Thoughts on economics and liberty

Sone ki chidiya: How did India get so much gold? #3

Some more notes in ancient Indian trade with Rome and others:

Diamonds were a major export from India

"The Periplus reported that among the luxuries available for trade from India were gems including diamond. In turn, Rome sent staples such as tools and cheap clothing, as well as luxuries such as silver and gold ware." ["Diamonds from India to Rome and beyond" by Leonard Gorelick and A. John Gwinnett, American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 92, No. 4 (Oct., 1988), pp. 547-552]

Purest gold exported to India

"only the purest Roman gold and silver coins were exported to India: D.W. MacDowell, "The Export of Roman Republican Denarii to South Asia," Ancient Ceylon 8 (1989) 62-74; MacDowell, "Finds of Roman Coins in South Asia: Problems of Interpretation,"Ancient Ceylon 9 (1990) 49-73; MacDowell, "Indian Imports of Roman Silver Coins," in A.K. Jha ed., Coinage, Trade and Economy( Anjaneri 1991) 145-63." ["Nabataea, India, Gaul, and Carthage: Reflections on Hellenistic and Roman Gold Vessels and Red-Gloss Pottery" by Michael Vickers, American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 98, No. 2 (Apr., 1994), pp. 231-248]

Enormous amounts of gold in India

"The Indians . . . have an enormous amount of gold," according to Pausanias the Periegete, writing in the second century A.D. They had local supplies, but a major source was the Roman Empire. While half of the money expended on Oriental luxuries by the Romans may have remained in Arabia, the rest went to India,94 a land that has been said to possess "an almost magical capacity to soak up precious metals." The drain on Roman resources was remarked upon by Tiberius in a speech to the Senate in A.D. 22."

"northwest Indian port of Barygaza, whose very name, "Heavy with Treasure," is redolent of wealth. Here the Roman merchants paid for spices, gems, ivory, and cloth with an assortment of goods that included "gold and silver coin, on which there is a profit when exchanged for the money of the country." They would present to the king "very costly vessels of silver." The coins were traded as bullion, as is indicated by the fact that the issues actually found in India do not form a cross section of Roman gold and silver coinage, but appear to have been carefully selected with respect to the purity of the metal.' Any plate, however, presumably attracted a premium beyond its bullion value; Pliny's remark that "we have made gold and silver dearer by the art of engraving" suggests that artistry might have enhanced the value of traded goods.It was probably for this reason that "vessels of gold and polished silver" and "wrought gold and silver plate" were presented to the kings of Muza and Cana in South Arabia as part of the Romans' Indian Ocean trading pattern.' Goods from Barbaricum at the mouth of the Indus were also paid for with "silver and gold plate."  ["Nabataea, India, Gaul, and Carthage: Reflections on Hellenistic and Roman Gold Vessels and Red-Gloss Pottery" by Michael Vickers, American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 98, No. 2 (Apr., 1994), pp. 231-248]

"As part of their trade dealings with the distant East, Roman merchants exported vast amounts of gold and silver coinage to ancient India. In recent times sizable quantities of Roman coins have been found in India and these hoards can be used to indicate the development of Eastern trade and gauge its possible impact on imperial finances.
There have been close to 80 reported Roman coin finds documented in India. Most of these discoveries were made in the southern regions of the subcontinent and documented cases have ranged from single finds to large hoards containing hundreds of coins. Almost all of the Roman finds consist of high value gold or silver coins and it is rare to find hoards where these precious metals are mixed together." [ROME AND THE DISTANT EAST: TRADE ROUTES TO THE ANCIENT LANDS OF ARABIA, INDIA AND CHINA: Trade Routes to the Ancient Lands of Arabia, India and China, by Raoul McLaughlin, Continuum UK (2010)]

Indians enjoyed Italian and Arabian wine

This is a side import (apart from gold). Enormous evidence of SIGNIFICANT quantities of wine imports in ancient India: "We even know which types of wine were imported: "Italian [was] preferred, but also Laodicean and Arabian." ["Nabataea, India, Gaul, and Carthage: Reflections on Hellenistic and Roman Gold Vessels and Red-Gloss Pottery" by Michael Vickers, American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 98, No. 2 (Apr., 1994), pp. 231-248]

Amphora of the type in which wine was brought to India.

