Italy, The Roman Empire

The world’s first shopping mall?

Trajan’s Market is a large complex of ruins in Rome, located on Via de Foro Imperiali, on the opposite side of the Colosseum. Built as a part of Trajan’s Forum and nestled against the excavated flank of the Quirinal Hill, it was revealed in it’s entirety in the early 1900’s after a convent was demolished partly built over the structure.

Thought to be the world’s oldest shopping mall, the arcades are now believed to have been administrative offices for Emperor Trajan. The shops and apartments were built in a multi-level structure, and it’s possible to visit several of the levels. Highlights include delicate marble floors and the remains of a library.

It was built in 100-110 CE by Apollodorus of Damascus, the main architect associated with this period, who built bridges during Trajan’s military campaigns and who later planned out the Emperor’s new Forum, completed in 113 CE, Trajan’s Column and probably also rebuilt The Pantheon under Trajan’s successor Hadrian. After which the architect supposedly had a falling out with the new Emperor and was banished, a story that has come under criticism for seeming unlikely. The Museum of the Imperial Fora, housed within Trajan’s Markets has a wealth of artifacts from all of ancient Rome’s various imperial fora. The modern entrances to Trajan’s Market are at Via Quattro Novembre and Piazza Madonna di Loreto. 

Immediately, upon entering the museum one comes straight into a shopping area disposed on two different sides, where wheat was once distributed freely to the people of Rome. Each roman citizen (a comparatively privileged position in society among many slaves and freedmen) could on their daily free rations sustain at least one more person. In a household with several citizens there was therefore plenty of wheat from the state to go around, enough even for supplying their slaves. At the end of this hall, a large balcony offers a full view of the markets, Trajan’s Forum and the Victor Emmanuel Monument. This is actually a part of the Via Biberatica (Latin: bibo, bibere “to drink”; the street was once the location for several  taverns and grocers’ shops in the area). The road cuts through Trajan’s Market.

On the lower part there are also two large halls, perhaps used for auditions and concerts. A shop housed in the Market is known as a taberna. The giant exedra formed by the market structure was originally mirrored by a matching exedral boundary space on the south flank of Trajan’s Forum. The grand hall of the market is roofed by a concrete vault raised on piers, both covering and allowing air and light into the central space. The market itself is constructed primarily out of brick and concrete.

Find more information or take a virtual tour of the Museo dei Fori Imperiali nei Mercati di Traiano http://tourvirtuale.mercatiditraiano.it/indexEng.html

The song in the film is ’Sungam Zorba’ by Hands Of Doom. The visual representations of reassembling the artifacts by http://www.ikono.org

Journey Thru History, Perseus Records ® 2016

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