Roman trade with India

for several centuries.

The use of monsoon winds, which enabled a voyage safer rather than a long and dangerous coastal voyage, was pioneered by the seafaring Axumite kingdom and subsequently learned of by the Romans, who in any event had cordial relations with Axum and used Axum carriers in many cases. The route so helped enhance trade between ancient kingdoms of India (present day) and Rome that Roman politicians are on record decrying the loss of specie to pamper Roman wives, and the southern route grew to eclipse and then totally supplant the overland trade route.

Roman trade diaspora frequented the ancient Tamil country (present day Southern India), securing trade with the seafaring Tamil kingdoms of the Chola, Pandyan and Chera dynasties and establishing trading settlements which remained long after the fall of the Western Roman empireCurtin 1984: 100] . They also outlasted Byzantium's loss of the Egypt and the Red Sea portsHoll 2003: 9] (ca. 639-645 CE) under the pressure of Jihad and Islam, which had been used to secure trade with India by the Greco-Roman world since the time of the Ptolemaic dynasty a few decades before the start of the Common Era. Sometime after the sundering of communications between the Axum and Eastern Roman Empire in the seventh century, the Christian kingdom of Axum fell onto a slow decline and faded into obscurity in western culture, though survived despite pressure from Islamic forces until the eleventh century, when it was reconfigured in a dynastic squabble.


thumb|right|float|500px|The_Seleucid_and_the_Ptolemaic_dynasties_controlled_trade_networks_to_India_before_the_establishment_of_Roman_Egypt.legend|#787CAD|Kingdom of Ptolemylegend|#C3B933|Kingdom of SeleucusThe Seleucid dynasty controlled a developed network of trade with India which had previously existed under the influence of the Persian Achaemenid dynasty.Potter 2004: 20] The Greek Ptolemaic dynasty, controlling the western and northern end of other trade routes to Southern Arabia and India, had begun to exploit trading opportunities with India prior to the Roman involvement but according to the historian Strabo the volume of commerce between India and Greece was not comparable to that of later Indian-Roman trade.

The "Periplus Maris Erythraei" mentions a time when sea trade between India and Egypt did not involve direct sailings.Young 2001: 19] The cargo under these situations was shipped to Aden:

The Ptolemaic dynasty had developed trade with India using the Red Sea ports.Shaw 2003: 426] With the establishment of Roman Egypt, the Romans took over and further developed the already existing trade using these ports.


The replacement of Greece by the Roman empire as the administrator of the Mediterranean basin led to the strengthening of direct maritime trade with the east and the elimination of the taxes extracted previously by the middlemen of various land based trading routes.Lach 1994: 13] Strabo's mention of the vast increase in trade following the Roman annexation of Egypt indicates that monsoon was known and manipulated for trade in his time. [Young 2001: 20]

The trade started by Eudoxus of Cyzicus in 130 BCE kept increasing, and according to Strabo (II.5.12.):cite web| title = The Geography of Strabo published in Vol. I of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1917|url =*.html| format = HTML]

By the time of Augustus up to 120 ships were setting sail every year from Myos Hormos to India. So much gold was used for this trade, and apparently recycled by the Kushan Empire (Kushans) for their own coinage, that Pliny the Elder (NH VI.101) complained about the drain of specie to India: ["minimaque computatione miliens centena milia sestertium annis omnibus India et Seres et paeninsula illa imperio nostro adimunt: tanti nobis deliciae et feminae constant. quota enim portio ex illis ad deos, quaeso, iam vel ad inferos pertinet?" Pliny, Historia Naturae 12.41.84.]


Roman Ports

The three main Roman ports involved with eastern trade were Arsinoe, Berenice and Myos Hormos. Arsinoe was one of the early trading centers but was soon overshadowed by the more easily accessible Myos Hormos and Berenice.


The Ptolemaic dynasty exploited the strategic position of Alexandria to secure trade with India.Lindsay 2006: 101] The course of trade with the east then seems to have been first through the harbor of Arsinoe, the present day Suez. The goods from the East African trade were landed at one of the three main Roman ports, Arsinoe, Berenice or Myos Hormos. [O'Leary 2001: 72] The Romans cleared out the canal from the Nile to harbor center of Arsinoe on the Red Sea, which had silted up.Fayle 2006: 52] This was one of the many efforts the Roman administration had to undertake to divert as much of the trade to the maritime routes as possible.

Arsinoe was eventually overshadowed by the rising prominence of Myos Hermos. The navigation to the northern ports, such as Arsinoe-Clysma, became difficult in comparison to Myos Hermos due to the northern winds in the Gulf of Suez.Freeman 2003: 72] Venturing to these northern ports presented additional difficulties such as shoals, reefs and treacherous currents.

Myos Hormos and Berenice

Myos Hormos and Berenice appear to have been important ancient trading ports, possibly used by the Pharaonic traders of ancient Egypt and the Ptolemaic dynasty before falling into Roman control.

