the Elder (AD 77) who bewailed that India and
but it cannot be dismissed, for Rome had to ban trade in silk, cutlery and
other goods which were imported by it from the East. The introduction of
gold coinage on a significant scale by Vima Kadphises (Kushana ruler) in the
first century AD also makes it clear that India had a favourable balance of
trade with the Roman world.
The Romans also exported to India wine-amphorae (Italian, Laodician
and Arabian wines) and red-glazed Arrentine ware (pottery), which have
been discovered in recent excavations at Arikamedu. Other Roman exports to
India included metals like copper, tin and lead, minerals like real-gar,
antimony and orpiment, semi-precious stones like topaz, emerald and coral,
plant products like storax, sweet clover and frankincense, varieties of cloth
and glass and costly vessels of silver.
Inscriptions from western India (second century AD) mention foreign
perfume merchants (yavanagandhika), and it is probable that they had their
own quarters in the port towns in western India. Discovery of Arrentine vases
of such famous Italian potters as Vivie at Arikamedu-Virapattinam proves
that it was a prosperous south Indian settlement at least since AD 30.
Excavations at the same place have also revealed the remains of a Roman
trading station, the first of its kind discovered in India. As mentioned earlier,
the discovery of a large number of mint-fresh Roman coins issued in the early
centuries of the Christian era from extensive regions in south India would
also show the existence of such mercantile establishments at other port towns
in south India. However, on the basis of numismatic evidence again it has
been asserted that this Indo-Roman trade suffered a considerable setback in
the days of the Roman Emperor Caracalla (AD 217).
Trade with South-East Asia The decline of India’s trade with Rome was
accompanied by the increase of her mercantile relations with the countries of
South-East Asia. In the early centuries of the Christian era Indian or
Indianised states were emerging in Suvarnabhumi-Suvarnadvipa (Malay
Peninsula and Indonesian Archipelago), Kambuja and Champa (Cambodia
and Annam). These directly testify to the existence of a numerically strong
Indian element in the population of the respective countries. Indians visited
these countries primarily for trade. Archaeologically it can be shown that
Arikamedu was an entrepot for trade between Rome and Thailand and thence
Champa and China.