Bharat and Roman empire contacts and trade

asaffronladoftherisingsun

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Slightly adapted from the works of .

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The Indo-Roman trade started in the 1st century bce, it truly matured in the 1st and 2nd centuries ce. The geographical location of Arabia, Asia Minor and northeastern Africa helped to establish trade contacts between South Asia, West Asia and Europe. As far as India is concerned, the earliest evidence of this trade is to be found from the southern Peninsula, especially in the state of Kerala. Indo- Roman trade was carried out on the sea as well on land. The seaborne trade was controlled by the Śakas and the Sātavāhanas whereas the land-borne trade was monitored by the Kuśāṇas.

The richest temple in the world in Trivandrum, Kerala where Shri Padmanabhaswamy Temple's recently discovered treasures show several boxes of roman coins amassed during such vast maritime trade.

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It is believed that to promote foreign trade, Kanīṣka, the Kuṣāṇa ruler made use of the standard of the Roman gold coins for his own issues. The political tensions between the Śakas and Sātavāhanas did affect this trade for some time at least. Similarly, the contentions between the Śakas and Parthians also served as a major impediment for trade overland. In order to overcome this problem, Augustus, the Roman Emperor encouraged the traders to take the sea route and offered them protection as well.


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A silver pepper pot, gemstones, black pepper, cooking pots, coins and Roman amphorae - historian Roberta Tomber chose these six seemingly disparate and unconnected objects to show why and how Indo-Roman trade was conducted in the ancient world. It was certainly carried on massive levels.

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These videos basically sum up as to whatever has been posted in this thread so far.

From north of our Bharat to further in south the Cholas Cheras Pandyas all have had very extensive contacts and trading with roman empire.



Trade and contacts also happened using roadways but largely it was via seas so we will be focusing on sea based trade between romans and BHARAT.
 
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asaffronladoftherisingsun

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There was no year in which India did not drain Roman empire of atleast 50 million sesterces (approximately 500000 Gold Coins of a little less than 8 grams each) sending in return wares which were sold for a hundred times than the original value. - Pliny the elder.



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asaffronladoftherisingsun

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The story of Muziris starts from early 3000 bce when Babylonians, Assyrians and Egyptians came to the Malabar Coast in search for the spices.

Later these Middle-East groups were joined by Arabs and Phoenicians. And gradually Muziris in Kodungallur entered into the cartography of World trade map. Then onwards Muziris holds the key to a good chunk of Kerala's ancient history now the ancient trade route.

Muziris has been one the most active trade centers with roman empire. Other being Arikamedu in Tamil Nadu. See map.

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This place was so important that two cohorts equivalent to two battalions of roman soldiers used to be deployed right here at its defense.

There was also a temple of augustus in the surrounding of this settlement.

This document is known as the Tabula Peutingaeriana and is illustration of roman road networks.


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Excavations so far.

Muziris has the distinction of having yielded a complete human skeleton, from the Kottappuram fort area. Some of the items excavated here include Chinese coins, Chinese inscriptions, and pieces of decorated porcelain, West Arabian pottery pieces, iron nails, bullets, stone beads, 17th century dutch coins and tiles. These will eventually go into the museums to be set up. Items from tuscany too have been found.


Greco-Roman accounts.

Muziris was the 'first emporium of India' for the Romans, where the ships of the Yavanas arrived in large numbers and took back pepper, and other products in exchange of gold. Evidence from a papyrus in the Vienna museum, speaks of trade agreement between Muziris and Alexandria, following a trade agreement between a trader from Muziris and a trader from Alexandria. All these references indicate that a substantial amount of trade flourished between India and the Greco Roman world that passed through Muziris.

In the first century, the country consisted of three political divisions. The author of Periplus and Pliny (1st century ad) has recorded that at that time Thondi and Muziris were under the rule of Keralaputras who were none other than the Cheras of Karur. From the statement of Pliny, it would appear that the Cheras who were foreigners took possession of the West Coast only recently. This view is supported by the statement that Musiri was at that time subjected to attacks from the pirates of Nitrias. Nitrias of Pliny and Nitran of Ptolemy is the modern port of Mangalapuram, upon the mouth of river Netravadi. That was the principal port of Thondi and Musiri until the Cheras took possession of them in the first century. This view is further supported by the Sangham poetry.


