Trajan’s Market – An Architectural Marvel: Shopping Mall or Administrative Space?

Trajan’s Market is located on the famed Via dei Fori Imperiali.  A complex of ruins, some of the structures from the initial building are intact. The location is considered to provide a glimpse into life in Rome back in the time of the great Roman Empire.

Historical and Architectural Importance

Trajan’s Market is referred to as the first shopping mall in the world. However, over the years, the perspective of experts has changed and the design of the arcades in the TrajansMarketsDownsizedNG0595aabuilding seems to give off the impression that Trajan’s Market was used as an administrative space for Emperor Trajan. There were several levels built, featuring shops and apartments. Some of the levels are intact and visitors can also view the relics of an old Roman library.


Initially, the purpose of the complex that has been come to known as Trajan’s Market was built to harmonize with the Forum of Trajan. It is believed that the original construction took place around 100 AD and the architect responsible for the design was Apollodorus of Damascus. The complex was in use for over two centuries. Over the years, several features have been added and removed from the building, including some defensive structures built around 1200 AD.

Trajan’s Market suffered great damage due to an earthquake in the 14th century and was generally neglected. It was in 1926 that work began on restoring the complex, which was completed in 1934.


Trajan’s Market was built as a place of business. There were many offices, shops and warehouses designed in the original structure. The structure itself stood alongside Quirinal Hill and joined the Forum of Trajan. The upper levels of the complex were used mainly for administrative and management while the business was conducted on the lower levels. There were several shops, selling groceries, spices and other items of everyday use. These shops were called ‘tabernae’. People who wanted to purchase any item were first required to buy tokens and then use them as currency when shopping at Trajan’s Market.

Trajan’s Market Today

Trajan’s Market is one of the oldest high-rise structures in Rome which has been preserved properly. This gives this antiquity significant historical importance as it provides an insight into the way urban Rome was designed back in the day. You can take a walk through the corridors of Trajan’s Market or on the shopping street adjacent to the structure and relive the times of old.


Nora Garibotti is a photographer with a particular interest in Roman antiquity & architecture.  More of Nora’s photography can be viewed on her website: Garibotti Photography.