Trajan’s Market—Ancient Rome’s Mall

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Imagine all kinds of stores selling all kinds of products in one building. Image that place is a huge beautiful Hemicycle with shops opening to the street and other shops on the upper levels with more expensive merchandise and commercial offices. Now imagine gorgeous penthouse apartments for sale in that beautiful building, right there in the middle of Rome just several paces from shopping, restaurants and all the stimulating activities.

Rendering of Trajan's Market with three stories of shops 1
                                            Rendering of Trajan’s Market with three stories of shops

Of course, you’ll be able to imagine that in the post WW II era of giant malls in America.

Mall of America, Bloomington, Minnesota; 40 million visitors/year; 4.82 million square feet; largest mall in America
         Mall of America, Bloomington, Minnesota; 40 million visitors/year; largest mall in America
More than 530 stores, and an amusement park, are arranged along 3 levels of pedestrian walkways.
   Over 530 stores (plus an amusement park) are arranged along 3 levels of pedestrian walkways

Trajan’s Market

Apollodorus of Damascus
               Apollodorus of Damascus

But the imagined shopping center was built 2,000 years ago! Trajan’s Market (Mall) was the idea of engineering/architectural genius, Apollodorus of Damascus who should be called The Father Of The Mall. Apollodorus accompanied Trajan in his Dacian campaigns and is the engineer/architect behind Trajan’s Bridge, the ruins of which are still visible in Drobeta-Turnu Severin in Romania and Kladova in Serbia. Apollodorus’ Bridge was constructed solely for the Roman troops to cross easily over the Danube and wage war with the Dacians. It was 3,724 ft long, 49 ft wide and 62 feet high. For over 1,000 years it was the longest arch bridge in the world.

Trajan's Bridge or "Bridge of Apollodorus" over the Danube was a Roman segmental arch bridge, the first to be built over the lower Danube.
Trajan’s Bridge or “Bridge of Apollodorus” over the Danube was a Roman segmental arch bridge, the first to be built over the lower Danube.

Trajan took all the gold and silver he won from his two victories (101-106) against the Dacians, now Romanians, and plowed it into memorials for himself in the Forum in Rome. Ruins of his massive building project still give the city a glimpse of what it was when “all roads led to Rome.”

4 minute video about Trajan’s Market

Trajan’s Market was built as an integral part of Trajan’s Forum
                                        Trajan’s Market was built as an integral part of Trajan’s Forum

The large square in front of Trajan’s Market was paved with colored slabs of marble and each shop had a different, geometric-designed, colored mosaic floor.Floors

Most of the shops open to the street sold vegetables, fruits, meats, wine, bread and other daily necessities. Rome was the capital of the world and an emporium of foods from Asia, Europe and Africa could be found in Trajan’s Market.

On the upper floors one could buy jewelry, lamps, chairs and other personal needs or wants
       On the upper floors one could buy jewelry, lamps, chairs and other personal needs or wants
Trajan—Ruled 98-117 AD
     Trajan—Ruled 98-117 AD

Whatever a Roman, Christian, Jew or visitor to Rome could want or need was sold in Trajan’s Market. The Christians under Trajan’s rule, however, had to be very careful because he initiated the 3rd Imperial Persecution of Christians.  Ignatius of Antioch and Simeon of Jerusalem are the most notable martyrs, but many anonymous people were killed because they did not believe in the Roman gods or in Trajan as a god. In Trajan’s Market, however, everyone was just a shopper and Christians could shop there daily with no fear of apprehension.

The Via Biberatica in front of the Forum hints by its name that most of the many restaurants in the Market were taverns. “Biber” is Latin slang for alcoholic beverages and is etymologically the origin of “beer.”—Sandra Sweeny Silver

Ancient Roman tavern in Ostia Antic, the location of a harbor city of ancient Rome
                    Ancient Roman tavern in Ostia Antic, the location of a harbor city of ancient Rome

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