The Roman Empire and the Indian Ocean: The Ancient World Economy and the Kingdoms of Africa, Arabia and India
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The ancient evidence suggests that international commerce supplied Roman government with up to a third of the revenues that sustained their empire. In ancient times large fleets of Roman merchant ships set sail from Egypt on voyages across the Indian Ocean. They sailed from Roman ports on the Red Sea to distant kingdoms on the east coast of Africa and the seaboard off southern Arabia. Many continued their voyages across the ocean to trade with the rich kingdoms of ancient India. Freighters from the Roman Empire left with bullion and returned with cargo holds filled with valuable trade goods, including exotic African products, Arabian incense and eastern spices. This book examines Roman commerce with Indian kingdoms from the Indus region to the Tamil lands. It investigates contacts between the Roman Empire and powerful African kingdoms, including the Nilotic regime that ruled Meroe and the rising Axumite Realm. Further chapters explore Roman dealings with the Arab kingdoms of south Arabia, including the Saba-Himyarites and the Hadramaut Regime, which sent caravans along the incense trail to the ancient rock-carved city of Petra. The Roman Empire and the Indian Ocean is the first book to bring these subjects together in a single comprehensive study that reveals Rome's impact on the ancient world and explains how international trade funded the Legions that maintained imperial rule. It offers a new international perspective on the Roman Empire and its legacy for modern society.
fostered centralised market commerce. the roman empire and the indian ocean - Press Roman Prosperity 23 Modern scholars have calculated that the Roman Emperors needed at least 88,000 tons of grain a year to maintain the dole for approximately 200,000 male citizens in Rome.41 Most of the grain sent to the Roman capital came from estates in North Africa that were either owned by the State, or subject to a government tithe that seized a large share of their output for shipment to Rome.42 Egypt
days.’38 There were strong prevailing northerly winds in the upper part of the Red Sea and Strabo reports that ‘this sea is hard to navigate, especially for those who sail to its innermost recesses (Suez and Aqaba).’39 Consequently many returning ships chose to offload their cargo at the Nabataean town of Leuke Kome (modern al-Wajh).40 Caravans then carried these cargoes about 300 miles north to Petra for immediate sale, or transport to further Roman markets. Roman sources suggest that Leuke Kome
temple to their god of victory. The head, which is now in the British Museum, belongs to a statue which for stylistic reasons possibly dates to the Roman occupation of Premnis (24–20 BC), rather than the attack on Syene (25 BC).36 the roman empire and the indian ocean - Press 68 The Roman Empire and the Indian Ocean Queen Amanirenas presented her settlement with Rome as a victory. Two large stelea found at the site of an ancient temple at Hamadab, just south of Meroe, provide a record of the
July rarely visited Muziris on their outbound voyages. Pliny explains that Muza ‘is not called at on the voyage to India and is only used by merchants trading in frankincense and Arabian perfumes’.49 Roman crews specialising in voyages to Arabia sailed later in the season and generally reached Muza in late September when the first of the summer incense crop was reaching the local markets.50 Any Roman merchants planning to travel inland to the main cities of the Saba-Himyarite Kingdom were left
humpbacked whales that sometimes approached too close to Roman ships and sprayed them with water from their blowholes. Strabo reports, ‘those who now sail to India speak of the appearance and size of these creatures. They say that these whales can be scared away by shouts and trumpets and they do not often appear in large groups or attack ships.’45 Philostratus confirms that ‘the entire sea is full of sharks and groups of whales’. He claims that Apollonius travelled on an Indian vessel that