Tuesday, August 24, 2010


1: Alaman warrior
This reconstruction follows the rich graves of the Rhine border and the descriptions of the ancient authors. Ammianus describes long, thick hair dyed red with natural substances. The narrow, long-sleeved woollen tunic is decorated with trim in red-purple silk. Note his woollen close-fitting trousers, and typical Germanic boots copied from specimens found in Marx-Etzel. The shield is brightly painted, copied from the insignia of an Alamanic tribe, the Bucinobantes, recruited as auxilium palatinum into the Roman army. We illustrate a typical Germanic javelin or angon (jaculum); other weapons might include a throwing axe or francisca tucked into the belt, and a yew-wood Germanic bow about 2m (6ft 6in) long.

2: Roman officer of the Rhine Fleet
He wears an iron helmet of Ausburg-Pfersee type, sheathed in gilded silver. His imposing muscled armour might have mobile shoulder-guards, and shows lappets around the lower abdomen. It is worn over a thoracomacus of felt lined with cotton or coarse silk, and the pteryges hanging from the waist are like those represented on the I lias Ambrosiana, fringed with dark purple. According to Vegetius the marines and sailors of the lusoriae or exploratoriae scaphae were dressed completely in venefus-colour, i.e. sea-blue. His clothing, especially the sagum and the bracae, presents a mixed Romano-Germanic style, as was usual on the limes.

3: Romano-Germanic naval scout
Apart from his ridged Sassanian-style helmet, copied from the Worms specimen, his whole armament and clothing is mainly Germanic in fashion, although his military belt in Kerbschnitt style and the shield pattern are typical of the late Roman limitanei along the Rhine and Danube frontiers.

4: Roman classiarius of the Rhine Fleet
This marine is reconstructed after the Lyon seal that shows the city of Mainz, but supplemented with other archaeological details. The ridge-style helmet from Augst fits well with the classiarius helmet visible on the Ham mosaic, furnished with a red crest. His simple mail armour is worn over a leather jerkin of the same shape; a recent interpretation of the Thorsberg find by German archaeologists suggests that silvered clasps were used for shoulder fastenings while small hooks were used for fastening the breast. The sleeved tunic is made of an undyed wool-linen mix and decorated with typical orbiculi and segmenta of the late Empire. His weapons are a culter venatorius and a sword, here copied from the Idesheim specimen, and a light javelin (verutum).

Provincial Fleets, to defend the frontiers and support the legions in the different provinciae, were soon added. One of the first and strategically most important was the Rhine Fleet in Germania, whose military ports were linked by road with those in Gaul (France). At the time of Drusus' expedition in 12 B C we read that the military port of Bonna (modern Bonn), perhaps the main base of the Rhine Fleet, was directly linked with Gessoriacum (modern Boulogne - Florus 2,30). Under the early Empire the Rhine Fleet was an integral part of the army of Germania Inferior, composed of four legions in the 1st century AD, including Legio XI; this means that the soldiers of these legions could be used in the fleet as milites classiarii (fleet soldiers or 'marines'). During the Civilis revolt we find in the army of Germania Inferior the Legiones V and XV at Vetera, XVI and I at Novaesium (Neuss) and Bonna, serving with the Rhine Fleet. Among the additional legions sent to crush the revolt we find I Adiutrix and II Adiutrix formed from fighting sailors: later I Adiutrix was temporarily sent to Hispania, but by 88 AD we find it back in Germania Superior, then in Pannonia under Domitian. After the Civilis revolt II Adiutrix was sent to Britain, and then also to Pannonia by Domitian. A later inscription found at B a d e n Baden confirms the presence of this legion in Germania under Trajan.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Featured Website: BTOHistoryShips.com

This floating giant comes from the era of Alexander the Great’ s descendants. Her big bronze ram and the fierce eyes cause terror. Those vessels were three or four times bigger than the triremes of the classical era and had amplified sides and hull, an apparent feature in the model when seen from close distance. Equipped with towers and functional ballistic machines is, perhaps, the only recreation of this type of vessels.

