The Roman Empire and the Indian Ocean’s Dealings...

Book Details

Author  Raoul McLaughlin
Publisher  Pen and Sword
Publication Date   November 19, 2014
ISBN  1783463813
Pages  272

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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.


Investigating how the Roman Empire functioned, and particularly how it paid its enormous military costs, McLaughlin argues that the answer lies outside the Mediterranean and western part of Europe to which most classical historians limit their view. He contends that the Roman Empire belonged to an ancient world economy that stretched thousands of miles across the Indian Ocean and that significant commercial contacts linked Roman subjects with their distant counterparts in east Africa, southern Arabia, and the kingdoms of ancient India. He confirms these trade exchanges by source testimony from many different cultures and numerous archaeological finds.

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