ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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A Misnomer in Political Economy

Classical Indo-Roman Trade

An independent evaluation of the latest archaeological data unearthed at ancient port-sites of the Egyptian desert and Indian west coast confirms that the classical overseas trade, celebrated in ancient Indian historiography as the "Indo-Roman trade", was an exchange of serious imbalance, because of its being between an empire and a region of uneven chiefdoms. The Tamil south was a region characterised by the interactive coexistence of several unevenly evolved and kinship-based redistributive economies structured by the dominance of agro-pastoral means of subsistence and predatory politics. It was distinct for its semi-tribal political economy that precluded any demand for Mediterranean luxury goods. Even the presumption that the chieftain had shipped his goods only up to the Red Sea coast, and had depended on intermediaries for the remaining jobs, is difficult to accept.

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