Journal article / The trade of the port of Muziris in ancient times

Anitta G. Kunnappilly. 2018. “The trade of the port of Muziris in ancient times,” International Journal of Maritime History 30 (3), pp. 519-525.

Abstract: The ancient port-town of Muziris was situated on the western coast of Kerala in present-day India. It was famed for its spice trade, notably the shipment of pepper and cinnamon, which were indigenous to the Malabar region.

The significance of this port town in the ancient spice route is evident in literary sources, from Pliny (Natural History) and Strabo (Geographica) to the Sangam epic works of Chithalai Chathanar (Silapadikaram) and Illango Adigal (Manimekalei). The Muziris economy depended on the spice trade.

The Sangam works describe the wars that were waged between Chera and the Pandyan kingdoms to win monopoly rights to the ancient spice routes. The Muziris-Vienna Papyrus, a second century AD parchment, speaks of the huge quantity of pepper that was traded from Muziris to Alexandria through Koptos and Berneike in a ship named Hermopollen. 

The parchment also describes the taxes that were imposed on these commodities, and the well-organised merchant guilds based at Muziris.  This substantiates the claims of the Peutinger Tablet regarding Roman soldiers being stationed at Muziris to protect their commodities from pirates.

Literary sources are therefore invaluable to an understanding of the trans-oceanic trade of Muziris, which not only conveyed goods, religion, architecture and culture to and from the port, but also underpinned the state and economy of this particular place.

More info:

Reposted from Kerala Scholars eGroup