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War, Politics and Trade in the Roman Red Sea

4pm, Thursday 10th November 2011 in the Stevenson Lecture Theatre, Clore Education Centre

A lecture by Dario Nappo, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Dario red seaThe aim of the paper is to provide an analysis of the social and economic role of the merchants in the Roman trade with eastern countries such as India and Arabia, and of the means by which they were carrying out the trade. This will consequently lead to investigate the social cluster that acted as a financier and an entrepreneur. For this reason, I will attempt to draw a social reconstruction of the personnel and agents who were prominently involved in the business of the trade with East. This would allow reconstructing the commercial networks that were running the trade and describing the structure and the evolution of the firms engaged in the trade. This analysis will offer the potential for a completely new analysis of all the social actors involved in the Roman trade with East, from the traders, to the financiers, to the big entrepreneurs. A particular emphasis will be given to the role of both the social, economic and cultural elites of Alexandria in the lucrative Eastern trade network, and the freedmen and slaves of the Imperial House. This will allow me to shed some light on the role played by the Roman emperors and their entourage (i.e. the Imperial House) in directing and controlling the trade. The scholarship dealing with such matter has the habit of seriously underestimating the imperial role in the organization of the trade, believing that the main or only interest the emperors had in the trade was the tax revenue. Much more solid and detailed work is now required in order to validate and amplify this insight, through in-depth analysis of a series of documents.

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