Berenike and the Ancient Maritime Spice Route
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University of California Press
Series: California World History Library
Title Page, Copyright
Table of Contents
List of Figures
Preface and Acknowledgments
A book of this type demands a wide-ranging knowledge of numerous disciplines and aspects of antiquity over an extended period of time and broad geographical area. I do not possess such a breadth or depth of knowledge. Therefore, friends and colleagues have read and commented on some of these chapters at various stages of their writing, making...
List of Abbreviations
Chapter 1. Introduction
There was a “global economy” thousands of years before the term became fashionable in the late twentieth century.1 Yet, it is difficult to know where to begin to study this phenomenon or how it functioned and affected people’s lives in the centuries straddling the turn of the Common Era. The extant, best-known written sources for the last few centuries B.C.E....
Chapter 2. Geography, Climate, Ancient Authors, and Modern Visitors
The remains of Berenike Trogodytika1 lie approximately 825 kmsouth-southeast of Suez and about 260 km east of Aswan (figure 1-2). In the third century B.C.E. Ptolemaic authorities founded a settlement here, at the interface of the Eastern Desert and the Red Sea. Initially in the Ptolemaic era military and diplomatic, and later economic and government...
Chapter 3. Pre-Roman Infrastructure in the Eastern Desert
To communicate with the Red Sea ports in Egypt including Berenike, it was necessary to build roads linking the Nile to emporia on the coast and to provide those routes with water and protection to accommodate merchants, other civilian and military-government travelers, and their pack and draft animals....
Chapter 4. Ptolemaic Diplomatic-Military-Commercial Activities
Ptolemaic strata excavated at Berenike produced archaeological evidence that corroborates and adds to information preserved in ancient literary sources. The segment of an elephant tooth, mentioned later in this chapter, is evidence for live pachyderms in the city, as may be a V-shaped ditch, possibly the remains of an elephant retaining pen (see chapter...
Chapter 5. Ptolemaic and Early Roman Berenike and Environs
Excavations at Berenike revealed something about the size, layout, and building methods and materials used to create the port’s infrastructure and how these changed over the life of the city. Our project also recovered written documents (in at least twelve different ancient languages, although most texts are in Greek and Latin) and other artifacts...
Chapter 6. Inhabitants of Berenike in Roman Times
Here we will examine those who lived in Berenike in the Roman period, their professions, religious practices, and the languages they wrote and, likely, spoke. We will also explore how the foods they consumed were, along with other excavated data, indications of their ethnicity and social status....
Chapter 7. Water in the Desert and the Ports
Methods used for water acquisition, storage, protection, and distribution in Ptolemaic and Roman times in the Eastern Desert (figure 7-1) were undoubtedly similar to those employed in the Pharaonic era (see chapter 3). The most noteworthy difference was the scale on which these operations were conducted. Ptolemaic activities would have dwarfed...
Chapter 8. Nile–Red Sea Roads
An elaborate maritime network concatenated Berenike and other Egyptian Red Sea ports with emporia elsewhere in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. This maritime web was, however, incomplete without complementary terrestrial transportation points at those ports. Here we will examine these land routes in the Eastern Desert from about 30...
Chapter 9. Other Emporia
Leuke Kome/Albus Portus (White Village in Greek/Latin) was initially under Nabataean control. Strabo (Geography 16.4.23–24) and the Periplus (19) indicate that it was active in early Roman times, while Cosmas Indicopleustes (Christian Topography 2.62)2 suggests that it continued to operate in the late Roman era. Though Leuke Kome has not...
Chapter 10. Merchant Ships
Excavations have just begun in Berenike’s harbor south-southeast of the Ptolemaic industrial area. Nevertheless, we can estimate dimensions of Ptolemaic and early Roman ships, perhaps including elephantegoi (see chapter 4), that landed here. Calculations, which are based on remains visible on the surface, may vary somewhat from the actual dimensions...
Chapter 11. Commercial Networks and Trade Costs
After the annexation of Egypt in 30 B.C.E. Berenike became an important player in a series of interconnected local, regional, and wider-ranging trade and communication systems within and beyond the Roman Empire. A brief examination of important routes in the Mediterranean world and a lengthier discussion of the Red Sea–Indian Ocean...
Chapter 12. Trade in Roman Berenike
Evidence for Berenike’s commercial contacts in the Roman period is far better than for the Ptolemaic. Berenike’s peak era of trade was the first century C.E.; it may have continued into the second century, but not into the latter part, when a smallpox or measles epidemic, starting probably in spring 166, likely devastated the port’s inhabitants, as it...
Chapter 13. Late Roman Berenike and Its Demise
Following a brief flurry at Berenike in the late second/early third centuries, there was a hiatus with little archaeological documentation for much activity until about the mid fourth century C.E. Evidence for continued occupation in this period includes a papyrus of 163 C.E. requisitioning a camel from Fayum for imperial service on the Berenike...
Further Reading, Production Notes