Inventing the shop? On the early history of the taberna
- Friday 6 April 2018
2311 BD Leiden
The proliferation of the taberna in the cities of Roman Italy from the late Republican period onwards, and the consequent commercialization of urban landscapes throughout the Italian peninsula responded to a spectacular increase in the buying power of urban consumers, and this profoundly changed urban communities. Yet this development could only happen because the key economic institutions—coinage, and the taberna—were already a regular part of urban life. This, in turn, raises the question of how these institutions emerged. While there has been quite a lot of debate on the emergence of coinage, the early history of the Roman taberna has been much less intensively discussed. Still, understanding where the taberna came from, and how it began its march through the Italian peninsula is a key element in reconstructing the history of Roman urban consumer economies.
This paper will focus on the earliest history of the taberna, revisiting both the archaeological and the literary evidence. It will highlight the relative scarcity of tabernae before the mid second century BC, and discuss how in the few places where tabernae can be firmly dated to before the Second Punic War, there may seem to be a certain unfamiliarity with the concept—tabernae were sometimes being built in strange places, and occasionally in odd numbers. The paper will analyse which parties were involved in the construction of these early tabernae, and it will explore the idea that the taberna was an Italian (or even a Roman) innovation that did not have direct roots elsewhere in the Mediterranean, and until the later Hellenistic period, had no close parallels; it will be argued that this sheds a rather different light on the later history of the taberna in Roman urbanism.
This is a new installment in the series of research seminars presenting work-in-progress. These seminars aim to strengthen the academic relationship between teachers and students and make use of the intellectual potential present in Leiden in an informal setting. Members of the staff, master students and research master students are all invited to join the seminars.