Ptolemy Map
A Book Review by Senex Caecilius

Ancient Rome and India was edited by Rosa Maria Cimino and printed by Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd. (New Delhi, 1994) with 264 pages of text, 12 color plates, and 50 black and white plates (198 figures). Cover photograph: Ptolemy map

List of contributors: V. Avanzini, P. Callieri, R.M. Cimino, O. Colazingari, A. De Maigret, M.N. Deshpande, S.P. Gupta, S. Gupta, J.G. Calzini, D. Mazzeo, C. Pavolini, P.P. Peres, C. Rapin, H.P. Ray, A.E. Ricotti, A. Santoro, M. Taddei, A.K. Jha, K.V. Raman

The book is a catalogue of a documentary exhibition that was organized in 1994 to reflect the commercial and cultural contacts between the Roman world and India. It consists of a compilation of 64 short articles that begins with a discussion of European Geographic Knowledge About India in Ancient Times. Here are a few more chapter titles to whet your interest: Indian Ambassadors at the Roman Court, Land and Sea Routes Between Rome and India, Ancient Indian Ships, The Frankincense Trade, Indian Products in Roman Cuisine, Indian Plants in Graeco-Roman Medical Arts, Roman Coins in India, and Hellenism in India.

In India, East and West not only met in ancient times, but they intertwined as well. Here's a blurb from the book jacket.

Since ancient times, the Western Mediterranean had trading contacts with the Oriental world, which were more intense than we can imagine. They took place along the caravan routes through Central Asia, and the maritime routes across the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Ideas, new technologies, and different experiences of political and social life accompanied the commercial goods to be traded.

The frequency and intensity of these exchanges justifiably allows us to consider the Oriental and Western countries as part of one continent, the Euro-Asiatic continent.

India, because of its geographical position, played a privileged role in commercial trading and cultural exchanges between East and West.

The exhibition proposes to bring to light the importance of such exchanges that developed in a particular way during the Roman era, when the Pax Augusta enabled the broadening of markets, because of the ever growing request for spices and luxury products by the rich Roman middle class.

For additional information on India, you can consult these references:

• An AncientWorlds bulletin board, hosted in The Orient, offers discussions of the history and religions of this ancient civilization.
• A double-dactyl at The Tenth Muse provides a few links to topics about the Indus Valley, or the Harappan civilization as it is now known.
• A portion of this illustrated History of India site deals with its ancient history from prehistoric to medieval times and includes links to other periods.

[ back to the scriptorium ]