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This webpage reproduces an article in the
Journal of the American Oriental Society
Vol. 35 (1915), p224‑239

The text is in the public domain.

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 p224  The Eastern Iron Trade of the Roman Empire.
By Wilfred H. Schoff, Secretary of the Commercial Museum, Philadelphia, Pa.

In that encyclopedia of the Roman Empire compiled by the elder Pliny under the title of "Historia Naturalis", there is a passage about iron in the 34th book which deals with metals and metallurgy, paragraph 145,º as follows: "Of all the kinds the palm is to the Seric iron. The Seres send this with their textile fabrics and skins. The second place is to the Parthian, and there are no other kinds of iron which are tempered into the true steel for they are mixed with other elements".​1 Although in Pliny's "Natural History" there are several references to the Seres and a very full account of the mining and smelting of iron in all parts of the world that were in communication with Rome, there is no other passage in that work in which the Seres and iron are brought together, nor is there in any other work that survives to us from the Roman and Greek period anything to connect the people known as the Seres with the production of or trade in iron. Yet upon this slender authority rests the assumption that the steel was brought overland to imperial Rome from far-away China. It may be worth while to consider this question in some detail, and in so doing it seems clear that we shall be forced to conclude that the exportation of iron and steel by the central Asian caravan routes from China to Rome was most improbable, and that this chance reference in Pliny's text to the Seres involves a double confusion, and refers neither to the silk traders of Chinese Turkestan, nor to the silk trade itself.

The subject is of some present interest because by no less  p225 an authority than our much-respected fellow-member, Professor Hirth, it has been said: "We know that the iron industry of China assumed important dimensions during the following centuries. Chinese iron must have been of very superior quality, since not only the countries of central Asia drew their supplies from the far East, but even the Roman market, as is known from Pliny, who says that of all kinds of iron coming to Rome, the Chinese (Sericum Ferrum) is the best".​2 Again, in Rockhill's introduction to Professor Hirth's splendid edition of the mediaeval Chinese Chau Ju‑Kua, it is said: "The first accurate information concerning China was supplied by the author of the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, writing somewhere about 80 A.D. Although the author of the Periplus knew little of China's position, he supplied other reliable information concerning it. We learned from him that already things from there came from a city in the interior of that country, from which silk, both raw and spun into thread and woven into fine stuff, also furs and iron, were brought overland through Bactria, to various points on the western coast of India".​3 So too in China and the Roman Orient it is said: "Pliny speaks of iron and skins as articles imported from the Seres". Then follow several references to Chinese records, notably a list of trade products from Ma‑Tuan‑Lin, with the remark that "This list may give us an idea what goods may be drawn from the Chinese market provided there was demand for them in the West";​4 although it is to be noted that the Ma‑Tuan‑Lin list as quoted does not include iron.

Swank, in his Iron in all Ages quotes the reference from Pliny with the observation that "This early reference to Chinese steel is historically very important".​5 Then in so thorough a reference work as Speck's Handelsgeschichte des Altertums it is said: "Ausser Seide kamen noch Felle oder Tierhäute und vortreffliches Eisen aus China nach Indien".​6 On the other hand, in another great monument of Chinese research, Richthofen's China, which deals at length with the trade and trade routes between China and Mediterranean lands, the passage in Pliny above quoted receives only passing reference,  p226 and his mention of iron is entirely ignored, the chapter being devoted mainly to an examination of the silk trade.7

