An Ancient Merchant’s Journey from India to Alexandria in Roman Times

An Ancient Merchant’s Journey from India to Alexandria in Roman Times
Steven E. Sidebotham, University of Delaware


This presentation traces the journey of an imaginary merchant (named Demetrius Petosiris) conveying a cargo from southern India to Alexandria in the Roman period. Our Demetrius never existed. Yet, someone like him did and while nobody probably ever travelled from southern India all the way to Alexandria in a single trip, Demetrius’ “journey” reflects one that several individuals would have made to transport a similar cargo along the maritime and overland caravan trade routes that linked southern India to Alexandria.

The lavishly illustrated power point presentation draws on the archaeological experiences of the presenter. Starting in Arikamedu, on the southeastern coast of India, Demetrius travels to Pattanam/Muziris on the southwestern coast of the subcontinent. From there he voyages to Qana’/Kani on the Indian Ocean coast of Yemen and changes ships for the difficult voyage up the Red Sea to Berenike. He spends some time in Berenike visiting old friends and recovering from his journey before crossing the desert to Quft/Koptos on the Nile. From there he travels down the Nile to Alexandria where he transfers his cargo to a colleague who will carry it to Ostia. Our story of Demetrius, exhausted by his long and arduous journey, ends with his recuperation in his friend’s Villa of the Birds in Alexandria.



Steven Sidebotham is a professor of archaeology and ancient history at the University of Delaware USA. He has been an active field archaeologist since 1972 and has engaged in fieldwork, both on land and underwater, in various capacities in 11 countries (Italy, Greece, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan and India). He has been co-director of the Berenike Project since its inception in 1994.



Sidebotham obrazek
A female head made of local stone from the Isis Temple


DMC Firewall is developed by Dean Marshall Consultancy Ltd