul, and incredibly detailed statue of a barbarian warrior.

While in Rome I also had the pleasure of celebrating Rome 2,772nd Birthday on April 21st! The Gruppo Storico Romano (a historical reinactment troupe) had a ton of amazing activities going on in the Circus Maximus, including a parade by the Colosseum, and a battle re-enactment of Masada/ During this battle re-enactment they played the “Roman March” from “Ben-Hur”, which just gave me chills. It was special – I captured a snippet below on my camera. Where’s Messala?!!

For more about this re-enactment group, see their Twitter account at https://twitter.com/Gru_Sto_Romano

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More Stephen Boyd Clippings (including Monica Peterson)

It was nice to find another clipping of Stephen Boyd with the beautiful African American actress/ starlet Monica Peterson recently. Monica had first met Stephen on the set of  “The Fall of the Roman Empire”. She also appeared in his BBC biography “The Man Who Never Was” in 2011. I also came across photos of Monica attending the London premiere of “Shalako” with Stephen in December of 1968, and the below new clipping seems to be around the same time, or from a little later, maybe 1970.  I also found a newspaper clipping from 1968 indicating that the pair was out on a date in mid-1968 during the time Stephen was filming “Slaves”.

For more information about Monica Peterson be sure to visit her website which includes some very interesting candid photos over the years with other celebrities at www.monicapeterson.com

TWOSOMES around town:….Monica Peterson, 20th Century Fox’s beautiful Negro starlet, with Stephen Boyd at at Chez Jay.  (June 14, 1968, Evening Herald) 

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Below, Monica and Stephen at the premiere of “Shalako” in London, December 1968

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Stephen Boyd and Monica Peterson on the set of “The Fall of the Roman Empire”, 1964

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50th Anniversary of “Slaves” Premiere in Baltimore, Maryland on May 6, 1969

“Slaves” is one of my all time favorite Stephen Boyd films, and it is incredible to think it has been 50 years since it was released in 1969! During the time is was coming out, “Ben-Hur” had just been re-released for its 10 year anniversary. The movie premiered in a perfect city  – Baltimore – which hung on the edge of both North and South States and had a strong African-American population. Below are some of the pictures and fanfare of the premiere, which Stephen Boyd and Dionne Warwick both attended.

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