Other Roman imports

"Singing boys and beautiful maidens for the harem" are among the presents made to the ruler of Barygaza; further south, Tamil sources describe Yavana soldiers "whose stern looks strike terror into every beholder" employed as bodyguards,"' (although these may be mercenaries from eastern Hellenistic cities).Yavana carpenters were employed in the construction of a palace for a Chola king," and "Yavana vases and Yavana lamps with the figure of a swan on top of each, or lamps in the shape of a female statue in a standing posture, holding with both hands the receptacle for oil and wick appear to have been common in Tamil country." [ibid]

Clearly this entire subject is of great interest. Unfortunately, I've got to move on to other important work. I hope someone can point me to definitive works on this subject that explore not just trade in goods but trade in ideas between Greece/Rome and ancient India.

Indo-Roman Trade Bibliography

Quick addendum

[Source: http://www.indianexpress.com/storyOld.php?storyId=81950]

With the Underwater Archaeology Wing of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) finding late Roman amphorae, coins and sherds of pottery — including red polished ware, black slipped ware, red ware and some gray ware — on Elephanta, the stage is now set for a proper excavation around the island. The finding had come as a surprise, since so far, large number of amphorae were found only in Kanchipuram and Arikamedu.

Amphora is one of the principal vessel shapes in Greek pottery. They are handled pots used to transport a variety of things including olives, cereals, oil, wine, fish and even metal.

Underwater archaeologists are set to uncover unknown secrets of Elephanta island, buried in the Arabian Sea. Extensive explorations on the island—its shores and the beaches—have revealed a treasure indicating existence of a rich trade with the late Roman Empire during the 4th to 7th century AD.

The findings establish it as a significant port of the period—a fact hitherto unknown. And that people on the west coast liked imported goods and Roman wine. The small island, east of Mumbai, was, so far, best known for its cave temples and rock-cut images, specially of the monolithic elephant which once stood on its southern tip.

With the Underwater Archaeology Wing of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) finding late Roman amphorae, coins and sherds of pottery — including red polished ware, black slipped ware, red ware and some gray ware — on Elephanta, the stage is now set for a proper excavation around the island. The finding had come as a surprise, since so far, large number of amphorae were found only in Kanchipuram and Arikamedu.

Amphora is one of the principal vessel shapes in Greek pottery. They are handled pots used to transport a variety of things including olives, cereals, oil, wine, fish and even metal.

Head of ASI’s Underwater Archaeology Wing Dr Alok Tripathi had been quietly exploring the island since 1988, but it’s only in the last two years that extensive explorations were done. The richest site turned out to be the area around village Mora Bandar on the island.

‘‘The discovery of a large variety of amphorae and other antiquities on the island may solve some of the historical riddles,’’ said Tripathi. In addition to indicating continuity of trade with the western world during 5th-7th century AD, the findings may also answer why Chalukya King Pulakesin II of Badami had invaded this small island with a tiny population and limited natural resources in 634 AD.

‘‘We probably know why he did it. Elephanta appears to have been a prosperous island with a thriving trade,’’ said the underwater archaeologist. It is all the more significant since around the same period, the cave temple on the island, enshrining Mahesmurti, was excavated.

Since the explorations had yielded rich treasures, the next logical thing is to undertake detailed survey and excavation. Tripathi said that the area around Mora Bandar is strewn with a large number of potsherds. ‘‘Even the sand on the shore, at the north and the east of the village, is full of potsherds washed away and rolled by the waves,’’ he said.

‘‘We will start excavation in the ongoing field season of 2005-06. Since exploration results have been encouraging, we expect Elephanta to be a rich heritage site,’’ Tripathi added. This is the second site which the wing will excavate, after Mahabalipuram.

Please follow and like us:
Pin Share

Sanjeev Sabhlok

View more posts from this author
Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial