“Barbarians” and Blemmyes: who was in control of the Red Sea port of Berenike in the Late Antique period?

Cobb, Matthew (2020) “Barbarians” and Blemmyes: who was in control of the Red Sea port of Berenike in the Late Antique period? Journal of Late Antiquity. ISSN 1939-6716 (In Press)

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Abstract

In the early centuries CE, the Roman state attempted to monitor, tax and protect traders and travelers crossing the Eastern Desert (against the potentially dangerous barbaroi). These traders were operating from sites like Berenike and Myos Hormos, key ports for the Red Sea branch of the Indian Ocean trade. Conversely, during the course of the third century, this situation changed. The praesidia (small forts) lining these routes were abandoned, Myos Hormos ceased to operate, and activity at Berenike reached a low ebb. In the Late Antique period, there was a revival of activity, with more northerly ports like Clysma and Aila coming into prominence. Berenike also saw a revival, but who controlled this site remains less clear. Three possible scenarios are examined in this article. The first is that the Roman state was (in)directly in charge, perhaps through Christianized Saracen foederati. The second is that (a certain faction of) the Blemmyes were employed as foederati. The third is that the Blemmyes largely controlled Berenike and that traders were permitted to operate at the port under their sufferance. It is argued here that the latter two possibilities are now the most likely in light of recent archaeological and epigraphic discoveries.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Late antique period Red sea ports Berenike Eastern desert Roman state Trade
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D051 Ancient History
Divisions: Institutes and Academies > Institute of Education and Humanities > Academic Discipline: Humanities
Depositing User: Matthew Cobb
Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2021 09:07
Last Modified: 01 Jul 2021 14:05
URI: https://repository.uwtsd.ac.uk/id/eprint/1561

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