About us 

When love for the history of navigation overflows your existence, it becomes magic, energy that passes through your hands and impels them to create. Wood is a living material that, when you give it your love and affection, it takes shape and the result is these floating monuments of history and human progress, of the contact of nations, the expansion of trade, the achievements and revelations. This is Evaggelos Gripiotis, an adorer of history and sea. The love for sea is immense. When I’ m close to it my eyes gaze at the horizon and my soul travels beyond it. This is what I do with my ships, travels into bygone worlds, glorious moments of maritime history when wooden hulls and sailors made of steal conquered the seas of the world transferring products, knowledge, culture, wealth but also, sometimes, disaster. I build ships, models of which are rare to be found in our days, ancient hulls, triremes, Hellenistic and Roman, galleys, dromons, chelandions, renaissance galleys, drekars, galleons, galeotas, frigates and various different types. I use raw materials of excellent quality (oak, walnut, beech, mahogany, pine, teak). The ships are literally constructed and built with respect in the culture and shipbuilding tradition of each country. My structures are not simple models (covered empty spaces). They are real ships in a smaller scale than their real ancestors, since their gear in both their interior and exterior parts is designed in an unconceivable detail, beyond all imagination. Thereby, each piece is unique and their buoyancy proves the originality of the ship- building standards followed by the artist.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Battle of Cyzicus

Athenian naval strategy at the battle of Cyzicus: Alcibiades' decoy force draws the Spartan fleet out into open water, and then turns about to engage them. Squadrons commanded by Thrasybulus and Theramenes move in behind the Spartan ships, to cut off their line of retreat, trapping the Spartans between three groups of Athenian warships; a much larger force than they had initially expected to engage.

The naval Battle of Cyzicus took place in 410 BC during the Peloponnesian War. In the battle, an Athenian fleet commanded by Alcibiades, Thrasybulus, and Theramenes routed and completely destroyed a Spartan fleet commanded by Mindarus. The victory allowed Athens to recover control over a number of cities in the Hellespont over the next year. In the wake of their defeat, the Spartans made a peace offer, which the Athenians rejected.

Battle of Cyzicus
Part of Peloponnesian War

A Greek trireme
Date 410 BC
Location Near Cyzicus, Hellespont, modern-day Turkey
Result Decisive Athenian victory
Cyzicus and other cities in the region captured by Athens.
Athens Sparta
86 triremes 80 triremes
Casualties and losses
Minimal Entire fleet

1. Prelude

In the wake of the Athenian victory at Abydos in November 411 BC, the Spartan admiral Mindarus sent to Sparta for reinforcements and began working with the Persian satrap Pharnabazus to plan for a new offensive. The Athenians, meanwhile, were unable to follow through on their victory, since the depletion of the Athenian treasury precluded any major operations [1] . Thus, by the spring of 410 BC, Mindarus had built a fleet of eighty ships, and with the support of Pharnabazus's troops, besieged and took the city of Cyzicus. The Athenian fleet in the Hellespont withdrew from its base at Sestos to Cardia to avoid the superior Spartan force, and ships under Alcibiades, Theramenes, Thrasybulus that had been dispatched to raise money combined with this force, creating a fleet of 86 ships [2] . This fleet, along with a force of land troops under Chaereas, set out to the Hellespont to challenge Mindarus.

2. The battle

The Athenian force entered the Hellespont, and, passing the Spartan base at Abydos by night so as to conceal their numbers, established a base on the island of Proconnesus (modern-day Marmara), just northwest of Cyzicus. The next day, they disembarked Chaereas's force near Cyzicus. The Athenian fleet then divided, with 20 ships under Alcibiades advancing towards Cyzicus while two other divisions under Thrasybulus and Theramenes lurked behind. Mindarus, seeing an opportunity to attack what appeared to be a vastly inferior force, set out towards them with his entire force. Alcibiades's force fled, and Mindarus's ships gave chase. When both forces had gotten well out from the harbor, however, Alcibiades turned to face Mindarus, and Thrasybulus and Theramenes appeared with their forces to cut off his retreat. Mindarus, seeing the trap, fled in the one open direction, towards a beach south of the city, where Pharnabazus was located with his troops. The Spartan fleet suffered losses in the flight, and reached the shore with the Athenians right behind them.

