Monday, September 10, 2012

The Development of Trade between the Roman Empire and the East under Augustus

Introduction: During the period of the Roman Republic incense from Arabia, ivory from East Africa, pepper from India, and perhaps an occasional consignment of silk from China had reached Roman markets, having passed through the hands of many eastern merchants. The trade had remained small, for such wealth as Rome possessed was in the hands of a small number of landowners or financiers, and the unsettled conditions in the eastern Mediterranean were not conducive to a free flow of trade.

However, the establishment under Augustus of peace and stable rule throughout the Mediterranean rapidly altered the situation. For the first time the lands from Spain to Syria were organized to form an economic unity in which the necessities of life became readily obtainable, and the wealth previously expended in war was now available for more peaceful uses. It was perhaps the gravest economic mistake made by the Romans that much of this wealth, instead of being invested in furthering industries at home, was channelled into purchasing from the East the luxuries not obtainable within the Empire. Moreover, Alexandria and Antioch, the chief terminals for the eastern trade, had recently come directly under Roman control.

Via The Development of Trade between the Roman Empire and the East under Augustus