It involves no denial of the early development of the iron industry in China to confess a doubt that Chinese iron found its way overland to Rome. The Chinese Annals contain many very important references to this industry. It is notable, however, that while in Professor Hirth's earlier work, China and the Roman Orient, he lays some stress on the iron industry of northwestern China,​8 in his more recent work, Ancient History of China, he emphasizes rather the iron industry and the extensive government control thereof in the kingdom of Ts'i,​9 which is known to us of this day as the Shantung Peninsula on the eastern coast of China; that is, we should be obliged to assume not only the carriage of that iron across the central Asian desert, but actually across the entire land area of the Celestial Kingdom. We should be compelled also to account for the production of an unusually fine grade of native steel in China, whereas the passages quoted from the Chinese Annals refer to the industry as important because of its producing the household utensils and agricultural implements required by all citizens, and therefore easily taxed and monopolized by the Government. We are certainly led to infer from Professor Hirth's quotations that bronze long remained the metal preferred for edged tools, iron not having been tempered to such a point as to hold the required edge.​10 And it is my impression that fine iron-working in China is of relatively recent development.

Something of the relative value and extent of distribution of Chinese iron may be gathered from Professor Hirth's Chau Ju‑Kua,​11 in which it appears that traders from Chinese ports to foreign countries took iron to Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula, Java, the Philippine Islands, Hai-nan and Formosa; but this iron consisted apparently of pots, censers, tripods, coarse needles and utensils, whereas particular reference is made in that very text to the excellence of the iron swords and other weapons produced in India, which apparently found their way to the same markets that took the coarse utensils  p227 of Chinese iron.​12 Again we get some idea of the value of Chinese iron in the travels of the Chinese Buddhist I‑tsing at the end of the 7th century. In his account of a visit to the Nicobar Islands, which he calls the "country of the naked people", he says: "When the natives saw our vessel coming they hurriedly embarked in little boats, their number being fully a hundred. They brought cocoanut, bananas and things made of rattan cane and bamboo and wished to exchange them. What they are anxious to get is iron only. For a piece of iron as large as two fingers one gets from five to ten cocoanuts".​13 A similar account we find in Reinaud's compilation of the early Arab voyages: "When a ship passes near, the men come out in boats of various sizes and barter ambergris and cocoanuts for iron".14

These are indications merely, but they suggest a manufacture of iron for domestic uses and not of the highest quality, certainly not of value sufficient to carry the cost of the tremendous journey across the Asiatic continent from northeastern China to the Levant, rather more than 5,000 miles.

From the Geography of Ptolemy we have a fairly trustworthy story of the silk caravans which traveled this ancient trade route, quoted from Marinus of Tyre, who gave the personal account of a Macedonian silk merchant named Maes, according to whom the silk traders left the Bay of Issus in Cilicia, crossing Mesopotamia, Assyria and Media to the Caspian Gates, thence through Parthia, Hyrcania, Aria and Bactria; thence through the "mountainous country of the Comedi and through the territory of the Sacae to the Stone Tower, the station of the merchants who trade with the Seres; thence to the Casii and through the country of the Thaguri until after a seven months' journey from the Stone Tower the merchants arrive at Sera metropolis".​15 Under ordinary conditions, therefore, the entire journey between the Mediterranean and the Chinese capital of Singan‑fu (which is about 500 miles further west than the iron country of Shantung), would have  p228 taken the better part of a year in either direction. The camels and the drivers and the merchants must all eat, the "great kings of kings" and the lesser potentates through whose dominions they passed must all receive their tribute, and it is self-evident that the iron which to the sea-traders yielded five cocoanuts for two fingers' weight could not stand the cost of that great overland journey to Rome. The greatness of the cost appears in all the contemporary accounts of the silk trade. In the time of the Emperor Aurelian we learn that silk was worth its weight in gold, and that he neither used it himself, nor allowed his wife to possess a garment of it, thereby setting an example against the luxurious tastes that were draining the Roman Empire of its resources.​16 During the reign of Tiberius the Roman Senate had enacted a law "that men should not defile themselves by wearing garments of silk",​17 and Pliny speaks of it as "among the most valuable productions in the world",​18 and vigorously declaims against the great drain on Roman resources by the export of specie in return for these luxuries of the East.​19 The high cost was the natural result of the overland journey and the systematic manner in which the trade was monopolized.