Athenian naval strategy at the battle of Cyzicus: Alcibiades' decoy force draws the Spartan fleet out into open water, and then turns about to engage them. Squadrons commanded by Thrasybulus and Theramenes move in behind the Spartan ships, to cut off their line of retreat, trapping the Spartans between three groups of Athenian warships; a much larger force than they had initially expected to engage.
Alcibiades's troops, leading the Athenian pursuit, landed and attempted to pull the Spartan ships back out to sea with grappling hooks. The Persian troops under Pharnabazus, however, entered the fighting on the shore and began to drive the Athenians, who were outnumbered and fighting against opponents on firmer ground, into the sea. Seeing this, Thrasybulus landed his force as a diversion and ordered Theramenes to combine his troops with those of Chaereas and join the battle. For a time, Thrasybulus and Alcibiades were both driven back by superior forces, but the arrival of Theramenes and Chaereas turned the tide; the Spartans and Persians were defeated, Mindarus was killed. All the Spartan ships were captured save for those of the Syracusan allies, who burned their ships as they retreated.

3. Aftermath

In the wake of this dramatic victory, the Athenians had full control of the waters of the Hellespont. The next day, they took Cyzicus, which surrendered without a fight. An intercepted letter from the Spartan troops stranded near Cyzicus reads “The ships are gone. Mindarus is dead. The men are starving. We know not what to do." [3] Demoralized by the devastation of their fleet, the Spartans sent an embassy to Athens seeking to make peace; the Athenians rejected it [4] .
At Athens, the oligarchic government that had ruled since 411 gave way to a restored democracy within a few months of the battle. An expeditionary force under Thrasyllus was prepared to join the forces in the Hellespont. This force, however, did not depart until over a year after the battle, and although the Athenians eventually recaptured Byzantium and resumed collecting tribute from Chalcedon, they never truly pressed the advantage that Cyzicus had given them. Largely, this was a result of financial inability; even after the victory, the Athenian treasury was hard pressed to support large-scale offensive operations [1] . Meanwhile, the Spartans, with Persian funding, quickly rebuilt their fleet, and would go on to undermine the Athenian advantage. Athens would win only one more naval battle in the war, at Arginusae, and their defeat at Aegospotami in 405 BC would bring the war to a close. Cyzicus, although a dramatic victory, failed to bring any lasting advantage to the Athenian side, and only served to postpone the eventual outcome of the war.

4. References

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Crusaders arriving at the land and sea walls of Constantinople, from a Venetian manuscript (ca. 1330) if La Conquete de Constantinople by Geoffrey of Villehardouin, who took part in the Fourth Crusade. When the Venetian force's entry into the city was pushed back by the imperial bodyguard, they set fire to a number of buildings and burned a large section of an affluent suburb. It was a harbinger if worse destruction to come.

On 11th November 1202 the crusaders landed at Zara on the Adriatic and quickly made camp. The citizens saw the large army and its siege engines and knew that resistance was impossible, so they promptly sent out a delegation offering to surrender the city if their lives were spared. This was agreeable to Dandolo, who asked the delegates to remain in his tent while he went to confer with the barons.

In Dandolo's absence, Simon de Montfort the Elder (1160-1218), the leader of a small faction of crusaders opposed to the detour to Zara, informed the Zarans that the crusade leaders had a letter from Pope Innocent III threatening to excommunicate anyone who raised a sword against Zara. Simon insisted that if the citizens could defend themselves against the Venetians they would be safe from the Frankish (non-Venetian) crusaders, who would not disobey the pope. The delegates thanked Simon and returned to their city. When Dandolo and the crusader barons returned they were outraged by these actions. A peaceful surrender had been thwarted.