See also - https://www.muzirisheritage.org/history.php
 

asaffronladoftherisingsun

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By the time of Augustus up to 120 ships were setting sail every year from Myos Hormos to BHARAT. ;)

So much gold was used for this trade,that Pliny the Elder complained about the drain of specie to India:

India, China and the Arabian peninsula take one hundred million sesterces from our empire per annum at a conservative estimate: that is what our luxuries and women cost us. For what fraction of these imports is intended for sacrifices to the gods or the spirits of the dead?
— Pliny, Historia Naturae 12.41.84.
 

asaffronladoftherisingsun

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The land route was avoided as it was risky, filled with pirates & checked by the Parthians, limiting the Romans to the Euphrates. So the emperor Augustus consolidated the vast Roman Empire and restored stability in Egypt (the link between Indo-Roman trade).

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The discovery of the Monsoon winds ended the Arabian monopoly of eastern trade. Now, ships sailed from the Red Sea directly taking advantage of the SW and SE monsoon trade winds. This opened up trade channels, especially with South India and Rome.

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Madura held an important place in this new route. It was the centre of pearl country and had many Yavana (Roman, Greek) settlement. Roman aurei were so common they were used as bullion, currency. South Indian kings did not use coinage much until this trade–

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asaffronladoftherisingsun

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It was because of this the Roman coinage was never reminted and this is why we have many coin hoards of Roman Empire from South of BHARAT .

Roman trade also flourished because of the extensive urbanization, inland trade & commerce routes of Ancient BHARATVARSH.

There were dozens of ports on the west coast.


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This confirms the economic prosperity of BHARAT even in south.

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Some of the much in demand trade goods from India in Rome were ivory, silk, muslin textiles (from bengal), gemstones, pearls, spices, exotic animals, onyx, statues (Pompeii Lakshmi).

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BHARAT was a massive exporter while Rome was an importer. Uneven trade relationship. Hence, the only way Rome could buy these goods was not through barter but solid pure gold.

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This is "Pompeii Lakshmi" –– a fine ivory statue from our BHARAT found in the ruins of Pompeii. It is either the Goddess Lakshmi or a Yakshini. Showing the extent of Indo-Roman trade.

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asaffronladoftherisingsun

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The Cholas were some of the biggest exporter of fine fabric to the Romans.

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Spices from India of course, were well known and the list of Indian spices popular in Rome can be a whole book in itself. Spice here has a different meaning btw. Some of the popular ones were Aloe Vera, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Pepper, Sandalwood, Sesame, Ginger, Turmeric etc.

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Finally, some Roman manufactured products were also popular in India. Chiefly wine, glassware, pottery, lamps, cut gems and products like corals.

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asaffronladoftherisingsun

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Indo-Roman trade helped the Guptas build their guild based economy but by the mid 4th- early 5th century, this trade had declined a lot evident from Roman coinage found in India.

The crisis of the 3rd century weakened it and the fall of the Western Roman Empire ended it.

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asaffronladoftherisingsun

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Cotton was first grown and used in India. Indians had mastered the art of embellishing the cloth.
Instead of linen and wool, women preferred lighter, softer materials, cotton stuffs from India and, most of all, silks, which reached Rome by the land routes of the Empire or through Indian and, later, Egyptian traders., (Boucher 1998).
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asaffronladoftherisingsun

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As we noted earlier that Muziris Papyrus is one of the most important documents in this regards that establishes the insane levels of roman trade happening with Bharat

Muziris is a name of town down in very south of BHARAT ;)

This is that document.

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asaffronladoftherisingsun

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Contents of this document are like this see that Gangetic Nard?

This basically establishes the Roman trade consisted of goods from all parts of our Bharat not just south ;)
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asaffronladoftherisingsun

