Ancient price list undergoing restoration
Emperor Diocletian’s edict setting price limits for most goods and services 1,718 years ago in the ancient city of Aphrodisias in present-day Karacasulu district in the western province of Aydın will soon be restored and open to visitors.
The UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the best preserved cities from the Roman period and was among the most important sculpture centers in the empire.
The edict – engraved on the basilica walls - capped prices for some 1,400 goods and services.
The site was unearthed during excavations led by Oxford University Professor Roland R.R. Smith during the last 29 years.
Aphrodisias attracts attention with its structures reflecting the splendor of the Roman period such as stadium, Sebasteion temple, Turkish bath, ancient theater, giant city pool and Tetrapylon gate.
Smith said that they have had an exciting excavation season in the city this year; this is the second year of a five-year project on the “ceiling price edict.”
Emperor Diocletian issued the 1400-item ceiling price edict for raw materials and manufacturing goods and services to curb high inflation occurring at the time, the Oxford professor said. The decree was engraved on the front façade of the Civil Basilica. But, he said, the edict disappeared with the demolition of the basilica over time, and archaeologists uncovered its fragments during excavations.
He said this type of project, aiming to reassemble the pieces and restore the structure, is rare in the world of archaeology. The edict of Diocletian was issued in many Roman cities, but there was no other archaeological site where 1,400 items were seen, Smith said.
“The price edict was written by Emperor Diocletian in 301 on the front façade. Our first goal is to revive this façade with a proper restoration and then to open this interesting edict in the interior of the building to visitors. The interesting part of this edict is that the prices of approximately 1,400 of all services and products used in the Roman Empire,” he said.
For example, the travel fee from Alexandria to Rome, the ostrich fee, or the price of the fur from the rabbit’s belly were listed on the edict. Thanks to the project, Diocletian’s price edict will soon debut to the modern world, the professor said.
The edict was created with meticulous craftsmanship and in difficult logistical conditions, he noted.
“Its most important feature is that it is engraved on an existing structure with a very detailed technique, examination and calculation. By looking at this, we can understand how people worked; they calculated how to fit 1,400 items there,” Smith said.
The number of fragments found in Aphrodisias was much higher than in other ancient cities, he said.
“This edict was issued in Latin or Greek according to the spoken languages. The example found in Aphrodisias is Greek. We will also present the entire text in Latin, English and Turkish. We will get an idea about the social and economic life of that period,” Smith said.