The pope's stern letter forced the crusade's leaders to choose between excommunication, for attacking a city under church protection, and the end of the crusade. Believing that God could not desire the latter, most chose to keep their word to the Venetians as a matter of honor. Simon and his men withdrew from the army, but the majority of the crusaders attacked Zara, capturing it on 24th November-as a result, the Fourth Crusade was excommunicated.

The Frankish leaders sent a delegation to Innocent III, begging forgiveness. He granted them the absolution they sought, but reaffirmed the excommunication of the Venetians. The pope was now convinced that the Venetians had deliberately taken over the crusade for their own ends. In a letter to the crusade leaders he said that once the Franks had been delivered to the Holy Land, they should have nothing more to do with the Venetians.

The crusade had other problems too, with huge debts, no money, and a shortage of provisions. According to the contract, Venice supplied each man with enough to sustain him at low activity levels for about nine months. Since they had begun eating their provisions in late June 1202 the crusaders would have been out of food by late March 1203, when the fleet was again ready to sail from Zara. There were insufficient resources to keep the army and fleet together, let alone support it on its mission to fight in Egypt.

It was at this moment that a group of envoys arrived at Zara led by a Byzantine prince, Alexius Angelus, who had recently fled to the West. His father, the emperor Isaac II Angelus, had been blinded and deposed by his own brother, Alexius III, in 1195. The young man asserted that he, not his usurping uncle, was the rightful emperor of Constantinople. If the crusaders would help him to his throne he would provide them with food, pay them 200,000 silver marks, join their crusade with 10,000 soldiers, place a permanent garrison in the Holy Land, and restore the obedience of the Greek church to Rome. For the crusaders this offer was extremely attractive. But it would, of course, necessitate a further diversion of the troubled crusade.

There was considerable debate among the crusaders concerning the offer made by Alexius Angelus. The majority of the troops wanted no more detours or delays. They had made vows to fight for Christ, not a Byzantine pretender. However, the crusade leaders favored helping the young man. They saw that with only a few months left on the fleet's lease, no food, and crushing debt, the crusade simply could not survive without replenishing its resources. It would have made little sense to transport an impoverished army directly to the East. They also saw the detour to Constantinople as an errand of mercy to free the Byzantine people from the oppression of a tyrant. Alexius Angelus assured them that his uncle, the emperor, was so hated in the city that he would be overthrown as soon as the crusaders arrived with the rightful heir.

The crusade leaders accepted, informing the pope shortly afterward: "lacking all foodstuffs and supplies, we appeared to be bearing a burden to the Holy Land... rather than bringing some sort of aid; nor did we believe that, given such extreme poverty, we could effectively land in the territory of the Saracens. “When the rank-and-file soldiers learned of the leaders' action, many of them abandoned the crusade, making their own way to the East to fulfill their vows. Only by swearing that the stop in Constantinople would be brief were the leaders able to win the grudging acceptance of the other crusaders.

The crusade left Zara in April 1203, made its way through the Aegean and arrived at Constantinople in late June. Mismanagement had reduced Byzantium's once proud navy to a few worm-eaten vessels incapable of challenging the enormous crusade fleet. In several dramatic displays, the crusaders let the people of Constantinople know that they came as friends, having brought them their rightful lord. The Byzantines responded with insults, rocks, and bare backsides. They wanted nothing to do with the Westerners' pretender.

Reluctantly, the crusaders at last accepted that they would have to attack. The massive city had enormous fortifications that no enemy had ever breached before and a garrison three times the size of the crusader force. Nevertheless, on 17th July the crusaders attacked the northeastern area of the city, the Franks assaulting the land wall and the Venetians the seawall. After fierce fighting the Venetians captured a portion of the wall and entered a short distance before being pushed back by the elite imperial bodyguard.

