Did you know that the oldest shopping mall in the world was built nearly 2,000 years ago in Rome?
In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of Trajan’s Market facts, a remarkable structure in the center of Italy’s capital.
1. Trajan’s Market was built by Roman Emperor Trajan
As the name suggests, Trajan’s Market was built by Roman Emperor Trajan who ruled over the empire from 98 until 117 A.D. He’s considered to be one of the best Emperors of the Roman Empire and is known for expanding the empire to its maximum extent, reaching east all the way to Baghdad in modern-day Iraq.
He started various building programs in Rome and left a permanent mark on the city, including this market which is considered to be the oldest shopping mall in the world!
2. It’s just a few hundred meters away from other famous landmarks
The market is located right in the historical center of the city of Rome on the Via dei Fori Imperiali. On the other end of this street, we can find other famous landmarks such as the Roman Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine.
It’s also just a few hundred meters away from the Forum Romanum, the busy marketplace where many of the important buildings of Ancient Rome were located and which no for the most part lay in ruins.
3. It dates back to the early 2nd century
Construction of Trajan’s market started around the second half of the first decade of the 2nd century. We don’t know exactly the year, but we do know that it was inaugurated in the year 113 A.D.
4. The market was part of a much larger complex
Trajan was a massive builder as he commissioned the construction of numerous buildings and monuments, as well as holding lavish games for the people of Rome in the nearby Colosseum.
One of these projects was built on the opposite side of the market and is referred to as “Trajan’s Forum,” the last of the Imperial fora that were constructed in Ancient Rome and which consisted of various buildings.
Inside his forum, he commissioned the construction of Trajan’s Column, a 38-meter (125-foot) tall pillar which still stands today!
5. The complex was funded with the loot of a recent war
One of the areas of Trajan’s market was used to distribute free wheat to the people of Rome so they could eat bread. A lot more was distributed to the people during games that lasted for 3 straight months.
How did Trajan acquire all the money to finance this?
In 106 A.D. he was finally able to defeat the Dacian Empire and loot their capital. All these projects and welfare schemes were set up with the spoils of this conquest!
6. It was designed by Trajan’s main architect
To make this all happen, Trajan had his very own architect who oversaw many of the construction projects named Apollodorus of Damascus. He acquired his name because he was born in Damascus in Roman Syria.
It’s fair to conclude that he was one of the most prolific architects of his time and was an expert in building fabulous domes, amazing triumphal arches, and some of the most revered bridges in the world, including the Alcántara Bridge in Spain and the Ancient Danube Bridge which helped Trajan win the Dacian War.
7. It was built against the flank of one of Rome’s 7 hills
The market was built right against Quirinal Hill, one of the 7 hills that Rome was built on. The entire hill had to be excavated to make space for the market, which must have been an immense endeavor.
But then again, thousands of slaves were brought back from Dacia to give a helping hand.
8. Was Trajan’s market really a shopping mall?
While it’s clear that some of the spaces used to serve as shops, which were referred to as “tabernas,” it’s likely that the building served many other purposes as well.
Remains of a library were found in some of the spaces and it’s also assumed that many of the rooms inside the market served as offices for Trajan’s administration.
9. There was a street full of bars inside Trajan’s market
One of the most fascinating Trajan’s Market facts is that one of the streets was most probably one of the most popular in all of Rome, this for the simple reason that it was a place Ancient Romans could have a drink.
The street that runs through the market is called the “Via Biberatica.” This comes from the Latin word “bibere” which refers to “drinking.”
So this was basically the place where men went to while their wives were doing some shopping!
10. A fortified tower was built near the complex in the year 1200
Not all structures in the area date back to Ancient Roman times. One of the most prominent structures near Trajan’s market is a tower referred to as the “Torre delle Milizie,” a fortified tower that was built around the year 1200.
This tower is sometimes erroneously referred to as “Nero’s Tower,” in reference to Emperor Nero who presumably watched the Great Fire of Rome on top of it.
Because it’s a medieval structure, this isn’t possible.
11. The lower level has a remarkable architectural feature
The lower level consists of a Grand Hall which has a vaulted concrete roof resting on pillars. Because of this, it’s possible for natural light to enter this massive space, as well as fresh air.
It’s pretty astonishing to see such detail of architectural features built nearly 2,000 years ago, don’t you think?
12. It’s possible to visit multiple floors of the ancient structure
One of the most interesting Trajan’s Market facts is that you can actually visit multiple levels of this ancient building. This just shows how far advanced Roman architects really were, considering that this was built without any modern equipment.
The building was constructed with brick and concrete and allows you to get an amazing view of how life in Ancient Rome must have been!