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94. The Trajan's Markets

Updated: Mar 22, 2020

By Giulio D'Ercole -

The photo down below was taken on the 27th of December 2018, at the beginning of a Rome by Night Tour and workshop, and it shows the view of the Trajan Markets from the east terrace of the Vittoriano (Altare della Patria).

The Trajan markets are a late extension of the Roman Forums, and they were built in 107 with the resources (mainly gold and silver) conquered by the emperor Traiano, who won the Second Dacian War (Dacia was today's Romania).

Traiano's prestigious victory granted him an extraordinary triumphal procession in Rome, and the long campaign against Decebalus, King of the Dacians, is narrated by the detailed bas-reliefs that spiral upwards the high Trajan column, placed at the beginning of the underlying markets.

Forum is a Latin word meaning "public square surrounded by porticoes and buildings used for judicial and other businesses". In the lack of newspapers it was also the place where people went so they would know what was going on. Trajan gave the task to build a new extension of the existing Caesar's and Augustus' forums the Apollodorus of Damascus, an engineer/architect who had built a bridge over the Danube for Trajan during the Dacian campaign. The bridge, with its twenty pillars, was the longest arch bridge in the world.

Apollodoro had the boundaries of Trajan's Forum marked by a solid wall, devised to prevent landslides from the side of the Quirinale and he managed to have terraces built on the slope of the hill. These terraces became the site of a commercial district, later known as the Trajan's Markets.

It is quite intriguing, also looking at the photo, to imagine the vibrant and busy life that occurred on those terraces, with shops aligned along the market's main street.

Considering that the Trajan markets became a sort of city shopping center, the streets were also hosting several taverns were Romans went to drink.... and here comes the prosaic interesting part: in latin slang the word for "beverage" was "biber", so in the medieval times the street were those "pubs" were located was called Via Biberatica. Like in the telephone game one word passing from mouth to mouth, slowly but unavoidably changes, and the first word pronounced generates new words with a different meaning: Biber, Biberatica, Beer!!!

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