Palmyrene Merchants and the Red Sea Trade

Cobb, Matthew (2020) Palmyrene Merchants and the Red Sea Trade. In: Inter duo Imperia: Palmyra between East and West. Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart, pp. 65-83. ISBN 978-3-515-12774-5

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International and inter-regional trade has long been recognised as a major facet of Palmyrene economic life, leading some to even refer to Palmyra as a “caravan city”. The city’s location by the Tadmor Oasis near the edge of the Syria Desert left it quite well-placed to act as a conduit between Mesopotamian-Persian Gulf trade networks and the markets of the Eastern Mediterranean. This commercial activity is evidenced by a rich array material finds, such as pearls, agate/carnelian beads and silks (particularly from tombs), as well as by a few dozen inscriptions that refer to the successful arrival of camel caravans. These inscriptions, in particular, underlie the importance of connections with sites in central (Babylon, Seleucia and Vologesias) and southern Mesopotamia (Spasinou Charax and Forat), where imports from India, southern Arabia and beyond could be acquired. A few of these inscriptions even indicate that some Palmyrene merchants sailed directly to regions like “Skythia” (northwest Indian subcontinent). Given the importance of the traditional Mesopotamian-Persian Gulf trade networks, it may perhaps be surprising to find that some Palmyrene merchants eschewed these traditional routes in favour of the Egypt-Red Sea branch of the Indian Ocean trade. The aim of this paper is to explore why this might have been the case. In order to do this, the discussion is split up into three major sections. The first considers the available evidence for Palmyrene participation in the Egypt-Red Sea trade routes and whether there are any major phases for this activity. The second section considers whether evidence for Palmyrene presence at certain sites in southern Arabia and on the island of Socotra may relate to Egypt-Red Sea or Mesopotamian-Persian Gulf trade networks. The third section analyses the potential “push” and “pull” factors which may have encouraged participation in the Egypt-Red Sea trade.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D051 Ancient History
D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > DT Africa
Divisions: Institutes and Academies > Institute of Education and Humanities > Academic Discipline: Humanities and Social Sciences
Depositing User: Matthew Cobb
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2023 14:26
Last Modified: 29 Jun 2023 14:26

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