Ancient Somalia's History with the Roman Empire


how do i use this
After the Roman conquest of the Nabataean Empire and the Roman naval presence at Aden to curb piracy, Arab and Somali merchants barred Indian merchants from trading in the free port cities of the Arabian peninsula because of the nearby Roman presence. However, they continued to trade in the port cities of the Somali peninsula, which was free from any Roman threat or spies. The reason for barring Indian ships from entering the wealthy Arabian port cities was to protect and hide the exploitative trade practices of the Somali and Arab merchants in the extremely lucrative ancient Red Sea-Mediterranean Sea commerce.

The Indian merchants for centuries brought large quantities of cinnamon from Ceylon and the Far East to Somalia and Arabia. This is said to have been the best kept secret of the Arab and Somali merchants in their trade with the Roman and Greek world. The Romans and Greeks believed the source of cinnamon to have been the Somali peninsula but in reality, the highly valued product was brought to Somalia by way of Indian ships. Through Somali and Arab traders, Indian/Chinese cinnamon was also exported for far higher prices to North Africa, the Near East and Europe, which made the cinnamon trade a very profitable revenue generator, especially for the Somali merchants through whose hands large quantities were shipped across ancient sea and land routes.

Somali sailors were aware of the region's monsoons, and used them to link themselves with the port cities of the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. Another navigational technique was denning the islands of the Indian Ocean to navigate through the ancient trade routes.

Merchants with goods from Rome would leave Egypt by boat sometime around the month of July so as to travel with favorable wind conditions. The summer monsoon winds blow from the southeast and the monsoon winds during the winter would blow northwest. Early sailors took advantage of their knowledge of the wind changes and learned to plan their trading schedules around these weather changes. Merchants during the summer months would sail down the Red Sea to the gulf of Aden (Southern tip of the Arabian Penninsula and Somalia), from there they either unload their goods and trade with the locals or would sail with the summer winds across the Indian Oceans to India.

The Romans traded gold and silver, various types of food, and cloth with the Arabs and Indus valley for silk, pearls, spices, slaves, incense, and ivory. There were over land routes that connected Rome with India, but the Roman traders preferred to take sea routes to India for a variety of reasons. At various times in history these overland routes fell under the control of various kingdoms that were or were not friendly with the Roman Empire. These rulers would sometimes exact heavy taxes on traders who used these overland routes and did much to or little to protect the traders. Also these overland trade routes were sometimes not very well maintained, which made travel very difficult and then there was the problem of raiders attacking traders. To bring large amount of goods overland required a large number of pack animals who could only carry so much, travel so far and fast, and required great attention to their physical needs. Even though traveling overseas could be treacherous, traders could carry more goods at a faster pace than they could by traveling overland.

The Eastern Desert played an important role in the history of Egypt. It was the source of gold, copper and many other minerals and precious stones that were highly sought after from the earliest of times. It was also the place through which trade with Arabia, Somalia and India was channelled. As a result, a large number of roads were built there throughout ancient times. These routes were especially important during the Roman occupation of Egypt, when many mines and quarries were reopened, and some new ones broken.

The economy of Somalia has always revolved around trade - since the earliest days, the Somali had been exchanging short-horned cattle for grain. With valuable ebony and cedar growing across Somalia, in the first millennium BC, it started satisfying the demand for these at the time strategic commodities, and quickly developed an own industry. Along with Ancient Egypt, the Ancient Somalia was one of the two greatest maritime and trading powers of the era, its trade routes spanning the entire hemisphere. It had a wide array of trade partners, ranging from Egypt and Greece to China and Java, and later adding the Roman Empire and India.


Guul ama Dhimasho
Great read but source? If this is true then Somalis were mentioned well before the time of the Habashi 'emperor' -- forgot his name.

Nabataean Empire was annexed by the Romans in 106 AD, and, if they truly traded with Somalis, the word 'Somali' was used more than 1,400 years before the above Habashi recorded it.

Somalia is a relatively new construct. I am interested in the first recorded history of ancient Somalis.


Great read but source? If this is true then Somalis were mentioned well before the time of the Habashi 'emperor' -- forgot his name.

Nabataean Empire was annexed by the Romans in 106 AD, and, if they truly traded with Somalis, the word 'Somali' was used more than 1,400 years before the above Habashi recorded it.

Somalia is a relatively new construct. I am interested in the first recorded history of ancient Somalis.
There were no Arabs in Southern Arabia in 106 AD either, they only adopted the Arabic language after Islam. Somalia was likewise known as Bilad al Barbara in those times, just as the so called "Arabs" mentioned here were probably Sabaeans.


"From late October to early December 1975, at the invitation of the Somali government, Neville Chittick led a British-Somali archaeological expedition in the northern half of Somalia. Members of the party included the Director of the Somali National Museum in Mogadishu, Sa‘id Ahmad Warsame, as well as ‘Ali ‘Abd al-Rahman and Fabby Nielson. Particular emphasis was placed on the area near Cape Guardafui in the far northeast. Financed by the Somali authorities, the survey found numerous examples of historical artefacts and structures, including ancient coins, Roman pottery, drystone buildings, cairns, masjids, walled enclosures, standing stones and platform momentums. Many of the finds were of pre Islamic origin and associated with ancient settlements described by the 1st century Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, among other documents. Based on his discoveries, Chittick suggested in particular that the Damo site in the Peninsula of Hafun likely corresponded with the Periplus' "Market and Cape of Spices". Some of the smaller artifacts that Chittick's company found were later deposited for preservation at the British National Museum."

Chittick, Neville (1975). An Archaeological Reconnaissance of the Horn: The British-Somali Expedition. pp. 117–133.


With blood and Iron will we reach the fatherland
Giovanni Battista Ramusio July 20, 1485 – July 10, 1557) was an Italian geographer and travel writer. Born in Treviso, Italy, at that time in the Republic of Venice, Ramusio was the son of Paolo Ramusio, a magistrate of the Venetian city-state, Never went to the Horn of Africa, let alone the Horn of Africa but this is what he wrote in the 'Description of Africa' base on material he had. Note at this time Ethiopia/ Aethiopia is Greek from αἴθω + ὤψ meaning Burn Face, it was located to the east of the Nile, as far as the Red Sea and Indian Ocean and does not mean just the present day Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

It turns that there were more Kingdoms in the region then we realized such as Fatigar kingdom, and the Adea kingdom which controlled the coastline along Xamaar. It mentions that Adals kingdom was from Bab el Mandeb (Djibouti)and Cape Guardafui (Somalia) However the part about the arabs owning part of Northwest coast near Adal and that reer Mogadishu did not wear shirts had me like :mjlol::dead: