Did you know?: Interactions between Indian Subcontinent and Western Land during Roman Empire

Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, India. © Images of India / Shutterstock.com

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Western people from Roman Empire had left a significant trace within the Silk Roads. Their presence in many Eastern territories had constituted a considerable legacy. With the maritime routes, Romans ships also used to moor in the South Western coast of Indian subcontinent, where their influence is well known. However, we are less familiar with their activities in the South-Eastern coasts.

In fact, Western people from Roman Empire were present in the South-Eastern coasts of Indian subcontinent, notably in the Tamilnadu region in the Coromandel Coast. Due to the region’s strategic status as an international centre for trade, Romans acquired products from the Coromandel Coast – such as horses, pearls, or spices – and from different parts of South Indian subcontinent, Ceylon and South East Asia.

In addition, this coastal trading centre had commercial exchanges with the South Western Indian subcontinent, and the Mediterranean Sea. Through the above-mentioned maritime Silk routes, Romans were able to come to the Coromandel Coast. Moreover, archaeological evidence recently found in Egypt, show that merchants who traded with the Mediterranean areas via the Red Sea were inhabitants of the Coromandel Coast, proving the extent of these East-West interrelations.

Additionally, Romans not only traded and exchanged goods in the Coromandel Coast, they also worked in the Coromandel Coast, as artisans integrated as members of the community of this region. Thus, allowing these two cultures from distant lands, to share some of their skills, such as craftsmanship. In this way, artists, blacksmiths, carpenters, and architects of the Coromandel Coast and Romans built together to contribute to the development of the city of Kaveripattinam in Tamilnadu.   

Furthermore, Western Roman Empire artefacts such as wares, amphorae jars, lamps or coins demonstrate their influence in this part of the world. Other cultural influences were shared such as cuisine elements, illustrated by a special sweet-scented wine. All these exchanges led to interactions and discoveries about the other culture, as written by Nakkirar in its well-known poems: “May the sweet scented wine (…) served unto you everyday on trays of chiselled gold by girls with sparkling wrists and, after tasting of it, may you be filled with merriment…”.

Therefore, this relationship began with a commercial trade. It also permitted people from Indian subcontinent and Western people from Roman Empire to exchange and learn skills from each other. It allowed distant communities to share their cultures and talent together to enrich the development along the Silk Roads.


See also:

Trade Routes in Himalayan India

Pakistan and the Silk Roads

The Anatolian Silk Roads

The Silk Routes of the Mongols

The Southern Silk Roads

The Great Silk Roads

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