The Indo-Roman Spice Trade

Map of Indo-Roman Trade Routes

At the rise of the Roman Empire, the Indo-Roman Trade was at its height. As Rome’s boundaries began growing to the east, so did the Roman’s taste for the variety of flavors that were native to the orient. Spices became a commodity. As Pliny tells us in his Natural History, “At the very lowest computation, India, the Seres, and the Arabian Peninsula, withdraw from our empire one hundred millions of sesterces every year.” (12.41). The spice trade flourished as Rome expanded, and costly spices such as pepper and cinnamon were soon in very high demand. Rome clamored for spice, and began undertaking long voyages and caravans to Arabia and India for the precious substances at times worth their weight in gold (Pliny 12.14). This exhibit seeks to explore the various ways such valuable and flavorful cargo journeyed across thousands of miles over land and sea to the heart of the Roman Empire: the city of Rome itself.

The Indo-Roman Spice Trade