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p1091 Taberna

Article by Philip Smith, B.A., of the University of London
on p1091 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

TABERNA is defined by Ulpian as any kind of building fit to dwell in "nempe ex eo, quod tabulis clauditur" (Dig. 50 tit. 10 §183), or according to the more probable etymology of Festus, because it was made of planks (Festus, s.v. Contubernales, Tabernacula). Festus (s.v. Adtibernalis) asserts that this was the most ancient kind of abode used among the Romans, and that it was from the early use of such dwellings that the words taberna and tabernaculum were applied to military tents, though the latter were constructed of skins. We know very little of the form and materials of the ancient tents; but we may infer from the notices we have of them that they were generally composed of a covering of skins partly supported by wooden props, and partly stretched on ropes. Sometimes, in a permanent camp, they may have been constructed entirely of planks; and sometimes, in cases of emergency, garments and rushes were spread over any support that could be obtained (Lipsius, de Milit. Roman. in Oper. vol. III pp154‑155). From taberna, when used in this sense, are derived tabernaculum, the more common name of a tent, and Contubernales.

The usual meaning of taberna is a shop. Originally the shops were stalls or booths in or round the market place [Agora; Forum]; afterwards they were permanently established both on the sides of the market-place, and in other parts of the city. Neither the ancient authors nor the remains of Pompeii lead us to suppose that tradesmen often had their shops forming part of their houses, as with us. A few houses are indeed found in Pompeii entirely devoted to the purposes of trade, consisting, that is, of the shop and the rooms occupied by the tradesman and his family. Most commonly, however, the shops formed a part of a large house, to the owner of which they belonged, and were by him let out to tradesmen [Domus, p430.] Some of the shops round a house were retained by the owner for the sale of the produce of his estates. This arrangement of the shops was probably an improvement on an older plan of placing them against the walls of houses. Even under the emperors we find that shops were built out so far into the street as to obstruct the thoroughfare. Martial (VII.61) mentions an edict of Domitian by which this practice was put down, and the shops were confined within the areas of the houses.

The following are the most remarkable classes of shops of which we have notices or remains.

1. Shops for the sale of wine, hot drinks, and ready-dressed meat. [Caupona.]

2. Bakers' shops. Of these several have been found at Pompeii, containing the mill as well as the other implements for making bread. [Mola; Pistor.]

3. Booksellers' shops. [Liber.]

4. Barbers' and Hairdresser's shops. [Barba.]


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