Tabernae Circum Forum

Richardson, L. jr

Tabernae Circum Forum: at first the shops built around the periphery of the open square of the Forum Romanum, when it became a marketplace, ascribed by tradition to Tarquinius Priscus. These were apparently thought of as built in rows of units of more or less uniform size fronting on porticoes that sheltered the shoppers (Livy 1.35.10; Dion. Hal. 3.67.4). They were on public ground and belonged to the state, but could be leased (Dig. 18.1.32 [Ulpian]). At first they housed merchants of any sort, apparently especially butchers, and came to be called tabernae lanienae, but before 310 B.C. the butchers had been confined to the southwest side and its vicinity, while the northeast side was taken over largely by bankers and brokers (Varro ap. Non. 853L; Livy 9.40.16). In 310 gilded shields were distributed among the domini argentariorum to ornament their shops during a triumph. In 210 the shops known as the Septem and the Argentariae burned (Livy 26.27.2). The next year the Septem were rebuilt as the Quinque (Livy 27.11.16). The Argentariae were eventually replaced by the Novae, which were apparently also occasionally called Plebeiae, having been built by the plebeian aediles M. Iunius Brutus and L. Oppius Salinator in 193 B.C. (Festus 258L; cf. Broughton, MRR 1.347). Usually they are called Argentariae Novae (Livy 40.51.5) or Novae (Livy 3.48.5). The earliest reference to Veteres is in Plautus (Plautus Curc. 480), and thereafter Novae or sub Novis (Varro Ling. 6.59; Cicero De Or. 2.266) came to be regularly used to designate the northeast side of the forum in front of the Basilica Fulvia et Aemilia (cf. Livy 3.48.5, Livy 40.51.5), and Veteres or sub Veteribus to designate the southwest side between the Cloaca and the Vicus Iugarius (Livy 44.16.10; Cicero Acad. 2.70; Pliny HN 35.25 and Pliny HN 35.113). Although the construction of the Macellum antedates the fire of 210 (Livy 27.11.16), some of the shops on the southwest side of the forum were still called lanienae in 169. The Veteres survived as late as the time of Cicero (Cicero Acad. 2.70), but in the construction of the Basilica Iulia their removal to a place on the southwest side of that building effectually eliminated them as a separate entity. The Novae continued to exist in front of the Basilica Paulli, but so splendidly transformed by the portico in front of them as to be hardly recognizable.

The Tabernae Septem that burned in 210 and were rebuilt the following year as Tabernae Quinque are distinguished by Livy from the Tabernae Novae. What burned in the fire of 210 was the northeast side of the forum from the Lautumiae (q.v.) on the slope of the Capitoline to the Atrium Regium (= Regia?), the Temple of Vesta barely escaping (Livy 26.27.1-5), and the area to the northeast, including the Forum Piscarium. No mention is made of the Comitium and Curia, which clearly escaped. We can locate the Tabernae Septem on one of the streets leading into the forum, the Argiletum and Corneta, at the east end of the forum, or as a continuation of the Argentariae northwest of the Cloaca, but separated from them by it. Because they were the first to be rebuilt, they must have had considerable importance. Lugli (Lugli 1946, 74-75) would put them along the southeast side of the Argiletum along the flank of the Basilica Fulvia et Aemilia, but Carettoni's excavation of the basilica (NSc 1948, 111-28) shows insufficient room for them between the northwest columns of the basilica and the street, and they must have survived until late republican times. It seems more likely that they continued the line of the Argentariae.

Above the tabernae were cantilevered galleries from which spectators could view the ceremonies and games staged in the forum. These were called maeniana after a certain Maenius, who is credited with having built the first one (Festus 120L). This is unlikely to be C. Maenius, the victorious consul of the Battle of Antium in 338 B.C., because such sophisticated engineering seems unlikely to have been understood in the fourth century, or indeed before the second. However, maeniana became a standard feature of Italian towns (Vitruvius 5.1.2; Isidore Orig. 15.3.11) and were regarded as one of the amenities for those seeking shelter from the summer sun, as well as for spectators (Cicero Acad. 2.70). Pliny (Pliny HN 35.113) quotes Varro about a painting by Serapio, an artist famous for his stage designs, that covered omnia maeniana on the southwest side of the Forum Romanum. We should probably think of this as a long panorama on the façade of the building behind the maeniana proper (a second storey of shops, perhaps?).

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