Berenike and the Ancient Maritime Spice Route
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Berenike and the Ancient Maritime Spice Route

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The legendary overland silk road was not the only way to reach Asia for ancient travelers from the Mediterranean. During the Roman Empire's heyday, equally important maritime routes reached from the Egyptian Red Sea across the Indian Ocean. The ancient city of Berenike, located approximately 500 miles south of today's Suez Canal, was a significant port among these conduits. In this book, Steven E. Sidebotham, the archaeologist who excavated Berenike, uncovers the role the city played in the regional, local, and 'global' economies during the eight centuries of its existence. Sidebotham analyzes many of the artifacts, botanical and faunal remains, and hundreds of the texts he and his team found in excavations, providing a profoundly intimate glimpse of the people who lived, worked, and died in this emporium between the classical Mediterranean world and Asia.

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  • Hardback | 456 pages
  • 177.8 x 256.54 x 35.56mm | 975.22g
  • 01 Mar 2011
  • University of California Press
  • Berkerley
  • English
  • 47 b/w photographs, 12 maps
  • 0520244303
  • 9780520244306
  • 1,370,173

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Author Information

Steven E. Sidebotham is Professor of History at the University of Delaware and author of Roman Economic Policy in the Erythra Thalassa, 30 BC--AD 21.

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Review quote

"This highly readable, indeed exciting, book explores numerous aspects of ancient Berenike." American Journal Of Archaeology "A remarkably detailed picture of the Egyptian business world along the Red Sea and Indian coast... Many historians will be grateful." -- Wim Broekaert Bryn Mawr Classical Review (BMCR) "[A] fascinating story." Times Literary Supplement (TLS) "The detail of data is remarkable, and one is left with excellent understanding of life in this remote city." -- Duane W. Roller American Journal Of Archaeology "Sidebotham tells the fascinating story of how this isolated harbour site owed its existence to long-range commerce." -- David Mattingly Times Higher Education

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Flap copy

For almost a millennium, from its foundation in the third century BCE to late antiquity, the Red Sea port of Berenike was a key part of the sea route that linked the Mediterranean to South Asia. The excavations conducted by Professor Sidebotham and his international team have provided unprecedented detail about the urban history of Berenike, the lives of its inhabitants, its role in the spice trade, and the products that passed through its port. "Berenike and the Ancient Maritime Spice Route" is a major contribution to world historical scholarship that will fundamentally change our understanding of ancient trade in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. Stanley M. Burstein, California State University, Los Angeles With singular focus and an indefatigable spirit, Sidebotham has pursued the remote and difficult site of Berenike. After ten excavation seasons, only a portion of the site has been excavated, but the dividends have been magnificent, yielding exciting new archeological evidence that illuminates the flourishing maritime sea trade in antiquity beyond any reasonable expectation. Sidebotham places Bernike in the larger contextual framework and considers it from every possible angle, including the transportation lattice that connected Berenike with the Nile, its relations with other emporia, the merchant ships used, the exotic trade items it received, and a fascinating explanation of the demise of Berenike and global trade in the sixth century. This engrossing analysis is destined to become the standard source for all who are interested in the international trade of antiquity. David F. Graf, author of "Rome and the Arabian Frontier: from the Nabataeans to the Saracens""

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