The list of ancient spiral stairs contains a selection of Greco-Roman spiral stairs constructed during classical antiquity. The spiral stair is a type of stairway which, due to its complex helical structure, has been introduced relatively late into architecture. Although the oldest example dates back to the 5th century BC,it was only in the wake of the influential design of the Trajan's Column that this space-saving new type permanently caught hold in ancient Roman architecture.
Apart from the triumphal columns in the imperial cities of Rome and Constantinople, other types of buildings such as temples, thermae, basilicas and tombs were also fitted with spiral stairways.Their notable absence in the towers of the Aurelian Wall indicates that they did not yet figure prominently in Roman military engineering. By late antiquity, separate stair towers were constructed adjacent to the main buildings, like in the Basilica of San Vitale.
The construction of spiral stairs passed on both to Christian and Islamic architecture.
|Monument||Location||Country||Date of construction||Height||Number of stairways||Comment|
|Temple A||Selinunte||Italy||c. 480 BC||2|
|Temple of Bel||Palmyra||Syria||1st century|
|Trajan's Column||Rome||Italy||113||29.68 m||1||14 steps per turn|
|Column of Marcus Aurelius||Rome||Italy||Late 2nd century||29.62 m||1||14 steps per turn|
|Baths of Caracalla||Rome||Italy||212–216||2|
|Baths of Diocletian||Rome||Italy||298–305||4|
|Round Temple at Ostia||Rome||Italy||3rd century||1|
|Santa Costanza||Rome||Italy||c. 350||1|
|Tomb of Galerius||Thessaloniki||Greece||Early 4th century||2|
|Imperial Baths||Trier||Germany||Early 4th century||8|
|Column of Theodosius||Constantinople||Turkey||386–393/4||c. 50 m||1||Total former column height|
|St. Gereon's Basilica||Cologne||Germany||Late 4th century||16.50 m||1|
|Column of Arcadius||Constantinople||Turkey||401–421||c. 46.09 m||1||Total former column height|
|Basilica of San Vitale||Ravenna||Italy||527–548||2||A pair of stair towers|
|Gate of the Great Palace||Constantinople||Turkey||532||?||?||Procopius (Pers. 1.24.43) refers to sortie down a spiral stairway|
|Sangarius Bridge||Adapazarı||Turkey||559–562||10.37 m||1||Located in pier of triumphal arch at entrance of bridge|
Arcadius was Eastern Roman Emperor from 395 to 408. He was the eldest son of Theodosius I and his first wife Aelia Flaccilla, and brother of the Western Emperor Honorius. A weak ruler, his reign was dominated by a series of powerful ministers and by his wife, Aelia Eudoxia.
Theodosius I, also known as Theodosius the Great, was a Roman Emperor from 379 to 395, and the last emperor to rule over both the Eastern and the Western halves of the Roman Empire. On accepting his elevation, he campaigned against Goths and other barbarians who had invaded the Empire. His resources were not sufficient to destroy them or drive them out, which had been Roman policy for centuries in dealing with invaders. By treaty, which followed his indecisive victory at the end of the Gothic War, they were established as foederati, autonomous allies of the Empire, south of the Danube, in Illyricum, within the Empire's borders. They were given lands and allowed to remain under their own leaders, a grave departure from Roman hegemonic ways. This turn away from traditional policies was accommodationist and had enormous consequences for the Western Empire from the beginning of the fifth century, as the Romans found themselves with the impossible task of defending the borders and dealing with unruly federates within. Theodosius I was obliged to fight two destructive civil wars, successively defeating the usurpers Magnus Maximus in 387–388 and Eugenius in 394, though not without material cost to the power of the Empire.
Theodosius II, commonly surnamed Theodosius the Younger, or Theodosius the Calligrapher, was the Eastern Roman Emperor for most of his life, taking the throne as an infant in 402 and ruling as the Eastern Empire's sole emperor after the death of his father Arcadius in 408. He is mostly known for promulgating the Theodosian law code, and for the construction of the Theodosian Walls of Constantinople. He also presided over the outbreak of two great Christological controversies, Nestorianism and Eutychianism.
Trajan's Column is a Roman triumphal column in Rome, Italy, that commemorates Roman emperor Trajan's victory in the Dacian Wars. It was probably constructed under the supervision of the architect Apollodorus of Damascus at the order of the Roman Senate. It is located in Trajan's Forum, built near the Quirinal Hill, north of the Roman Forum. Completed in AD 113, the freestanding column is most famous for its spiral bas relief, which artistically represents the wars between the Romans and Dacians. Its design has inspired numerous victory columns, both ancient and modern.
