29 October 2008
A Typical Roman : Merchant
...Roman merchants rarely came from the upper class, though indeed many of them were wealthy enough to form their own aristocratic branch. The higher patrician families considered manual labor and careers in trade to be demeaning. For the most part merchants were from the middle class.
...Becoming a merchant was a matter of money and trade. There were many stalls lining the streets of Rome's cities and with some money and luck a reasonable shop could be set up. Some merchants were more successful than others, people always want necessities - and in times of affluence, luxuries. Lets focus on a typical Roman merchant with a family of five.
... His days are probably full, although he does have several slaves to help in the shop; they keep count of sales, clean the shop, and collect dues. For now this merchant oversees his own affairs, but soon he hopes to acquire an educated slave, preferably Greek, who could take over most of his responsibilities. He is a dealer in fine pottery and dishware, with growing business since Augustus came to power.
...Like other merchants of his rank and citizenship he frequents the bath house for leisure and occasionally attends parties with or without his wife. He has four children, three daughters and a son. This is very 'lucky' because mortality rates for children are high. After his son was born his wife lost two babies, so now they have decided not to have any more children because death of women in childbirth is also very high.
...Once in a while he is called to vote as a juror, an exciting task. Court cases were popular amusements in Rome and the upper balconies filled fast with spectators.
...Life is good and will probably get better with time. One day the merchant hopes to pass on his business to his son. Right now the boy attends a local one room school with other merchants sons, there they are taught to read, write, memorize poetry and literature, and do basic mathematics including Geometry.
...The merchants daughters were taught all they needed to know from their mother and the household domestic slaves. It was very important for girls to learn how to weave, manage a household, and be a good wife before they were twelve years old. Why twelve? Most girls married between the ages of twelve and fourteen. Already the merchant had selected a husband for his eldest, who is thirteen, they will be married towards the end of Jun - a particularly lucky time of year for Roman marriages. The man is ten years the girls senior, but this was common as men wanted younger wives and were not ready to take a wife until they were older. The merchants daughter has not yet met her bridegroom, but considers herself fortunate because he is reported to be kind and handsome with a good establishment.
...Yes, life is good for this merchant. And right now he and his family have nothing more pressing than looking forward to the Roman festival "Floralia" which was coming in a few weeks.
Posted by Lauren at 2:10 PM