Lucia woke up to the sound of roosters crowing and the smell of fresh bread baking. She stretched and left her bed, a simple wooden frame covered with a woolen blanket. She put on her tunic and sandals and went to the kitchen, where her mother was busy preparing the morning meal.
“Good morning, Mother,” Lucia greeted her.
“Good morning, my dear,” her mother replied, smiling. “You’re up early today.”
“I want to go to the market with you,” Lucia said. “I want to see what they have today.”
Her mother nodded. “All right, but you have to eat something. Here, have some bread, cheese, and some honey.”
Lucia took a piece of bread and dipped it in a bowl of honey. She bit into it and savored the taste. Honey was one of her favorite foods, and she knew it was a luxury not everyone could afford. Her father was a beekeeper, and he sold his honey to the wealthy citizens of Rome. He also kept some for his family, and Lucia was grateful to have them.
She finished her bread and cheese and drank water from a clay jug. Then she helped her mother pack some food for the day: more bread, cheese, olives, dried fruits, nuts, and some wine diluted with water. They also brought some honey jars to sell at the market.
They left their house, a modest dwelling in the Subura district, one of the poorest and most crowded areas. They walked along the narrow streets, avoiding the piles of garbage and waste that littered the ground. They passed by other people who were also heading to the market: vendors, shoppers, beggars, slaves, soldiers, and foreigners. Lucia saw people from different lands and cultures: Greeks, Egyptians, Syrians, Gauls, Jews, and others. She heard them speak in different languages and dialects, some of which she could understand a little.
She also saw many temples dedicated to various gods and goddesses. She saw people offering prayers and sacrifices to them, hoping for their favor and protection. Lucia herself was not very religious, but she respected the beliefs of others. She knew that Rome was a tolerant city when it came to religion, as long as people paid their taxes and obeyed the laws.
They reached the Forum Romanum, the center of political, social, and commercial life in Rome. It was a large open space surrounded by magnificent buildings: temples, basilicas, arches, statues, monuments, and shops. It was also crowded with people: senators, magistrates, lawyers, orators, merchants, bankers, artisans, customers, tourists, and spectators. Lucia felt a surge of excitement as she entered the bustling market.
She followed her mother to their usual spot near the Temple of Castor and Pollux. They set up their stall and displayed honey jars on a wooden table. They also hung a sign that read: “Honey from Lucius Flavius Apiarius. The best honey in Rome.”
Lucia helped her mother sell their honey to the customers who came by. Some were regulars who knew them well; others were new or curious. They praised its quality and flavor; they haggled over the price; they exchanged news and gossip; they joked and laughed.
Lucia enjoyed talking to people from different walks of life: rich and poor; young and old; male and female; Roman and foreign; free and slave. She learned many things from them: about politics, history, culture, art, literature; food recipes; love stories; about scandals; about secrets.
She also had some fun along the way: she played games with other children; watched street performers; listened to music; admired beautiful clothes; tasted exotic foods; she smelled fragrant flowers.
She felt happy in the market. She felt like she belonged there. She did not want to leave. But she knew that she had to.
The sun was setting over the horizon when they packed their things and closed their stall. They had sold all their honey jars except for one for themselves. They had made a good profit that day.
They walked back home with their basket full of food and money. They were tired but satisfied.
They had dinner with their father who had returned from his apiary in the countryside. He hugged them warmly and kissed them on their cheeks. He told them about his bees and his honey production. He asked them about their day at the market.
They ate their food with gratitude: bread dipped in olive oil; lentil soup with herbs; roasted chicken with vegetables; cheese with figs; wine with water; honey cake for dessert.
They thanked the gods for their blessings: Jupiter for his justice; Juno for her protection; Minerva for her wisdom; Mercury for his commerce; Ceres for her crops; Venus for her love.
They went to bed with peace: Lucia in her room; her parents in theirs.
They slept soundly, dreaming of the next day.
To be continued…