That the so‑called Seres, who forwarded the silk to Rome, were not dealers in iron is clear also from other Roman descriptions of that people. Pliny himself speaks of them as "famous for the wool that is found in their forests", by which mistaken reference he means their silk. "They are", says he, "of inoffensive manners, shun intercourse with the rest of mankind, and wait the approach of those who wish to traffic with them".​20 Ammianus Marcellinus gives us a more trustworthy account.​21 East of Scythia is "a ring of mountains which surround Serica, a country considerable both for its extent and for the fertility of its soil. This tribe on their western side border on the Scythians, on the north and east they look towards snowy deserts, toward the south they extend as far as India and the Ganges . . . . . The Seres themselves  p229 live quietly, always avoiding arms and battles; and as ease is pleasant to moderate and quiet men, they give trouble to none of their neighbors. Their climate is agreeable and healthy; the sky serene, the breezes gentle and delicious. They have numbers of shining groves, the trees of which through continued watering produce a crop like the fleece of a sheep, which the natives make into a delicate wool, and spin into a kind of fine cloth, formerly confined to the use of the nobles, but now procurable by the lowest of the people without distinction. The natives themselves are the most frugal of men, cultivating a peaceful life, and shunning the society of other men. And when strangers cross their river to buy their cloth, or any other of their merchandise, they interchange no conversation, but settle the price of the articles wanted by nods and signs; and they are so modest that, while selling their own produce, they never buy any foreign wares".

The location of this land of the silk traders is thoroughly identified with the modern Sarikol in the Chinese Pamirs above Khotan and Kashgar,​22 the Casii of Ptolemy, and it will be observed that there is not the slightest reference to any trade in metals, only in silk.

If now we refer to the Periplus, which has been quoted by Mr. Rockwell as authority for a Chinese iron trade, we find that its only references to iron are the following: — in paragraph 6, which contains an account of the import trade of Adulis, the Red Sea port of Abyssinia, we find included: "Iron, which is made into spears used against the elephants and other wild beasts, and in their wars";​23 while in the same paragraph it is said: "Likewise from the inland regions of Ariaca there are imported Indian iron and steel".​24 The same imports are noted at other seaports of the Horn of Africa. Turning now to the exports of India we find in the list of goods shipped from the mouths of the Indus, silk, precious stones, indigo, drugs and aromatics, but no iron; and in its account of the foreign trade from China in paragraph 64 the Periplus mentions silk, but has no reference to iron. It  p230 speaks of the city of Thinae, doubtless the "Sera metropolis" of Ptolemy, the great capital of Singan‑fu, "from which raw silk and silk yarn and silk cloth are brought on foot through Bactria to Barygaza".​25 That is, in the only references contained in the Periplus to the iron and steel trade, it is distinctly referred to India and not to China.

We get the same negative indication from the Christian Topography of Cosmas Indicopleustes, who refers, in his 11th book on commercial matters, to China only as "Tzinista which sends silk cloth", no reference being made to iron.26

For the importation into the Roman world from some Eastern source of the finest grade of steel then known, there is ample evidence, and it all points toward central India and not China. Ferrum Indicum appears in the list of articles subject to duty at Alexandria.​27 Indian iron and steel appears in the Periplus among the imports into Abyssinia, and from this text, as I have elsewhere pointed out,​28 we get a curious indication of a long-standing trade monopoly, under which certain products of India in large demand in the Mediterranean world were handled only by South Arabian merchants and were not offered to ships of Roman registry which succeeded in finding their way to India. This was the case notably with cinnamon, which the Romans knew only as a product of the Horn of Africa, whither Arab and Tamil vessels brought it from Malabar, but where it never grew. And in the case of this Indian steel, the author of the Periplus locates it at the Red Sea port of destination, but fails entirely to mention it as an export of India. The South Arabian kingdoms seem to have separated the trade according to ports. The Himyarite port for general trade was Mura, but another port, Ocelis, was reserved for the vessels arriving from India, which the Periplus tells us was "not a market town, but the first landing for those sailing into the Gulf";​29 and Pliny says that "Ocelis  p231 was the most convenient port for those coming from India",​30 and that the other chief ports, Muza and Cana, "were not frequented by Indian travelers, but were only for the merchants dealing in frankincense and Arabian spices". So effective was this trade understanding between the Arab and Dravidian merchants that the Roman vessels reaching the Malabar coast were permitted to trade in the cinnamon leaf as a product of that coast, but were not supplied with cinnamon bark that came from the same tree. Some indication of this trade we get also from the account of Phoenician commerce in Ezekiel: "Dan also and Javan going to and fro occupied in thy fairs; bright iron, cassia and calamus were in thy market".​31 We have here the same combination of Eastern iron and cinnamon as products passing through the hands of South Arabian merchants.

