Roman Trade In the Indian Ocean

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Roman Trade In the Indian Ocean

Postby Marcus Minucius Audens » Fri Sep 23, 2016 4:30 pm

>>>> Rome’s Trade In the Indian Ocean <<<<

“The beautiful vessels, the masterpieces of the Yavanas, stir white foam on the Periyar River . . . arriving with gold and departing with pepper.”

So wrote an Indian poet sometime in the second century A. D. On the river stood Muziris, the port on the southwestern coast of India that was the major exporter of the region’s cash crop, pepper. The “Yavanas” were strictly speaking, men from any part of the West, but in a context such as this it meant the Westerners who, sailing out of the Red Sea ports of Roman Egypt, carried on a trade with India. Their ships lined the quays of Muziris and other Indian ports, and their sailors haunted the waterfront dives. In the residential districts behind, their agents established little foreign colonies, anticipating by a millennium and a half the employees of the British East India Company.

Many an official embassy made its way from the East to the West India sent several during the reign of Augustus, one from Ceylon visited the Emperor Claudius, and they kept coming as late as the reign of Constantine the Great. Chinese records contain long and flattering accounts of how people lived in Rome’s eastern provinces based in part on the report of an ambassador who had gotten as far as Mesopotamia in A. D. 97.

(It has the surprising observation that the people, “ . . .are honest in their transactions and there are no double prices,” something not often said about the Near Eastern tradesmen.)

One group of Westerners made their way almost to the borders of China, for the same account notes that in,

“ . . .the ninth year of the Yen-hsi period during the emperor Huan-ti’s reign [A.D. 166] . . .the king of Ta-ts’in An-tun, sent an embassy who, from the frontier of Jih-nan [Annam] offered ivory, rhinoceros's horns, and tortoise shell. From that time dates the [direct] intercourse with this country.”

Ta-ts’in is the Chinese name for the Roman Empire, and An-tun is Antonius the family name of Marcus Aurelius. The account goes on to comment on the very ordinary quality of what was offered; tere were for example, no jewels. Most likely it wasn’t an official Body at all but a group of traders who, to get one jump ahead of their competitors, were trying to buy their silk directly from China instead of going through the usual middlemen.


>> Lionel Casson, “Travel In the Ancient World” (Johns Hoplins Univ. Press, Baltimore and London, 1974)

Respectfully Submitted;

Marcus Audens
Marcus Minucius Audens

Re: Roman Trade In the Indian Ocean

Postby Publius Iunius Brutus » Sat Sep 24, 2016 12:27 am

Brutus sal.

If this topic interests you, a must read is this book, it is one of my favorites!

Rome and the Distant East: Trade Routes to the ancient lands of Arabia, India and China by Raoul McLaughlin ( ... 1847252354), not cheap, but a great, great book!

I have spent considerable time in the Mediterranean world and Asia over the last ten years. The cultures from these places, past and present fascinate me. I spent some time traveling across China and ending up on the western frontier near Kyrgyzstan about six years ago, an area that was the end/start of the silk road. Seeing the landscape puts things into context. The journey these traders made, both by land and sea is truly epic, and even more so 2000 years ago!

The interactions between these cultures during the Roman period interests me very much, and the study of these cultural interplays is a very active and developing area of scholarship. Which I think is awesome!

Attached is a picture I took in a village on the Kyrgyzstan-China border, those mountains would have marked the end or the start of a very long journey during the Roman period...

52835_913918727961_3899846_o.jpg (142.12 KiB) Viewed 955 times
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