City blog. Rome based.

Made in Roma. A new perspective on the roman society

In the ancient world, only few works carry a “signature“, a mark. It would allows to determine its origin or property. On the contrary, are the objects of common use those that most frequently carry symbols of ownership and allow to define its history.

The exhibition “Made in Rome. Marchi di produzione e di possesso nella società antica” (Made in Rome. Trademarks of production and possession in ancient society) at Trajan’s Market highlights these aspects that are often overlooked by the general public, but with great importance for the archaeologists.

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Questo articolo è disponibile anche in Italiano.

Cet article est disponible en Français.

  • Where: at the Museo dei Fori Imperiali del Mercato di Traiano (museum of The Imperial Forums and Trajan’s Market), in via IV Novembre 94
  • When: everyday, but only until November 20th, 2016 (now extended up to January, 29, 2017!!!). From the upstair terrace, you can enjoy a wonderful view above the ancient city and Roman Forum. That’s why I suggest you to get there in a sunny day, or at the sunset.
  • Why: to understand how the ancient society settled up a perfect economic system

Thinking at the Roman Empire, the one pacified and extended by Augustus, we have to realize that it was a huge territory, united under the emperor’s command. He reorganized the borders, and extended the citizenship. In a world so much expanded and finally at peace, where trade were encouraged, the market became more and more flourishing.

Specialized workshops refined their technical performances to offer to the customers a high quality product; they also had to be able to distinguish themselves from commercial competitors. In a world where the commercial offer was expanded and more and more specialized, the need to distinguish the products of good quality was inevitably. As it happens in the modern world, the producers needed to equip their production with symbols or marks able to make it instantly recognizable.

The exhibition “Made in Rome” analyzes the appearance and function of trademarks in Roman times. Through the display of various types of artifacts, Made in Rome” highlights the similarities, differences and peculiarities in the system of symbols, that in the Roman world took on enormous importance.

A rich and flourishing empire.

After 29 BC, thanks to the power grab by Augustus, the Roman Empire is finally pacified; this is the Pax Romana (or Pax Augustea), which will last until 180 A.D. After a turbulent period of internal fights, this was a new relatively peaceful era; did not lack wars against states and neighboring tribes, but Rome didn’t undergo civil wars nor serious invasions.

This climate of peace and prosperity that came to be created led to a huge increase in the production of goods; it was made possible also thanks to the safety of road routes, rivers and seas, making the transports easier.

One needed the vases and amphorae to transport essential product such as oil, wine and wheat in all the provinces of the empire. Ampoules and other small containers for perfumes and ointments took them in the richest homes. Glass tableware ended to decorate the tables of the most luxurious homes. No wonder, then, that the producers came to affix marks on this kind of objects to certify their quality and origin.

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Taints and seals served not only to recognize the quality of the products inside the containers. Because the brand didn’t characterized exclusively the business aspect, but it is also was intended as a sign of recognition and possession. “Made in Rome” also shows the more utilitaristic purposes of the markings.

Girls power!

Did you know that in Rome on 150 workshops where bricks were casted, at least 50 were owned by women? This is only one of the several information that archeologists took with the study of this kind of objects!

Bricks and other clay objects were baked in public and shared ovens. The affixed trademarks and identification symbols allowed not only the return of each object to its owner, but also a proper distribution of costs.

These are just a few of the aspects that “Made in Roma” highlights through the exhibition of materials from Italian and foreign museums. An incredible heritage, which is often considered material intended mainly to experts. In this exhibition is rather a new dimension, where a direct relationship is created with the general public.

“Made in Roma” allows us to get into the daily life of the Romans. That way we learn about some of the hidden aspects that, after all, are incredibly similar to ours.

A new social system.

The brand is, just like it does in the modern era, a form of advertising. It provides the name of the manufacturer and place of realization; the brands on display at the Museum of the Imperial Forums – Trajan’s Markets also have a more openly artistic value: the workshop symbol becomes a decoration of the objects.

Römisch Germanisches Museum Köln, Römische Gläser aus Gräbern Luxemburgerstr. in Köln, Inv.Nr.L667, L668

An exhibition focused on society and Roman world, about what it means to be made in Rome.

How, exactely?

Made in Rome also it means to have been able to create an economic, social and cultural system. A group of economic-productive and cultural values shared by peoples who until then did not know themselves; this new situation, allows them to be part of one world united thanks to the trade.

It was a complex system of symbols, not limited solely to trade marks on the bricks or the containers. Because, in exceptional cases, the brands could also be placed on the human body.

Messages on the skin.

The richest owners gave to their slaves a metallic collar: that way each slave could be easily recognized and kept back if gone away.

Roman society deeply respected the human body: everyone took care in the baths and gyms. But when the human body became an object, it could be branded, like a brick or an amphora; slaves were objects, which were sold and purchased. And sometimes branded with tattoos with the owner’s name. Similarly the slanderers received a tattoo with the letter K, so that anyone would be able to recognize them.

War messages.

The trademarks are also bearers of a message. This is what happens in glandes (war bullets), on which were sometimes engraved insults towards enemies.

It’s a complex world the one proposed by “Made in Roma”: with a didactic exhibition takes your hand to accompany us to know a world that, although distant in time, is so similar to ours as to leave us speechless.


The entrance ticket of the exhibition “Made in Roma” alllows to visit the museum of Imperial Forum and Trajan’s market.

This is one of few museums open on monday!

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