Early metallurgists knew little of artificial alloys, and the quality of their metals depended on the character of the ores they used and the effectiveness of their primitive methods of smelting. In Egypt, for instance, we find that some iron was produced from the native ore by smelting with papyrus, but the industry disappeared at an early date when it met the competition of better metals from Asia Minor derived from magnetic sand and forest timber, and from Elba, Spain and the Alps, where rich ores were also found together with ample timber. The Roman Empire had an abundant supply of ordinary iron from within its own borders, and its imports of that metal were limited to qualities beyond its own ability to produce. This iron which it imported from the East, as has been ascertained from examination of existing specimens, was really a good grade of charcoal steel yielded by native processes jealously held secret and unknown to the Romans.

Herodotus, in his catalogue of the troops of Xerxes, says that "The Indians were clad with garments made of cotton, had bows of cane and arrows of cane tipped with iron".​32 Ctesias mentions two wonderful swords of Indian steel had from the King of Persia,​33 and it is recorded also that the Malli and Oxydracae made a gift to the victorious invader Alexander of 100 talents of Indian steel.​34 Salmasius, in his  p232 notes on Pliny, refers to an early Greek chemical treatise on "The Tempering of Indian Steel",​35 and Colonel Yule, in his notes on Marco Polo, has traced this trade from source to destination.​36 It was this same Indian steel which was used in the manufacture of the famous Damascus blades of the Arabs in the height of their prosperity, and which was regarded as essentially a different metal from ordinary iron, being called by the Arabs Hundwáníy, "Indian", whence the curious word "Andanic" or "Ondanique" of the mediaeval writers, the fine steel used for swords and mirrors. Cordier notes that this "Hindi" metal used for mirrors has passed into Spanish in the form of alhinde and alinde, first with the meaning of steel, then that of steel mirror, and finally with that of any metallic foil for making mirror-glass. From a modern Spanish dictionary I note the erroneous definition, Alinde, (obsolete) "quicksilver for mirrors"; meaning, of course, nothing more than "Indian metal". So the word "hint" or "al hint", Cordier notes, is used in modern North African dialects for steel, confirming again the statement of the Periplus that it was Indian steel which found its way to the African ports, and thus passed into their language. The Arab, Edrisi, says: "The Hindus excel in the manufacture of iron. They have also workshops wherein are forged the most famous sabers in the world. It is impossible to find anything to surpass the edge that you get from Indian steel".​37 So Chardin says of the steel of Persia, "They combine it with Indian steel, which is more tractable, and is much more esteemed".​38 Dupré says, "I used to believe that the steel for the famous Persian sabers came from certain mines in Khorasan, but according to all the information I have obtained, I can assert that no mine of steelº exists in that province. What is used for these blades comes in the shape of discs from Lahore".​39 Yule quotes an interesting distinction made by Avicenna, who makes a threefold classification of iron:​40 1st. That which is good for striking or bearing heavy strokes  p233 (used for hammers and anvils). 2nd. That which is purer, better adapted to take an edge and to form cutting tools, but not malleable. (Steel). 3rd. Andena. Less known, he says, among Latin nations, the special character of which is that, like silver, it is ductile under a very low degree of heat.

