1st Edition

The Indian Ocean Trade in Antiquity
Political, Cultural and Economic Impacts

ISBN 9781138738263
Published August 23, 2018 by Routledge
238 Pages 13 B/W Illustrations

USD $155.00

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Book Description

The period from the death of Alexander the Great to the rise of the Islam (c. late fourth century BCE to seventh century CE) saw a significant growth in economic, diplomatic and cultural exchange between various civilisations in Africa, Europe and Asia. This was in large part thanks to the Indian Ocean trade. Peoples living in the Roman Empire, Parthia, India and South East Asia increasingly had access to exotic foreign products, while the lands from which they derived, and the peoples inhabiting these lands, also captured the imagination, finding expression in a number of literary and poetic works.

The Indian Ocean Trade in Antiquity provides a range of chapters that explore the economic, political and cultural impact of this trade on these diverse societies, written by international experts working in the fields of Classics, Archaeology, South Asian studies, Near Eastern studies and Art History. The three major themes of the book are the development of this trade, how consumption and exchange impacted on societal developments, and how the Indian Ocean trade influenced the literary creations of Graeco-Roman and Indian authors.

This volume will be of interest not only to academics and students of antiquity, but also to scholars working on later periods of Indian Ocean history who will find this work a valuable resource.

Table of Contents

List of figures

List of tables

List of contributors


Chapter 1: Introduction: The Indian Ocean Trade in Antiquity and Global History

Matthew Adam Cobb

Part 1: The Western Indian Ocean: A Developing Trade

Chapter 2: From the Ptolemies to Augustus: Mediterranean Integration into the Indian Ocean Trade

Matthew Adam Cobb

Chapter 3: Indian Ocean Trade: The Role of Parthia

Leonardo Gregoratti

Chapter 4: Ethnographies of Sailing: From the Red Sea to the Bay of Bengal in Antiquity

Himanshu Prabha Ray

Chapter 5: Patchworking the West Coast of India: Noes of the ‘Periplus of the Erythaean Sea’

Federico De Romanis

Part 2: The Indian Ocean and Cross-Cultural Engagement: People, Commodities, and Society

Chapter 6: Indian Ocean Commerce in Context: The Economic and Revenue Significance of Red Sea Trade in the Ancient World Economy

Raoul John McLaughlin

Chapter 7: Erythaean Pearls in the Roman World: Features and Aspects if Luxury Consumption (late second century BCE – second century CE)

Pierre Schneider

Chapter 8: India Abroad: Evidence for Ancient Indian Maritime Activity

Frederick M. Asher

Part 3: The Indian Ocean Influence on Literary Culture

Chapter 9: The Universe from an Egg: Creation Narratives in the Ancient Indian and Greek Texts

Fiona Mitchell

Chapter 10: The Impact of the Indian Ocean Trade on the Ancient Novel

Juan Pablo Sánchez Hernández

Chapter 11: Between Egypt and India: on the Route of the Ancient Novel

Marco Palone

Chapter 12: Conclusion

Matthew Adam Cobb


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Matthew Adam Cobb is a lecturer in ancient history at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, UK, and his main area of research focuses on Graeco-Roman participation in the Indian Ocean trade, as well as cross-cultural engagement between the West and East in antiquity.


"The Indian Ocean Trade in Antiquity is an interesting and important addition to the ever-increasing number of studies on the topic. The authors have all increased our understanding of how interconnected the world became thanks to this trade." - Joshua R. Hall, Cardiff University, writing for Ancient World Magazine


"This is an ambitious, wide-ranging collection. The breadth and depth of material is considerable... an important contribution to the interdisciplinary study of economic and cultural exchange across the Indian Ocean." - Bryn Mawr Classical Review


"This extremely interesting book engages with a great number of different historical issues, as well as applying different approaches to a complex economic phenomenon that brought about several non-economic implications." - The Classical Journal