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Berenike and the Ancient Maritime Spice Route$
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Steven Sidebotham

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780520244306

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520244306.001.0001

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Ptolemaic Diplomatic-Military-Commercial Activities

Ptolemaic Diplomatic-Military-Commercial Activities

(p.32) 4 Ptolemaic Diplomatic-Military-Commercial Activities
Berenike and the Ancient Maritime Spice Route

Steven E. Sidebotham

University of California Press

Ptolemaic strata excavated at Berenike produced archaeological evidence that corroborates and adds to information preserved in ancient literary sources. The segment of an elephant tooth is evidence for live pachyderms in the city. The “discovery” of the monsoons and their exploitation by “western” sailors drastically reduced travel times and costs between Red Sea ports in Egypt and the Indian subcontinent for Ptolemaic and later Roman ships when they were in the Indian Ocean. Ptolemies' trade in ivory helped to defray expenses entailed in elephant acquisition, transportation, and training. Elephant and ivory acquisition was well organized on a large scale by the reign of Philadelphus. Berenike was clearly the preferred landfall, although on occasion elephants might be disembarked at more northerly ports for a host of practical or other reasons. Furthermore, Romans were fascinated with and curious about elephants.

Keywords:   Berenike, elephants, ivory, transportation, Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Ptolemaic

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