Ancient Maritime Trade

Merchant ships have been sailing the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea for 5000 years, gradually leading to a ‘Mediterranisation’ of the economy, just like today’s globalised economy extends across the whole planet.

Containers:  Goods (also called ‘commodities’) have always been shipped either as loose units or as dry or liquid bulk. Ancient units were amphorae, dolia, barrels and sacks that could be placed on a ship, a cart, a camel or a donkey.

Trade hubs: A transport hub is a place where cargo is exchanged from one transport mode to the other. Four ‘main hubs’ are well known during the Roman era: Rome, Alexandria, Carthage and Gades. Other important places are fairly concentrated in an area between Rome and Rhodes and it cannot be denied that this area was the most active area both for trade and for naval operations during a millennium from the 5th c. BC to the 5th c. AD. During this period thousands of coastal settlements were founded.

Imported goods: We tried to find out where they came from and where they were going (mostly to Rome!). The result is also summarised per exporting country and some sailing routes have been defined.