TRADE AND THE NEW ECONOMY
The interest in trading with the local population on the Iberian Peninsula had led the Greeks, the Phoenicians and the Romans to sail past the islands. Using them as ports of call resulted in the first contact and trade between the native population and foreign traders.
Similarly, when the Romans conquered the islands, they were first interested in establishing a base to make the routes between the Italian and Iberian Peninsulas safer using the natural harbours of the Baliares. This represented the start of Rome’s slow yet inexorable inclusion of Majorca and Menorca into its cultural and economic environment. However, for a while the two economies, native and Roman, coexisted on the islands. The first type was probably consigned to marginal areas and based on subsistence agriculture, extensive livestock farming, local trade and no currency. The Roman type, based on agricultural produce for trading and selling and the use of currency throughout the process in a Mediterranean market must have dominated the best areas.
An example of the Manacor area entering the Roman trade circuits is Porto Cristo’s Roman ship, which sunk in the first century AD. This ship, loaded with oil lamps and other goods, proves that this natural harbour was used as a port of call for trading vessels. It also highlights the highly likely demand for manufactured objects, such as the refined oil lamps, by the Roman colonists or the local Romanised population.
In this display case we can see objects related to sea transport, from left to right: a set of Roman coins, a reproduction of a Roman trading vessel, a lid of an amphora, and some nails used to repair a Roman ship.
Throughout Rome’s history, trade was one of the pillars of its economy aided by a network of cities, roads and ports that made it easy to transport goods and for the army to control many regions by force. The expansion of Latin as the lingua franca accompanied by the adoption of Italian customs helped a new type of economy to develop.
The three amphorae we can see on display here are a good example of the three basic products that were transported in these containers. One was for wine, another for oil and the third for salted fish. We can also see a reproduction of a Roman anchor fashioned from the original part made of lead, the stock, and a reproduction of the wooden support. The sack represents the transport of other important products that were not contained by amphorae, such as grain.
EVERYDAY LIFE. COOKING AND EATING
Food is the basis for the survival of any society. For that reason, changes in diet, cooking methods and food production tell us how profound the changes were at a certain point in history. Two sets of customs have been documented in Roman times in Manacor. Firstly, the persistence of the native population’s food habits and, secondly, the arrival and spread of new Roman customs. We can notice these changes because new products and especially new cooking utensils and crockery were introduced. For example, local stone mortars were used alongside the ‘new’ Roman ceramic mortars with volcanic stone inlays to boost their abrasive qualities.
The first historical record we have of outsiders arriving on the islands in important numbers dates from the Roman conquest of 123 BC. This led to an extremely important cultural phenomenon: the local population had contact for the first time with many of the customs of the recently arrived Romans, and they found them just as exotic as the Romans did theirs. One of the most significant customs the Romans brought with them, and which was unknown on the islands, was writing. The local society had not felt the need to write down their history, myths or legends as they relied on an oral tradition. In contrast, for centuries Roman culture had developed its own writing to communicate and to leave records, which are of immense historical value for us today.
During Roman times on Majorca, customs overlapped in religion as they did in other areas. Local religions continued alongside the gods brought by the colonists. Several beliefs and customs coexisted and the locals gradually adopted some of these divinities and adapted their characteristics to their own system of worship. We know of no significant religious conflict until the fifth century AD, when the Christians of Ciudadela burned down the Maó synagogue.