The very labeling of ‘Made In USA’ (or for that matter relating to any country) carries a commercial weight that hinges on the pride of the manufacturer of his origin. Such branding measures also carried forth a similar essence of zeal and self-worth in the ancient times, as is evident from the numerous examples and variants of ‘Made in Roma’. Harking back to an epoch 2,000 years ago, we can see extant specimens of such ‘prideful’ labeling in a plethora of Roman-made commodities, ranging from robust building foundations to delicate glassware. Many of these objects and artifacts are currently displayed at an exhibit aptly christened as ‘Made in Roma’, showcased inside the expansive ruins of Trajan’s Markets – the once-bustling, ancient counterpart to our shopping malls.
Given the Roman penchant for engineering and architecture, one of their ancient commercial products obviously entailed sturdy building components. The exhibition does showcase this side of the thriving construction industry, with brick-works, roof tiles, marble slabs and even a stylized Corinthian column (in Augustus’ forum) flaunting their brands. This labeling scope is mostly composed of the proud marks of the individual manufacturers, along with their dates – many of which pertain to 2nd century AD.
The ambit however was not just limited to sturdy construction elements; the Romans also ‘made their marks’ on the delicate glassware and utensils. For example, one master kiln operator boasted how he had accomplished the presumably enviable task of producing 1,540 plates, 300 cups and 790 bowls – and all of these figures were etched beneath the base of a vase. Now many of these commodities and objects did have nigh uniform designs, similar to our modern-day counterparts, and hence marking them was an effective way to keep track of the manufactured inventory.
Interestingly enough, since we brought up the modern scope, the Romans also branded their weaponry in similar manner to the bombs and missiles of made by our contemporary military establishments. One example pertains to how many of the lead-based projectiles used in slingshots and catapults, carried the name of the manufacturers as well as insulting phrases for the unfortunate enemy.
But unlike our modern era, a significant part of the ancient Roman economy and households was also based on the scope of slavery. The act of marking stretched to dog tag-like objects that were used for identifying and branding many human members who were viewed as mere property. One such 5th century bronze collar is inscribed with the distressing phrase ‘hold me, lest I flee’ – thus suggesting how the slave must be returned to his master in case he had tried to flee. The inscription even mentions the ‘drop off’ point, which relates to a certain nymphaeum, a water fountain inside summer residences or even basilica atriums.
The ‘Made in Roma’ exhibition will go on till 20th November. For more details you can check here.
Source: Associated Press / All Images Credit: AP/Fabio Frustaci