Marco Polo, in his account of Persia, speaks of Kermán as "A kingdom having plenty of veins of steel and ondanique; the people are very skillful in making harness of war; their saddles, bridles, spurs, bows and quivers, and arms of every kind are very well made indeed according to the fashion of those parts".​41 Cordier identifies these mines with the Parpa iron mines on the road from Kermán to Shiráz,​42 which are no longer worked, and Pottinger names steel among the imports into Kermán from India,​43 bringing us back again to the statement of Pliny that the first in quality was the "iron of the Seres, and the second that of Parthia", both of which were doubtless used by the armorers of the Levant.

The making of steel in early India has been very fully described, the methods ascertained and the sources of the industry located. A limited quantity was made in the southern Dravidian kingdoms, but the best and most plentiful supply, and that which was in constant demand from the Roman times through the middle ages and down to the British occupation of India, was that produced in Haidarábád. The method of smelting was practically the same throughout India. According to Watt's "Economic Products of India",​44 there was a furnace built of clay three or four feet in height, more or less conical in form, with an orifice near the bottom, stopped with clay during the blast, and through which the bloom was removed at the end of the operation. Clay tubes inserted near the base conveyed the blast from two skins bellows worked alternately by hand, so as to keep up a continuous stream of air. The fuel used was charcoal from native timbers without flux, and after the furnace had been sufficiently heated, the ore, sometimes in the form of natural magnetic sand gathered from the beds of streams, but more commonly after having been pounded from rock ores to small fragments or coarse powder, was sprinkled in at the top in small quantities  p234 at frequent intervals, alternating with native charcoal, to keep the charge nearly level with the top of the furnace. From time to time during the operation, which lasted several hours, the slag was removed through a hole which was then stopped with clay. The bloom produced was a pasty mass of malleable iron containing a good deal of slag, which was removed by immediate hammering. The expenditure of charcoal by this method was very great in proportion to the result — as much as fourteen tons of fuel, according to Mr. Ball, having been used to one ton of finished iron, and a large proportion of metal remained in the slag. Recent examination of ores thus used show that a magnetite containing 72% of metal yielded only 15% of its weight in bar iron. The amount of iron produced, as Mr. Ball remarked, "bore but a miserable proportion to the labor, time and material expended". The bellows varied in form and size, but were usually made from goat skins or bullock hides and worked by hand. This labor, which was tedious and most exacting, apparently required more than one man to the blower, and there are curious pictures of recent steel-making by this primitive process showing the laborer pulling away at the cord, with the necessary extra weight provided, hours at a time, by the laborer's wife standing behind him with her arms thrown around his body.

In the production of Indian steel, which was known in modern times as "wootz", the iron which was smelted from magnetite, as already described, was refined by repeated heatings and hammerings and formed into bars measuring about 12″ × 1½″ × 1½″. These were cut into small pieces, a number of which, aggregating perhaps two pounds in weight, were packed closely in a crucible, together with about a tenth part of dry wood chopped small, the whole being covered over with one or two green leaves, and the mouth of the crucible filled up with tempered clay rammed close. Some two dozen such crucibles were built up in the form of a conical arch in a small furnace which was lighted, the blast kept up for about 2½ hours, when the crucibles were removed, cooled and broken and the cakes of steel shaped according to the bottom of the crucible, taken out. These cakes were then heated several hours at a temperature just below their melting point, turned over in the current of air from the bellows, the object being to eliminate excess carbon and  p235 thus to produce the low fusing point already noted by Avicenna. When this operation was completed the cakes were ready for the market in circular form, or else were hammered out into short stout bars and so were sold to the traders.

The crucibles were made of a refractory red loam largely mixed with dry rice husk. The wood used was that of Cassia auriculata, and the leaves those of Asclepias gigantea, or Convolvulus laurifolia.

