You may see Trajan's Markets described as the first shopping mall.
The Best Roman Emperor: Optimus Princeps
The Roman Senate honored the capable emperor Trajan with the label Optimus, 'the best'. Later emperors would face the impossible twin goals of being luckier than Augustus and better than Trajan (felicior Augusto, melior Traiano).
Besides esteeming Trajan for governing well (he instituted various relief efforts, including cancellation of debt to the public treasury, and built public works), the Senate recognized his skill in military command. He defeated the Dacians or Getae (people who may have been Thracians, but living north of the area identified as Thrace) in A.D. 106. Because of this conquest, the Romanians (who now live in part of the area that was Dacia) speak a Latin-based (Romance) language.
Trajan also conquered some of the territory east of the Roman empire, notably the capital city of Ctesiphon, from the Parthians. As a result of his conquests, the Empire of Rome extended roughly from the border between Britain and Scotland (soon to become Hadrian's Wall) to the Persian Gulf. This was the furthest extent it ever reached. Trajan built enduring monuments to celebrate his accomplishments, including what is known as Trajan's Forum and Markets, in the city of Rome.
Construction of Trajan's Forum
Directly above both the Julian and Augustan forums [see Imperial Forums map] was the even larger and more impressive forum of Trajan, built by the second century Greek engineer and architect Apollodorus of Damascus, the same man who had been responsible for bridge building during Trajan's campaigns. The Romans may not have been able to predict it at the time, but like the size of Trajan's conquered territory, Trajan's Forum would be the largest of the imperial forums in Rome.
To construct it, space was made by cutting the saddle that connected the Quirinal Hill to the Capitoline, and by destroying old buildings. The construction project was financed by spoils of war (Trajan's conquest of the Dacians). Trajan inaugurated the forum construction project in about 112 or 113, although earlier, Emperor Domitian may have started the project, acquired some of the materials, and done some of the initial terracing and sewer work.
What Was in the Forum
Trajan's Forum's axis ran from the northwest to the southeast, to match up with the existing forums. The main entrance to the forum courtyard was the large triumphal archway on the southeast, with an equestrian statue of Trajan within and the wide Ulpian (Trajan's family name) Basilica opposite. Beyond the Ulpian Basilica, were two libraries, one for Greek works, and the other for Latin, between which Trajan's column was erected. Unlike the situation with viewing the 30m high column today within its confined andcrowded space, where people who want to see the details are better off looking at a replica, in imperial Rome, the libraries provided a vantage point. People looking out could see at least partway up the sides from the upper story balconies of the libraries.
Before it was in ruins, sets of columned porticos separated the open space (also referred to as the platea) of the forum and the basilica from the area where vendors sold their goods, Trajan's Markets (also referred to as Mercati Traiani, Mercati Traianei and Mercati di Traiano). Beyond the colonnades around the courtyard, to either side of the forum were semicircular or hemicyclical structures 45 m deep.
You can see the two tiers of arches in this photo of the remains of the exedra (the curving structure within the hemicycle) that would be on your right coming through the main entrance. It was probably matched with an identical one on the opposite side of the forum.
The structure was built more modestly than the main part of the forum, with brick facing on concrete, but with travertine architraves on the doors. The entire market structure had more than 140 rooms. Some articles say 170. The bottom level housed 11 presumed shops. The back of these small rooms was designed to use and help support the existing clay surface of the terraced Quirinal [UC Davis Markets of Trajan PPT]. On the second floor was a very large concrete, vaulted corridor illuminated by the numerous arched windows. There were also ten rooms, perhaps shops, apartments, or offices. On the top floor was a terrace. There were, at one time, presumed shops or offices there, too. Current thinking is that the Markets of Trajan were multi-purpose, rather than simply commercial. The Aula (hall), an area of the markets, may have been the area where free food (the alimentaria) was distributed.
- History of the "Markets" of Trajan
- Trajan's Markets Reopen to Public in Rome, by Martha Bakerjian, About.com Guide to Italy for Visitors.
- "Forum Trajani," A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, by Samuel Ball Platner; London: Oxford University Press, 1929.
- "Building Trajan's Markets," by Lynne Lancaster; American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 102, No. 2 (Apr., 1998), pp. 283-308.
- "Building Trajan's Markets 2: The Construction Process," by Lynne Lancaster; American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 104, No. 4 (Oct., 2000), pp. 755-785.
- Rome and Environs: An Archaeological Guide, by Filippo Coarelli; University of California Press: 2007.
- "The Imperial Fora," by Peter H. von Blanckenhagen; Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 13, No. 4 (Dec., 1954), pp. 21-26.
- Roman Art, by Nancy H. Ramage and Andrew Ramage; Prentice Hall: 2001.