Port communities and the Erythraean Sea trade

Ross I. Thomas

Rome acquired control of the northern Red Sea following the annexation of Ptolemaic Egypt in 30 BC and the Nabataean Kingdom in AD 106. In the first three centuries of the current era, an explosion in the long distance trade between the Roman Empire and various states in India, East Africa and South Arabia, known as the Erythraean Sea trade, was sparked by Roman Imperial interests and the expensive tastes of Rome’s growing elite. This created bustling, cosmopolitan port communities at Aila, Berenike and Myos Hormos. These annexed lands were populated by indigenous, ethnically distinct populations, who inhabited the desert coastal regions of the Red Sea, whose relationships with the Roman Imperial authorities were chequered. This paper will describe who these people were, how we can identify them in the archaeological record and what they did within the ports, facilitating the Erythraean Sea trade.

Port communities and the Erythraean Sea trade

To reference this article we suggest:

Thomas, Ross I. 2012. Port communities and the Erythraean Sea trade. BMSAES 18: 169–99. http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/publications/online_journals/bmsaes/issue_18/thomas.aspx

Contact the author
rthomas@britishmuseum.org