The site of Berenice, since its discovery by Belzoni (1818), has been equated with the ruins near Ras Banas in Southern Egypt. However, the precise location of Myos Hormos is disputed with the latitude and longitude given in Ptolemy's "Geography" favoring Abu Sha'ar and the accounts given in classical literature and satellite images indicating a probable identification with Quesir el-Quadim at the end of a fortified road from Koptos on the Nile. The Quesir el-Quadim site has further been associated with Myos Hormos following the excavations at el-Zerqa, halfway along the route, which have revealed ostraca leading to the conclusion that the port at the end of this road may have been Myos Hormos.

Indian ports

In India, the ports of Barbaricum (modern Karachi), Barygaza, Muziris, Korkai, Kaveripattinam and Arikamedu on the southern tip of India were the main centers of this trade. The "Periplus Maris Erythraei" describes Greco-Roman merchants selling in Barbaricum "thin clothing, figured linens, topaz, coral, storax, frankincense, vessels of glass, silver and gold plate, and a little wine" in exchange for "costus, bdellium, lycium, nard, turquoise, lapis lazuli, Seric skins, cotton cloth, silk yarn, and indigo". In Barygaza, they would buy wheat, rice, sesame oil, cotton and cloth.


Trade with Barigaza, under the control of the Indo-Scythian Western Satrap Nahapana ("Nambanus"), was especially flourishing:cite web| last = Halsall | first = Paul | title = Ancient History Sourcebook: The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea: Travel and Trade in the Indian Ocean by a Merchant of the First Century| publisher = Fordham University| url=| format = HTML]


Muziris is a lost port city in the South Indian state of Kerala which was a major center of trade in Tamilakkam between the Chera kingdom and the Roman Empire.cite news | title = Search for India's ancient city| publisher = BBC| url =] Large hoards of coins and innumerable shards of amphorae found in the town of Pattanam have elicited recent archeological interest in finding a probable location of this port city.

According to the Periplus, numerous Greek seamen managed an intense trade with Muziris:


The "Periplus Maris Erythraei" mentions a marketplace named Poduke (ch. 60), which G.W.B. Huntingford identified as possibly being Arikamedu in Tamil Nadu, a centre of early Chola trade (now part of Ariyankuppam), about 2 miles from the modern Pondicherry.Huntingford 1980: 119.] Huntingford further notes that Roman pottery was found at Arikamedu in 1937, and archeological excavations between 1944 and 1949 showed that it was "a trading station to which goods of Roman manufacture were imported during the first half of the 1st century AD".

Cultural exchanges

The Rome-India trade also saw several cultural exchanges which had lasting effect for both the civilizations and others involved in the trade. The Ethiopian kingdom of Aksum was involved in the Indian Ocean trade network and was influenced by Roman culture and Indian architecture. Traces of Indian influences are visible in Roman works of silver and ivory, or in Egyptian cotton and silk fabrics used for sale in Europe.Lach 1994: 18] The Indian presence in Alexandria may have influenced the culture but little is known about the manner of this influence. Clement of Alexandria mentions the Buddha in his writings and other Indian religions find mentions in other texts of the period.

Christian and Jewish settlers from the Rome continued to live in India long after the decline in bilateral trade. Large hoards of Roman coins have been found throughout India, and especially in the busy maritime trading centers of the south. The Tamilakkam kings reissued Roman coinage in their own name after defacing the coins in order to signify their sovereignty.Kulke 2004: 108] Mentions of the traders are recorded in the Tamil Sangam literature of India. One such mention reads: "The beautifully built ships of the Yavanas came with gold and returned with pepper, and Muziris resounded with the noise."

Decline and aftermath

ee also

* Indian maritime history
* Buddhism and the Roman world



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title = The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea
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title = A History of India
publisher = Routledge
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isbn = 0415329191

*cite book
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first = Donald Frederick
title = Asia in the Making of Europe: The Century of Discovery. Book 1.
publisher = University of Chicago Press
date = 1994
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title = History of Merchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce
publisher = Adamant Media Corporation
date = 2006
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Further reading

*Lionel Casson, "The Periplus Maris Erythraei: Text With Introduction, Translation, and Commentary". Princeton University Press, 1989. ISBN 0-691-04060-5.

*Chami, F. A. 1999. “The Early Iron Age on Mafia island and its relationship with the mainland.” "Azania" Vol. XXXIV.

*Miller, J. Innes. 1969. "The Spice Trade of The Roman Empire: 29 B.C. to A.D. 641". Oxford University Press. Special edition for Sandpiper Books. 1998. ISBN 0-19-814264-1.

External links

* [ English translation of the Periplus Maris Erythraei (Voyage around the Erythraean Sea)]
* [ BBC News: Search for India's ancient city]
* [ Arikamedu is the ancient International Trade Centre in Ariyankuppam, Pondicherry]

I have never been to the Roman Empire because it exsited bever i was born

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