In some parts of India the ores used contained a small percentage of manganese, and some of the black sand consisted apparently of titaniferous magnetic oxide, either of which would produce a native steel; but those of central India were principally a rock magnetite, and according to the above description, the steel produced was evidently a good grade of charcoal crucible steel ("cement steel"). Dr. Ball quotes a number of recent observers of the Haidarábád steel production, who tell of regular visits to the furnaces by Persian traders from Ispahan, who were in the habit of going backwards and forwards with the steel, and who, while making their purchases, personally superintended the operations, weighing the proportions of iron and testing the toughness of the steel. One such trader said that in Persia the same processes had been tried, but that the same quality of steel could not be produced from their ores.45

The French gem merchant, Tavernier, who traveled India in the 17th century, mentions this steel industry in the "Kingdom of Golconda", and remarks: "They carry a broad sword like the Swiss, with which they both cut and thrust, and they suspend it from a belt. The barrels of their muskets are stronger than ours, and the iron is better and purer. This makes them not liable to burst. As for the cavalry, they have bow and arrow, shield and mace, with helmet and a coat of mail".​46 We are thus carried back by recent travelers both to the iron-tipped Indian arrows of Herodotus, and to the "bright iron" of Ezekiel brought by merchants "going to and fro".

It is sufficiently evident from these references that the fine iron of the Roman trade was Indian steel; and it remains to  p236 examine and interpret the vague references in Pliny to that trade. We must assume a time when all foreigners were considered as barbarians, and the exact location of their countries was a matter of little interest or importance. The silk traders, the people of Chinese Turkestan and the Pamirs, played an important part in the Eastern trade of Rome, and were correctly located and described as Seres. A totally different people, but of a name reducible to a similar Latin form, was also in active communication with the Roman Empire. These were one of the Tamil kingdoms of southern India — the Chēra, whose kingdom appears in the Periplus as Cerobothra, and whose chief port, Muziris, the modern Cranganore, was an active center of shipping from Arabia and Roman Egypt. Much of the Roman knowledge of India came apparently from Ceylon, and in Sinhalese the Tamil Chēra became Sēri. Pliny clearly refers to this people in his account of the trade of Ceylon with the "Seres" where he says: "Their accounts agree with the reports of our own merchants, who tell us that the wares which they deposit near those brought for sale by the Seres, on the farther bank of a river of their country, are removed by them if they are satisfied with the exchange".​47 In this passage there is both truth and confusion, the Chēra ports being located along a chain of thoroughfares, some on the beach and some on the mainland side, but the description being confused apparently with the Pamir river valley of the silk merchants.

While some of the Indian steel might have been shipped through the Chēra ports, it is probably true that most of it went through the port of Barygaza on the Gulf of Cambay, being carried thither by the overland trade route that traversed the great dominions of the Andhra dynasty, "the inland regions of Ariaca" of the Periplus, thence proceeding westward in native or Arab, and not in Greek or Roman shipping. The product was probably then, as in recent times, bought at the furnaces and the profits of the trade were great enough for the buyers to keep in full for themselves without dealing through third parties. In any case the total amount shipped westward from India must have been small indeed. In the accounts of early 19th century travelers given us by Ball and  p237 Watt, it is indicated that a single furnace might produce no more than a couple of hundred-weight of steel in a year, and 200 tons per year would probably be an outside figure for this export trade.

