History of spices

Spices such as cinnamon, cassia, cardamom, ginger, and turmeric were known, and used for commerce, in the Eastern World well into antiquity.These spices found their way into the Middle East before the beginning of the Common Era, where the true sources of these spices was withheld by the traders, and associated with fantastic tales. The Egyptians had traded in the Red Sea, importing spices from the “Land of Punt” and from Arabia. Luxury goods traded along the Incense Route included Indian spices, ebony, silk and fine textiles. The spice trade was associated with overland routes early on but maritime routes proved to be the factor which helped the trade grow. The Ptolemaic dynasty had developed trade with India using the Red Sea ports.

With the establishment of Roman Egypt, the Romans further developed the already existing trade. The Roman-Indian routes were dependent upon techniques developed by the maritime trading power, Kingdom of Axum (ca 5th century BC–AD 11th century) which had pioneered the Red Sea route before the 1st century. When they encountered Rome (circa 30 BC– 10 AD) they shared with Roman merchants knowledge of riding the seasonal monsoons of the Arabian Sea, keeping a cordial relationship with one another until the mid-7th century.

As early as 80 BC, Alexandria became the dominant trading center for Indian spices entering the Greco-Roman world. Indian ships sailed to Egypt. The thriving maritime routes of Southern Asia were not under the control of a single power,[9] but through various systems eastern spices were brought to the major spice trading ports of India such as Barbaricum, Barygaza, Muziris, Korkai, Kaveripattinam, and Arikamedu.

According to The Cambridge History of Africa (1975):
“The trade with Arabia and India in incense and spices became increasingly important, and Greeks for the first time began to trade directly with India. The discovery, or rediscovery, of the sea-route to India is attributed to a certain Eudoxos, who was sent out for this purpose towards the end of the reign of Ptolemy Euergetes II (died 116 BC). Eudoxos made two voyages to India, and subsequently, having quarrelled with his Ptolemaic employers, perished in an unsuccessful attempt to open up an alternative sea route to India, free of Ptolemaic control, by sailing around Africa. The establishment of direct contacts between Egypt and India was probably made possible by a weakening of Arab power at this period, for the Sabaean kingdom of South-western Arabia collapsed and was replaced by Himyarite Kingdom around 115 BC. Imports into Egypt of cinnamon and other eastern spices, such as pepper, increased substantially, though the Indian Ocean trade remained for the moment on quite a small scale, no more than twenty Egyptian ships venturing outside the Red Sea each year.

Courtesy: Wikipedia