Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Mia. Mia Wonders, “What was the Trajan Market?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Mia!

Have you ever visited a shopping mall with your family? Today’s malls hold many stores. From clothing to gifts to candy, you can find it all in a mall! And they’re not just for shopping. Malls often have restaurants, arcade games, and other kinds of entertainment.

Malls are great. But have you ever stopped to WONDER how long they’ve been around? Did ancient people have malls like people do today? Today’s Wonder of the Day is about just that topic. We’re talking about the world’s oldest shopping mall—Trajan’s Market.

Trajan’s Market opened in 110 C.E. It was part of Trajan’s Forum, a complex named for the Roman Emperor Trajan. Like today’s malls, it was used for more than just shopping. There were over 150 shops and offices, but the market also held apartments. Experts believe that Trajan’s Market is also where Romans went to get their food rations.

Today, historians see Trajan’s Market as a great feat of ancient architecture. The market has three levels joined by stairs. It was made largely of concrete and brick, much of which still stands today. Modern visitors can still see its original vaulted ceilings and arched passageways. The remains of a large marble-floored library are also still intact.

What could you buy at Trajan’s Market? The shops carried items from across the Roman Empire. People would have gone there for the fruit, vegetables, and fish to make their meals. They may have also bought oils and spices from distant places. 

Who was Emperor Trajan? He was one of Rome’s greatest rulers. Many experts today say the Roman Empire reached its height during his rule. Trajan was a great military commander. He helped the empire reach the Persian Gulf.

Trajan is also remembered as a kind ruler. In fact, many historians call him one of Rome’s “Five Good Emperors.” After a successful battle against the ancient country of Dacia, he brought home great riches. He used the money to build roads, bridges, and aqueducts across the empire.

Trajan also improved social welfare. He lowered taxes. He increased grain rations. He even gave needy citizens money as gifts. Trajan also increased the amount of money Rome spent taking care of poor children.

A 126-foot column in Trajan’s Market also bears the emperor’s name. In fact, Trajan’s Column is covered in carvings of scenes from his victory in Dacia. When Trajan died in 117 C.E., the Romans entombed him in the column. 

Since Trajan’s time, the market has served other purposes. It became a fortress during the Middle Ages. That’s when people also added another large tower, called the Torre delle Milizie. Today, the market is popular among tourists.

What might you have shopped for at Trajan’s Market as an ancient Roman? Maybe you would have been one of the merchants selling goods there instead! One thing is for sure—thousands of years later, the shopping mall is still a pretty popular place.

Standards: C3.D2.Civ.1, C3.D2.His.2, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.9

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