Discontent at Alexius III's ineffectiveness made him fearful of a coup and he fled. His brother, Isaac II Angelus, was freed and restored to the throne. He ordered the gates to be opened so that Prince Alexius could enter. The crusaders were dutifully acclaimed as heroes and within days the young man was crowned co-emperor Alexius IV


A Venetian fleet. They are the only surviving artistic representations of the Fourth Crusade from the Middle Ages. The crusade is depicted in the mosaics from a decidedly Venetian point of view closely following the story told by the Venetian Martino da Canal in the 13th century.

The excommunication of Venice on the Fourth Crusade marked the end of an exceptionally close relationship with the papacy. Venetians did most of their business in the East, but remained devoted to the church of Rome, supporting it during various disputes. In 1077, Pope Gregory VII spoke of the "uniquely close relationship" between Venice and Rome, and in 1177 the republic helped to end a struggle between the pope and the German emperor.

Venetians were also strong supporters of the crusades-indeed, no state in Europe so often and so vigorously took up the cross. Venice's fleet was the largest single contribution to the First Crusade, and in 1122 the doge in person led thousands of Venetians to the Holy Land, where they crushed the Fatimid navy and helped to conquer Tyre. That Innocent III should turn to Venice for help with the Fourth Crusade was unsurprising, but circumstances outside anyone's control made him regret that choice.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thera – Representation of a Minoan Ship/Fleet

The south section of the frieze constitutes the last chapter in the story. The fleet is sailing away from the harbour of Town IV in the direction of the home port (Town V). A small rowing boat in front of Town IV, with five oarsmen and a helmsman, seems to be carrying an important person, whose head projects above the throne-like structure on the stern. Perhaps it is a local dignitary who is accompanying the departing fleet as it leaves the harbour. The fleet comprises seven large sailing vessels depicted in two rows, three above and four below. Of these, presumably because of limited space, only three - two above and one below - are shown with their masts raised and only one in full sail. On this ship the passenger section is closed and the paddlers are not depicted. Perhaps the representation of two steersmen and the decoration of its bows with flying doves emphasize the fact that this craft is the swift messenger ship of the fleet. On the remaining ships the mast and rigging are arranged horizontally supported on forked poles.

The fine red lines above the heads of the passengers represent long spears, also resting on poles, sometimes topped by a boar's tusk helmet. In addition to the passengers, seated and dressed in white tunics, between 18 and 20 paddlers, intent on their task, are also shown on each vessel, as well as the helmsman. On the ship top left there is another figure who may well be the 'time-keeper'. On the stern behind each helmsman a light construction is depicted, the lower part of which is covered with ox hide. Drawn within each of these 'cabins' is the head of a male figure with a long spear, while a boar's tusk helmet hangs from one of the vertical poles of its frame. These elements suggest that the light structure is a kind of shield to protect the warrior-captain. Various motifs (e.g. butterflies, flowers, birds) decorate the bowsprit of each boat, while the poop, which terminates in a kind of pontoon, is likewise embellished with a representation of a wild beast. Indeed, constructional details of the vessels, with their equipment, means of propulsion and many other traits are rendered so meticulously that the Miniature Frieze could be considered a shipwright's manual of the day.

The presence of weapons such as the rectangular shields in front of the helmsman, the spears and helmets, indicates that the ship's passengers are warriors, who are depicted in action elsewhere on the frieze. Thus the character of the entire expedition is revealed as long and dangerous.

The fleet progresses from left to right, across the dolphin-filled sea, and sails into the port which is its final destination. The topographic features of the landscape, the configuration of the habour and the beached boats, the multi-storeyed buildings with Aegean architectural traits, and the appearance of the inhabitants argue for the identification of Town V as Akrotiri. The artist converys the festive nature of the event by showing the population drifting from the town and its environs towards the harbour to welcome the returning mariners.