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The trade documented on the two texts of the Muziris papyrus is part of ahistorical phenomenon in which the Mediterranean world and the southern portion of the Indian peninsula were closely intertwined. At least since the Hellenistic age, trade relationships with the Indian subcontinent have been an essential ingredient in the history of the ancient Mediterranean. Although the centripetal forces exerted by its internal connectivity encouraged its inhabit-ants to look inward, the Mediterranean was never a hortus conclusus. The passage to the Black Sea opened the Pontic regions to Greek and eventually to Byzantine interactions. The gate to the Atlantic produced the trade of Tartessos and Gades, as well as the explorations of Pythias and the visions that foreshadowed the geographical discoveries of the Early Modern Age. The corridor of the Red Sea—the one of interest here—produced, among other things, the robust commercial intercourse that introduced the commodities of the Indian Ocean world to the societies of the Mediterranean. The economic importance of the Red Sea corridor in Antiquity can hardly be exaggerated, and the extended ramifications of Roman trade in the Indian Ocean is best reflected by the impressive corpus of Greco-Roman knowledge about the Indian Ocean. Representing the synthesis of centuries of voyages and enquiries by Indian Ocean seafarers, Ptolemy’s Geography remained the unrivalled description of that world until the Early Modern Age. The world
view of medieval Arab geographers, with their land of Islam sandwiched between the ‘Sea of the Romans’ and the ‘Sea of the Persians’ (or the Ethiopians or the Chinese), was deeply rooted in the commercial horizons exposed by Indian Ocean trade in the first centuries of the Christian era.

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Myos Hormos emerged as the main Ptolemaic port in what was becoming the ‘Erythraean and Indian
Sea’.⁵⁹ At the beginning of Roman rule, the Coptos–Myos Hormos route was the most travelled passage between the Red Sea and the Nile, and in 26 or 25 , as many as 120 ships set sail for India from Myos Hormos


The launch of a direct sea route to the pepper emporia of South India, the large volume of pepper available there, and the introduction of large-tonnage vessels to transfer very large cargoes compelled the traders to reduce the sea voyage in the Red Sea. The new pattern of trade gave Berenice an unprecedented boost. The old port of the elephant carriers, which barely survived the end of the elephant hunts, blossomed again as the port of the very large carriers of black pepper.


It is worth mentioning that Berenice’s re-emergence as the departure point for South Indian trade coincides with a significant semantic shift. Familiar to Greek science since the fourth century , the word peperi is a loanword from middle Indian (cf. Skt. pippalī) through an Iranian intermediary.⁶⁴ In Indian languages, the term designates the piper longum. Theophrastus refers to two pepper species, neither of which indicates black pepper.⁶⁵ From the late first century  onwards, Greek and Latin authors use the simple term πέπερι/piper to indicate the piper nigrum, whereas they rely on the formula πέπερι μακρόν/piper longum to designate the true pippalī.

This semantic sliding results from the success of the South Indian trade evidenced by the Muziris papyrus.


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asaffronladoftherisingsun

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Riding the Monsoons

The economic sustainability of a long-distance commercial enterprise rests on the ability to balance several factors: the demand of the importing country, them supply of the exporting country, and the suitability of the transport system.

The economic sustainability of the Early Roman Empire’s South India trade was based on a fondness for pepper that spanned the Roman social spectrum; on a passion for precious stones and ivory peculiar to the upper classes; on an overproduction of pepper, pearls, and ivory in South India; and on the very large pepper carriers that sailed directly between Egypt and India with only an intermediate stopover (but no transhipment of cargo).

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The SINDHU SARASVATI Valley and Barygaza trades, which relied on demand for and supplies of different items, used smaller vessels. However, at least until Trajan’s Canal was opened, those ships also sailed all the way from Egypt to India.


For instance, the India trade of the Early Roman Empire needed only one ship and delivered Indian commodities to Alexandria right at the start of the Mediterranean sailing season. In Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, at least two ships were required—one for the Red Sea and one for the Arabian
Sea—and the pepper reached Alexandria only by late summer or the dead of winter. In addition, the ships of the Early Roman Empire experienced no idle years, since a single commercial enterprise lasted less than twelve months. By contrast, a Portuguese ship that left from Lisbon in April could return from India only in July of the following year—far too late to sail to India again. The number of ships eventually whopped up to hundreds !

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The author of the Periplus refers to three sea routes to India (Fig. 2.1): one to Skythia (Barbarikon, on the Indus delta), one to Barygaza, and one to Limyrike.¹⁰ As far as the timing of the outward journey is concerned, the differences between them were not dramatic. Regardless of the port of departure, they are all said to prescribe a July departure from Egypt, corresponding, as the author of the Periplus puts it, to the (partially overlapping) Egyptian month Epiphi of the fixed Alexandrian calendar.¹¹ The vessels were supposed to sail down the Red Sea in around thirty days,¹² stop in one of the ports on the
Gulf of Aden,¹³ and then cross the Arabian Sea with the abating south-west monsoon. The calendric approximation used by the author of the Periplus to indicate the timing for the departure from Egypt was certainly sufficient for a readership consisting principally of financiers, whose main concern was to determine
the start date of the loan contracts that financed specific commercial enterprises. To this public, the calendric detail makes it clear that maritime loans financing the India trade had to be issued in the preceding month of June/Payni.