Aelia Pulcheria was regent of the Eastern Roman Empire during the minority of her brother Theodosius II, ruling empress of the Eastern Roman Empire for a few months in 450 and then empress by marriage to Marcian until her death.
Aelia Eudoxia was a Roman Empress consort by marriage to the Roman Emperor Arcadius. The marriage was the source of some controversy, as it was arranged by Eutropius, one of the eunuch court officials, who was attempting to expand his influence, and whom she later had executed. As Empress, she came into conflict with John Chrysostom, the Patriarch of Constantinople, who was popular among the common folk for his denunciations of imperial and clerical excess. She had five children, four of whom survived to adulthood, including her husband's successor Theodosius II, but she had two additional pregnancies that ended in either miscarriages or stillbirths and she died as a result of the last one.
A victory column, or monumental column or triumphal column, is a monument in the form of a column, erected in memory of a victorious battle, war, or revolution. The column typically stands on a base and is crowned with a victory symbol, such as a statue. The statue may represent the goddess Victoria; in Germany, the female embodiment of the nation, Germania; in the United States either female embodiment of the nation Liberty or Columbia; in the United Kingdom, the female embodiment Britannia, an eagle, or a war hero.
Flavius Rufinus was a 4th-century East Roman statesman of Gaulish extraction who served as Praetorian prefect of the East for the emperor Theodosius I, as well as for his son Arcadius, under whom Rufinus was the actual power behind the throne.
Trajan's Forum was the last of the Imperial fora to be constructed in ancient Rome. The architect Apollodorus of Damascus oversaw its construction.
The Column of Marcus Aurelius is a Roman victory column in Piazza Colonna, Rome, Italy. It is a Doric column featuring a spiral relief: it was built in honour of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius and modeled on Trajan's Column.
The Basilica Ulpia was an ancient Roman civic building located in the Forum of Trajan. The Basilica Ulpia separates the temple from the main courtyard in the Forum of Trajan with the Trajan's Column to the northwest. It was named after Roman emperor Trajan whose full name was Marcus Ulpius Traianus.
The Forum of Constantine was built at the foundation of Constantinople immediately outside the old city walls of Byzantium. It marked the centre of the new city, and was a central point along the Mese, the main ceremonial road through the city. It was circular and had two monumental gates to the east and west. The Column of Constantine, which still stands upright and is known today in Turkish as Çemberlitaş, was erected in the centre of the square.
The Column of Constantine is a Roman monumental column built for Roman emperor Constantine the Great to commemorate the dedication of Constantinople on 11 May 330 AD. Built c. 328 AD, it is the oldest Constantinian monument in Istanbul and stood in the centre of the Forum of Constantine. It occupies the second-highest hill of the seven hills of Constantine's Nova Roma, the erstwhile Byzantium, and was midway along the Mese odos, the ancient city's main thoroughfare.
The Column of Justinian was a Roman triumphal column erected in Constantinople by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I in honour of his victories in 543. It stood in the western side of the great square of the Augustaeum, between the Hagia Sophia and the Great Palace, and survived until 1515, when it was demolished by the Ottomans.
The Forum of Theodosius was an area in Constantinople. It was originally built by Constantine I and named the Forum Tauri. In 393, however, it was renamed after Emperor Theodosius I, who rebuilt it after the model of Trajan's Forum in Rome, surrounded by civic buildings such as churches and baths and decorated with a triumphal column at its centre.
The column of Arcadius was a Roman triumphal column in the forum of Arcadius in Constantinople built in the early 5th century AD. The marble column was historiated with a spiralling frieze of reliefs on its shaft and supported a colossal statue of the emperor, probably made of bronze, which fell down in 740. Its summit was accessible by an internal spiral staircase. Only its massive masonry base survives.
The Forum of Arcadius, was built by the Emperor Arcadius in the city of Constantinople, now Istanbul.
Pompey's Pillar is the name given to a Roman triumphal column in Alexandria, Egypt. Set up in honour of the augustus Diocletian between 298-302 AD, the giant Corinthian column originally supported a colossal porphyry statue of the emperor in armour. It stands at the eastern side of the temenos of the Serapeum of Alexandria, beside the ruins of the temple of Serapis itself. The erroneous name and association with Pompey stems from historical misreading of the Greek dedicatory inscription on the base.
The Column of Leo was a 5th-century AD Roman honorific column in Constantinople. Built for Leo I, augustus of the east from 7 February 457 to 18 January 474, the column stood in the Forum of Leo, known also as the Pittakia. It was a marble column, without flutes, composed of drums with a Corinthian capital, surmounted by a statue of the emperor.