The various references to the Seres in the Roman writers cannot be harmonized for any one people, and it is certainly an unnecessary interpretation to identify them with the Chinese, or to transfer the "Seric iron" to China. I have already indicated that the Indian steel, although mainly an Andhra product, was attributed by the Romans to the Chēra Tamils, and then confused with the Seres of Turkestan; and I will close with a further identification of one of these ubiquitous Seres, not heretofore made, so far as I am aware. We have the connection through the Greek antiquarian Pausanias, who, after describing the Seres and the silk culture of China and Turkestan, says: "The island of Seria is known to be situated in a recess of the Erythraean Sea. But I have heard that the island is formed, but by the Erythraean Sea, but by a river called the Ser, just as the Delta of Egypt is surrounded by the Nile and not by the sea; such, also, it is said, is the island of Seria. But the Seres and the inhabitants of the neighboring islands of Abasa and Sacaea are of the Aethiopian race; some say, however, that they are not Aethiopians, but a mixture of Scythians and Indians".​48 These Seres, from Pausanias' own description, we are forced to transfer to the southern coast of Arabia, and to identify their island with that mentioned in the Periplus as Sar-apis,​49 and still known as Mo‑seir‑ah; and the origin of the name we must refer to the ancient Arab tribe of Ausar, Ausal or Ausan, whom some of the writers on Arabian geography would identify with Uzal, son of Joktan of Genesis X, and more certainly at any rate with the port of Ocelis or Cella, already mentioned as the terminus of the Arab trade with India, and with the modern Zeila on the African side of the Straits. The glimpse of this island given by Pausanias is extremely interesting. The word Aethiopian, instead of having the wide significance now given it, seems to have meant,  p238 as Glaser showed, no more than "incense gatherer", and referred specifically to the tribes dwelling on either shore of the Gulf of Aden.​50 The "neighboring islands of Abasa and Sacaea" are the modern Kuria Muria, "Abasa" being the same tribe-name as "Abyssinian". The coming of the Scythians and Indians followed the Indian conquests by the Asiatic invaders at the epoch of Kanishka. We have a similar account in the description of the island of Socotra in the Periplus, where mention is made of a mixture of Arabs and Hindus and Greeks.​51 This people of Ausar at some period of Arab history, which we may perhaps place not later than the 7th century B.C., apparently dominated not only all south Arabia, but the opposite side of the Gulf of Aden and much of the east African coast. We have a reference to them in the Periplus which refers to this coast as far as Zanzibar under the name of "Ausanitic".​52 Glaser, in interpreting South Arabian inscriptions discovered by him, indicates that the power of Ausan, like that of the later South Arabian tribes, was derived from trade in incense, aromatics and oriental products, for which they found markets in Egypt, Syria and Babylonia, and that the power of Ausan was succeeded in order by those of Kataban, Saba and Himyar;​53 and the Periplus gives another interesting glimpse of these struggles in South Arabia, where, describing the present Zanzibar coast, it states that it was governed by Himyarite Arabs "under some ancient right that subjects it to the sovereignty of the state that has become first in Arabia".54

We therefore gather that the Seres of the Romans were as ubiquitous as Prester John of the mediaeval Europeans, whose kingdom was located anywhere from the mountains of Abyssinia to the wastes of Mongolia; and it is not necessary  p239 for us to carry the iron-trading Seres of Pliny to far-away China over a difficult, dangerous and expensive land-caravan route, when we know that Indian steel reached the Roman world by ocean-going sailing vessels, and that along that cheap and easy ocean route there dwelt at least two peoples, one in western India and the other in southern Arabia, to whom the name "Seres" was confusedly applied.

The Author's Notes:

1 Ex omnibus generibus palma Serico ferro est. Seres hoc cum vestibus suis pellibusque mittunt. Secunda Parthico, neque alia genera ferri ex mera acie temperatur, caeteris enim admiscentur.

2 Ancient History of China, p204.

3 Chau Ju‑Kua, p5.

4 China and the Roman Orient, pp225‑26.

5 P10.

6 III 2 B, p935.

7 Vol. I ch. 10.

8 P226.

9 P204.

10 Ancient History of China, p235.

11 Chau Ju‑Kua, 1, 7. 10, 14. 15. 21, 38. 40. 43. 46.

12 Ibid. 15, 21.

13 I‑tsing's Record of the Buddhist Religion as practised in India and the Malay Archipelago, Takakusu's ed., page xxx.

14 Relation des Voyages faits par les Arabes et les Persans dans l'Inde et à la Chine, dans le IXe Siècle de l'ère chrétienne, I, 8.

