Engineering Rome

Evenson Video Project

The Logistics of the Roman Marketplace Through the Ages: OUTLINE

Opening sequence (images of ancient, intersected with footage of modern)
Civilizations throughout time have always shared common themes. According to the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition, a civilization isn’t necessarily a single town or people, but rather the process by which societies progress into more advanced stages of operating as systems and organized development. One of those commonalities the comfort and convenience civilization brings, the opportunity to live without the necessity of independence. No longer do singular individuals or families need to be able to produce every single item they use. Instead, they can rely on their neighbors and their local market place, which organizes the logistics of production and movement without the responsibility falling on any single individual. Back in the ancient times of Rome and still to this very day, the marketplace is a systematic marvel. Fresh products are made and moved daily, giving citizens from all backgrounds access to local foods and goods.
Move into imagery of forum
In the Roman empire, markets tended to be in the Forum spaces, the wide public areas at the center of roman cities. Forums are said to have been inspired by the Greek Agora, but went beyond being just public spaces. The Forum was the government, the community, and the markets. There were both individual stores and devoted markets for items like fish, cattle, vegetables, and more. There were locations that focused on selling “ready-made” food much like restaurants with take away food. The location changed depending on product. For example, the fish market known as the Forum Piscarium was situated between Scara Via and the Argiletum. This location closer to water made boat to land transport far easier and as a result, the fish was far fresher. The other markets had similar set ups, with the advanced Roman roadway system often used to the advantage of market owners. As Rome developed and spread out, more marketplaces popped up in the piazzas of the city, creating a network of miniature forums within each piazza.
Since merchants operated out of both permanent stores and smaller temporary stalls, which could be broken down and moved, they were able to move their businesses depending on the day’s events. If the forum was to be open for discussion, merchants could ensure their stalls of food would be close to the action. Day to day, markets and shops tended to congregate nearest to public areas, like the baths and fountains, which both made it easy access both to the public and much needed water that could be used for sanitation and hydration. Still to this day, markets and fountains go hand in hand throughout the city of Rome.
Campo set up
In the modern day, markets have altered their ways with the times, but shockingly not by much. While the ancients may not have had to contend with things like cars and mega grocery stores that get fresh produce on trucks from far away countries every day, they still faced all the same logistics challenges that exist today. Where to get product, how to get it here, how to set up and keep the stall running, and how to close it all down.
Segue to interviews
Speaking to the current local vendors in the Campo Dei Fiori Marketplace, they described their average day. Many of them are up early enough each morning to get to the piazza by five a.m. to begin setting up their wares. Depending on where they are from and what they are selling, these vendors may have to haul their own stall equipment or be lucky enough to store everything overnight in a nearby garage or store. Since tourism is one of the main economic generators in Italy, many of the vendors do speak Italian and enough English, French, or German to sell something; but not much more. The produce vendors are generally farmers or representatives of a group of farmers, but the clothing and goods vendors tend to have extra steps in picking up the product that they then sell.
Vendor #3
Speaking on the general difficulties, some of the vendors made jokes about the hardest parts of their average day, but the produce vendor addressed a very real issue: what happens to products that aren’t sold.
Vendor #1
Especially for the vendors selling products with short shelf life; like produce or flowers, each day is a guessing game to estimate how much fresh product they will be able to move without having to leave a large pile for the pigeons who flock at the end of the day when the market is broken down.
Campo break down
Marketplaces remain one of the best examples of a self-sustaining system. With the sun rise and eventual set, vendors can set up and take down to make a living, while the public is given both access to fresh produce and a gathering place to interact with each other. Rome has sustained markets for centuries, and in turn the markets have sustained Rome.

Follow us

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.