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Market day
Ave Civitas,

I have been wondering about market days in the empire.
I believe market days were eight days apart. I am also pretty sure I read somewhere (not that I will ever find that again) that the market day in one city was not always the market day in another city.
I would think that the set market day in one city would effect the suburbs and near-by towns too, that they may not want to host a market day on the same day that the larger city did and risk diluting their chances of sales.
Am I right in making this assumption? I know this is pretty minor in "Life among the Romans" but I can't make the idea go away. Of course, there might have been some coordination made where near-by towns would collect in the larger city's market and try not to compete?
Any ideas?
AKA Tom Chelmowski

Historiae Eruditere (if that is proper Latin)
I am not sure about the Romans but I can tell you that in present days NW Romania we have different market days in cities like in my town the market is on Friday, the biggest town in the area is on Saturday, other nearby town on Tuesday and so on. The most of the stands you can find in all this markets, so they will be traveling around. Sure that really BIG town would have a daily market or at least more day in the "week", 8 days would somehow be illogical to me, is much easier to think hmm today is Friday tomorrow will be market day than well today is Friday hmm last week the market was on Tuesday means that market is today.

Gelu I.

Our local markets in country towns (Marlborough, Pewsey, etc) are certainly on different days and none clash with the bigger cattle markets in Salisbury, Sherbourne and Axminster. I know that geographically these are far more distant than Roman markets would have been but I am sure it is so that the local economy is supported by the markets and not put in competition with one another (and folk can travel a lot further thanks to the internal combustion engine). Each town has a reputation for being particularly good at something - sheep or cattle etc even alpacas these days! Salisbury has just re-started a horse sale.

I don't think it is a minor point at all; the market was essential for trading in all sorts of commodities including news and gossip (also still a major item at modern markets).
Moi Watson

Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, Merlot in one hand, Cigar in the other; body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming "WOO HOO, what a ride!
I think you'd have to figure out which calender to base it on first :wink:

8 days sounds illogical, but the calender appears to be divided into 8 day segments A-H, from there on I'm lost.....


"And the four bare walls stand on the seashore. a wreck a skeleton a monument of that instability and vicissitude to which all things human are subject. Not a dwelling within sight, and the farm labourer, and curious traveller, are the only persons that ever visit the scene where once so many thousands were congregated." T.Lewin 1867
To answer the subject of Roman market days, one would have to look at Roman documents, of which, I'm not familiar with any. However, the modern mind says they should be on different days, to avoid competition, but I don't think this to be the case. Major cities probably had smaller markets thought the week(or a permanent market), but most likely there was in fact, a "market day." While a variety of goods could be found at any market, most towns were famous for being production centers of specific goods. I don't believe someone going to the market would be like us today, expecting to get all they wanted from one weekly market, nor would someone selling, let's say cattle, would go to several markets thought the week(when selling his cows. When would he have the time to raise his cattle?) By having all markets on a specific day, you get customers who know what they want and go specifically for those items. If there are four towns in walking distance from me and I want to buy iron tools, I go to the town that specializes i iron tools this week. If I want to buy livestock, I go to a different town next week. Competition brings more people, which in turn, means it's easier to sell your wares.

It might be worth looking into the names of the days of the week. In Turkish, Pazar(bazaar in English) not only means "market" but is also Sunday. Sunday being 'market day'. Didn't Mercury have some relation to commerce. It could be that Mercurii could be a market day. One might have to research to see if records show most goods being sold then.

Markets and commerce are an interesting subject and it would be nice to find out more. These are just my thoughts on it but has anyone found any research papers on the subject.
If you subscribe to Jstor there is a paper “Market-Days in the Roman Empire by Ramsay MacMullen that might have some answers. He mentions that in some provinces that for example might only produce one product like olive trees like in Southern Spain, northern Africa or north eastern Syria it was the responsibility of the landlords to supply a centre for the exchange of goods as markets were needed to supply the necessities of life. Vitruvius wrote
Quote: “Persons dependent on country produce must construct stables and booths in their courtyards and, in the main building, barns, store-rooms, and whatever else can best accommodate the storage of produce”.
Towns or vici might also establish fairs or market-days (nundinae) but permission had to be given from appropriate authorities for example in Italy from the Senate or consuls or governors elsewhere and later on the emperors. To have the privilege to hold markets brought profits, tolls and dues so authorities went out of their way to control nundinae lest they compete with each other and the traders could complete a circuit of all the local towns.
There was also a strong connection between religious festivals and commerce. In the west there was a link between shrines and fairs and MacMullen mentions how striking it is that archaeologists so often have found the remains of of shrines or temples are found in conjunction with rooms for the display of merchandise. Throughout the eastern provinces the holy days of gods were market days as well, and efforts were made to prevent possible conflicts in scheduling among the religious games of various cities.
Below is a map supplied with his paper showing various towns holding market-days in Italy. :-)


Michael Kerr

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Michael Kerr
"You can conquer an empire from the back of a horse but you can't rule it from one"

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