15 I, 11.4‑7.

16 Cf. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed., XXV.97.

17 Tacitus, Annals, II.33.

18 XXXVII.77.º

19 VI.26.

20 VI.20. Compare Vergil, Georgics, II.121: "Velleraque ut foliis depectant tenuia Seres".

21 XXIII.6.

22 Stein, Sand-buried Ruins of Khotan, pp67‑68.

23 σίδηρος ὁ δαπανώμενος εἰς τε λόγχας πρὸς τοὺς ἐλέφαντας καὶ τὰ ἄλλα θηρία καὶ τοὺς πολέμους.

24 Ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν ἒσω τόπων τῆς Ἀριακῆς σίδηρος Ἰνδικὸς καὶ στόμωμα.

25 αφ’ ἧς τό τε ἔριον καὶ τὸ νῆμα καὶ τὸ ὀθόνιον τὸ Σηρικὸν εἰς τὰ Βαρύγαζα διὰ Βάκτρων πεζῇ φέρεται.

26 Topographiae Christianae XI.337: καὶ τὸ λοιπὸν ἡ Τζινίστα τὴν μέταξιν βάλλουσα· ἧς ἐνδοτέρω, οὐκ ἔστιν ἑτέρα χώρα· ὁ Ὠκεανὸς γὰρ αὐτὴν κυκλοῖ κατὰ ἀνατολάς.

27 Rescript concerning Eastern Trade in the Digest of the Roman Law, XXXIX.15.5‑7.

28 Schoff, Periplus of the Erythraean Sea 88‑89, 216‑216.º

29 οὐχ οὕτως ἐμπόριον ὡς ὅρμος καὶ ὕδρευμα καὶ πρώτη καταγωγὴ τοῖς ἒσω διαίρουσιν.

30 VI.104.

31 xxvii.19

32 VII.65.º

33 Müller's Ctesias, p80.

34 Curtius, IX.24.

35 Exercitationes Plinianae, II, 763.

36 Under Book I, ch. 17.

37 I.65‑66.

38 Cordier's Ed. of Yule's Marco Polo, I, 94.

39 Ib. id.

40 De Animâ, book V.

41 I, 17.

42 Cordier's ed. of Yule's Marco Polo I, 93.

43 Ibid., I, 94.

44 IV, p502.

45 Manual of the Geology of India. Part III, ch. 8.

46 Travels in India. Ball's ed., I, 157.

47 VI.22. Cf. Schoff, Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, p209.

48 Descriptio Graeciae, VI.26.

49 Νῆσος Σαράπιδος λεγομένη . . . οἰκεῖται δὲ κώμαις τρισὶ καὶ ἀνθρώποις πονεροῖς Ἰχθυοφάγων· γλώσσῃ δὲ Ἀραβικῇ χρωνται καὶ περιζώμασι φύλλων κουκίνων.

50 Itiopyavan, from atyôb, incense: Die Abessinier in Arabien und Afrika, pp10, 27.

51 §30: εἰσὶ δὲ ἐπίξενοι καὶ ἐπίμικτοι Ἀράβων τε καὶ Ἰνδῶν καὶ ἔτι Ἑλλήνων τῶν πρὸς ἐργασίαν ἐκπλεόντων.

52 §15: μετὰ δύο δρόμους νυχθημέρους πάρ’ αὐτὴν τὴν Αὐσινείτην ἠιόνα ἡ Μενουθιὰς ἀπαντᾷ νῆσος.

53 Die Abessinier in Arabien und Afrika, VI‑IX. Punt und die süd-arabischen Reiche, pp16‑18.

54 §16: Νέμεται δὲ αὐτὴν, κατά τι δίκαιον ἀρχαῖον ὑποπίπτουσαν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῇ τῆς πρώτης γινομένης Ἀραβίας, ὁ Μαφαρείτης τύραννος.

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