But this information was not precise enough for prospective ship captains, who would have needed a much narrower window. Of course, the author of the Periplus was well aware that marginally different sea routes
implied slightly but critically different schedules. For instance, he knows that the ships bound for Cane set sail a little earlier than those for Muza.¹⁴ As for thesea routes to India, a South India-bound ship had to leave from Berenice either before or immediately after the Dog Star rising (20 July).The other sea routes would have required similarly precise, though probably different, deadlines.

It is worth noting that, while setting the timing of the departure for the SINDHU SARASVATI region, the author of the Periplus also points to a peculiar feature of the Sindhu delta trip:



They leave around July, that is Epiphi, likewise sailing with the Indian (sc. winds, that is the south west monsoon). Their voyage is dangerous, but benefits from a very favourable wind, and is shorter (δυσεπίβολος μὲν, ἐπιφορώτατος δὲ ἐκείνωνκαὶ συντομώτερος ὁ πλοῦς).¹
 

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For quite some time in the centuries immediately before and after the beginning of the Christian era, the South Arabian and East African ports close to the straits of Bab el-Mandeb were also variously involved in the India trade. In particular, on the Arabian side, Muza carried on its own trade with Barygaza;²⁶ Ocelis and Aden (Eudaimon Arabia) served as watering places for the vessels sailing between Egypt and India;²⁷ Cane was both an emporion that traded with Skythia and Barygaza and a waypoint en route to India;²⁸ and Moscha Limen was a port where the ships from Barygaza or Limyrike could stop and conduct some additional trade or even winter, if they were too late to continue on to their destination.²⁹ On the African side, Adulis and the other emporia of the Somali coast hosted Egyptian and Arabian ships on their way back from India. During these layovers, they exchanged Indian commodities for East African goods.³⁰ However, even when they carried on their own trade with India, these ports or emporia never functioned as commercial relais in the trade between the Mediterranean and India. Rather than Indian commodities,
the ships from Egypt imported regional products from them.³¹ Thus the multistage pattern outlined for Aden by the author of the Periplus did not exist in the mid-first century : the trade between Egypt and India was carried out via direct sea routes.

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Eventually, direct voyages to India would be replaced by a system in which the sailing route was broken into two legs, with one set of ships sailing the Red Sea and another crossing the Arabian Sea, linked by a transhipment of goods at a port near the strait of Bab el-Mandeb. The new sailing pattern can be inferred
from a variety of historical references: by the travel of the Theban scholasticus who reaches the pepper country via Adulis;³² by the Adulis ship that would bring the Roman merchant Sopatros to Taprobane (Sri Lanka);³³ and by Justinian’s request that the Aethiopians (that is, Adulis merchants) purchase silk from India and sell it to the Romans.³⁴ Transhipment of Indian commodities may also be suggested for Aden, which Philostorgius describes as a Roman emporion lying out towards the Ocean.³⁵ However, by far the most vivid
description of the new sailing pattern comes from a passage of the Martyrium Arethae describing the Indian and Red Sea ships—noted by provenance and number—that anchored at Adulis in winter  524/5 (Fig. 2.3)

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The timings of the Late Antique multi-stage sea routes between Egypt and India may be approximated by drawing on the timings of the sea routes to and from Aden, as recorded in the  1271 almanac by the Yemeni sultan al-Malik al-Ašraf ‘Umar b. Yūsuf.⁴² Beginning with the Arabian Sea leg, it notes two
different sailing seasons between India and Aden: the dīmānī and the tīrmāh. In the dīmānī season, ships were supposed to leave India by 16 October, arrive at Aden between 6 November and 21 December, and leave again for India.
 

