As we nonetheless say as we speak, all roads result in Rome. Or a minimum of they did on the peak of its energy, which historians have a tendency to position within the second century. It was in that century that the Greco-Egyptian polymath Ptolemy wrote his guide Geography, whose description of all identified lands impressed an unprecedentedly detailed world map. As Ptolemy’s map illustrates, “the Romans, for all their rhetoric about common empire, have been conscious that the world was a lot bigger than their domains.” So says ancient-history Youtuber Garrett Ryan in “The Most Distant Locations Visited by the Romans,” a video essay from his channel Informed in Stone.
Ryan explains what historical past has recorded of “the huge vary and attain of Roman retailers and adventurers,” who made it to Africa, Scandinavia, India, and even China. Some could have been motivated by pure wanderlust (the traditional Roman equal of Eurail-hopping faculty graduates, maybe) however certainly most of them would have set out on such lengthy, arduous, and even harmful journeys with glory and wealth in thoughts.
It was the promise of spices, frankincense, and myrrh, as an illustration, that drew Roman merchants to Arabia Felix (or modern-day Yemen), regardless of the area’s fame for being “overrun by flying snakes.”
Nonetheless spectacular historical Rome’s geographical information, they clearly had but to get the main points straight. However they knew sufficient to convey again from quite a lot of far-flung lands not simply tall tales however treasures unavailable elsewhere, turning the metropole into a mirrored image of the world. Few such gadgets would have been as seen in Rome as silk, “an indispensable luxurious utilized in the whole lot from legionary requirements to the robes of the emperors.” That materials got here from China, most frequently bought via sellers in Central Asia and India. However some notably adventurous Romans made it not simply to the Center Kingdom however into the very palace of the Chinese language emperor. All these roads to Rome have been, in any case, two-way streets.
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Primarily based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and tradition. His tasks embrace the Substack e-newsletter Books on Cities, the guide The Stateless Metropolis: a Stroll via Twenty first-Century Los Angeles and the video sequence The Metropolis in Cinema. Observe him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Fb, or on Instagram.