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As for the sea routes scheduled during the late monsoons, the lāḥiq Red Sea route correlates with the early arrival of the tīrmāh ships at Aden. The South Indian cargoes, reaching Aden starting from 15 April, could be forwarded to Egypt by 26 May (see Fig. 2.6). The fact that the Yemeni almanac records two
deadlines—17 April and 26 May—for the lāḥiq voyage from Aden to Egypt suggests that the lāḥiq sea route allowed not one but two round trips between Aden and Egypt’s southernmost medieval port, ‘Ayḏ āb,
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BHARAT's pepper was famous in roman empire ;)

The data in the Yemeni almanac help to explain the arrival schedule of the pepper cargoes in Egypt in Medieval and Early Modern times.


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The author of the Periplus contends that the three open-water routes to Skythia, Barygaza, and Limyrike resulted from a discovery by the ship captain Hippalus, who plotted both the locations of the destinations (that is, calculated their latitudes) and the extent of the sea (that is, determined the longitudinal
distances from the South Arabian or East African coast).⁵¹ Quite interestingly, the author of the Periplus imagines that Hippalus developed new sea routes based on geographic estimates. Speculations about new navigational possibilities may also be found in Juba, whose estimate of the distance between Lepte Acra and the Adanu islands is linked to his claim that one could sail from India all the way to Gades,⁵² and in Seneca, who maintains that the sea between Spain and India can be sailed in only a few days, if a
favourable wind bears the ship along.⁵³ Yet Hippalus’ story cannot be taken at face value,⁵⁴ nor is there evidence that the navigation between South Arabia and India was guided by the knowledge of the latitudes of the Indian emporia. As mentioned earlier, for most of the ocean crossing, the approximate trajec-
tories to Skythia, Barygaza, and Limyrike (at around 25°, 22°, and 10° N respectively) were suggested by the steadiness of the south-west monsoon: the vessels heading for South India held out sailing with the wind on the quarter for most of the way, and the ships bound for Skythia and Barygaza did the
same, but for no more than three days.⁵⁵

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asaffronladoftherisingsun

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When I say contacts I mean people to people contacts between all of BHARAT and Rome.

There is a good reason to believe that colonies of Romans for trade was present in South India in 2nd c. ad, & european soldiers described as powerful Yavanas & dumb Mlecchas clad in armour acted as bodyguards to Tamil kings... " -- Early History of India, pg 400-401, V. Smith

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Pepper Lands

South India was the only source of black pepper exported to the West. But within South India the precise geographical loci of pepper appear to have been subject to local intraregional shifts over time. A first shift occurred during the transition to Late Antiquity, when the pepper trade centres (at least those from which
pepper was exported to the West) moved from Muziris up to the Mangalore region. In the transition to the Late Middle Ages and then to Early Modernity, the focus of the pepper trade shifted again, but this time in the opposite direction, from Mangalore down to Calicut, and then from Calicut down to Cochin (Fig. 3.1). Although geographically close, these South Indian sub-regions achieved differing levels of pepper productivity in the Early Modern period. If similar disparities may also be assumed for Antiquity, we can infer a remarkable degree of variation in the volume of trade, which ultimately enables us to identify distinct economic cycles over the longue durée. It is not clear whether the shifts were also sensitive to the vagaries of local politics, but
whatever the local dynamics, they certainly mirror the shifting balance between the two macro regions that were the primary consumers of South Indian pepper: west Asia and the Mediterranean regions on one side, and the Bay of Bengal and China on the other.
 

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The one of the most or maybe it is the most important documents of roman empire trade is called Muziris is named after Malabar so it reminds you the significance ;)

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Then come Naura and Tyndis, the first ports of trade of Limyrike, and, after these, Muziris and Nelkynda, which are now the active ones. Tyndis, a well known village on the coast, is in the kingdom of Keprobotos. Muziris, in the same kingdom, owes its prosperity to the shipping from Ariake that comes
there as well as to Greek shipping. It lies on a river 500 stades distant from Tyndis by river and sea, and from <the river mouth> to it is 20 stades. Nelkynda is just about 500 stades from Muziris, likewise by river and sea, but it is in another kingdom, Pandion’s
which is PANDYA Empire.

It too lies on a river, about 120 stades from the sea.Another settlement lies at the very mouth of the river, Bakare, to which vessels drop downriver from Nelkynda for the outbound voyage; they anchor in the
open roads to take on their cargoes because the river has sandbanks and channels that are shoal. The kings themselves of both ports of trade dwell in the interior.¹


Muziris’ river, named the Cuḷḷi in an ancient Tamil verse,² is commonly identified with the Periyar River. The exact location of Muziris is approximated, if not exactly pinpointed, by the Roman pottery found at the site of Pattanam (some 25 kilometres north of the modern city of Kochi),³ and the Roman gold coin hoard of Valluvally (a few kilometres south of Pattanam).⁴ By combining Muziris’ approximate location with the 500-stade distances mentioned by the Periplus, one would locate Tyndis north, near the modern town of Ponnani,⁵ and Bakare/Nelkynda south, along a river emptying into the southern end of Vembanad Lake.⁶ Moreover, since Naura was most probably south of the pirates lying in wait on the Chersonesos (here identified with Mount Ely),⁷ its location may have been in the region of Chale (Chaliyam) or Cannanore (Kannur).⁸ In conclusion, the mid-first-century  pepper emporia of South India may have been scattered between Cannanore to the north and Kayamkulam to the south (Fig. 3.2). Approximately the same
coastline segment will later be highlighted by Tomé Pires for his estimate of
pepper production.⁹


The four emporia—Muziris, Nelkynda, Tyndis, and Naura—are said to be‘of Limyrike’. As a Western interpretation of an Indian geographic concept, the Limyrike of the Periplus may be compared with the Tamil choronym Tamiḻakam, designating the Tamil-speaking region of South India. In ancient Tamil texts, it is simply identified by the landmarks of the Vē :nkaṭ am hill to the north and Cape Comorin to the south.¹⁰ Understandably in aperiplographic account proceeding eastwards, the Periplus makes Limyrike
‘begin’ with its ‘first’ emporia, Naura and Tyndis—the north-western tip of Tamiḻakam—and continue along the coast at least up to Nelkynda.¹

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In north BHARAT ;)


The phrase used by the author of the Periplus to characterize pepperproduction in the Kottanarike sub-region (πέπερι μονογενῶς ἐν ἑνὶ τόπῳτούτων τῶν ἐμπορίων γεννώμενον πολύ) may be properly translated: ‘thepepper that grows in abundance uniquely in this one place of these emporia,
called Kottanarike.’³⁶



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asaffronladoftherisingsun

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Ancient Pricing

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Over a time span that ranges from the first to the sixth centuries , two different patterns emerge in the history of the pepper trade. In the first and second centuries , pepper was exported from Kottanarike on very large pepper carriers that sailed all the way from Egypt to India and back. In Late Antiquity, the supply region was the less productive Male area, and the logistics were characterized by a multi-stage sea route travelled (especially in the Red Sea leg) by smaller ships. Did this change have any impact on the way
pepper circulated inside the Roman Empire? In other words, did pepper grow more expensive in Late Antiquity?
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The ratio of pepper to gold in Late Antiquity may be approximated through the few data related to market prices in fourth- and fifth-century Egypt tabulated in Table 3.1.⁷⁵ The prices declared by the myropolai of Oxyrhynchus in  310/1 and 312 (P. Oxy. 54.3731; 3733), combined with the market price for gold of 316–17 (P. Oxy. 43.3121), give the ratio 1 : 288; this may be taken as the lowest limit, because it is likely that the pepper price went up between  312 and 317. The price declared by the same myropolai in  329, compared
with the market price for gold sometime between  325 and 330, suggests a ratio of around 1 : 199.5. The fifth-century price of CPR 7.42 gives a ratio fluctuating between 1 : 228 and 1 : 240 with the gold prices recorded in P.Oxy. 51.3628–33, and 1 : 288 in combination with the gold price attested in P.Thomas 26. In conclusion, it seems that, in Egypt, during the fourth and fifth centuries , the price for a pound of pepper fluctuated between one- third and one-fourth of a solidus.

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It is important to emphasize that the first signs of this directional shift in South India’s pepper export predate the third-century crisis of the Roman Empire. In fact, while the Akanāṉūṟ u 149 still mentions Yavaṉar’s vessels coming to Muziris with gold and sailing back with pepper,⁸⁷ later Tamil poems refer to black pepper being transferred to the emporia of the Coromandel Coast.⁸⁸ In particular, the Paṭ ṭ iṉappālai mentions sacks of black pepper that arrived overland among the foreign commodities lying in the streets of the
Coromandel port of Pukār, ready to be sent across the Bay of Bengal:

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