Since the time of its discovery, the Miniature Frieze has been the subject of many interpretations. It used to be claimed that this important monument immortalized a specific historical event - a campaign of Minoans in Libya and the victors returning home in triumph. The section of the south wall, in particular, has been regarded as a kind of sacred regatta in memory of an old tradition, as a symolic depiction of communications and contacts in the Aegean in general, as the representation of an annual nautical festival, or even as a wedding procession. Recent studies recognize in the Miniature Frieze elements which later appear in descriptions in the Homeric poems.

Whatever the story shown it must be connected with the master of the West House and concern an event significant for his status in Theran society. Perhaps the Miniature Frieze, which is undoubtedly one of the earlier records of a voyage and overseas missions of the seafarer who lived in this building. Its detailed depictions of harbors and lands bring to mind sixteenth - and seventeenth - century maps and the Miniature Frieze could well be regarded as a Bronze Age 'portolan', and must surely by the earliest known map in Europe.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Indian Sea Trade with the West

Gordon Childe says: "The most startling feature of pre-historic Indian trade is that manufactured goods made in India were exported to Mesopotamia. At Eshunna, near Baghdad, typically Indian shell inlays and even pottery probably of the Indus manufacture have been found along with seals. After c. 1700 B. C. C. E. the traders of India lost commercial contact with the traders of Mesopotamia." 
S. R. Rao says that the Indian traders first settled in Bahrein and used the circular seal. Later on the different sections of the Indian merchants colonized the different cities of Mesopotamia after the name of their race. The Chola colonized the land where the two rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, approach most nearly and the banks touch the so called Median wall. They called their colony Cholades which later came to be known as Chaldea (i.e. the land of the Cholas) as a result of corrupt pronunciation. Similarly the Asuras of Vedic India colonized the city Asura after their name and later they established the Assyrian empire. 
Archaeological evidence of the use of indigo in the cloths of the Egyptians mummies, Indian cedar in the palace of Nebuchandnzzar and Indian teak in the temple of the moon god at Ur shows the continuity of Indian commercial relations with the West. Rassam found a beam of Indian cedar in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar (604-562 B.C) at Birs Nimrud. In the second storey of the Temple of the Moon-God at ur rebuilt by Nebuchadnezzar and Nabonidus (555- 538 B.C.) Taylor found "two rough logs of wood apparently teak". 
The ancient Egyptian traders sailed there boats not only on the Nile but also ventured into the Mediterranean and the Red Sea and even into the Indian Ocean, for they are said to have reached "God's land" or the land of Punt (India). Similarly the Indian traders sailed their ships not only on the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, they also ventured into the Red Sea and even into the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea. From the very beginning Indian traders had a very fair knowledge of all the ancient oceans and seas of the populated world. the Egyptians called India as "God's land" because India was in those days culturally very much developed. The priest of ancient Egypt required vast quantities of aromatic plants for burning as incense; frankincense, myrrh and lavender were also used for embalmment purpose. Herodotus has left us a sickening description of the great number of spices and scented ointments of which India was the center.  Beauty products from India also attracted the women of Egypt. The cosmetic trade was entirely dependent on imports chiefly from India.  The Pharaohs of the fifth and sixth dynasties made great efforts to develop trade relations with the land of Punt. Knemphotep made voyages to Punt eleven times under the captainship of Koui. This expedition was organized and financed by the celebrated Queen Halshepsut. 
(source: Foreign Trade and Commerce in Ancient India - By Prakash Charan Prasad p. 36-43. For more information refer to chapter on India and Egypt)
Before trade with the Roman Empire, India carried on her trade chiefly with Egypt; whose king, Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-247 B.C.) with whom Ashoka the Great had intercourse, founded the city of Alexandria, that afterwards became the principal emporium of trade between the East and West. 
M. A. Murray, the Egyptlogist says in his book, " The splendor that was Egypt" that the type of men of Punt as depicted by Halshepsut's artists suggests an Asiatic rather than an African race and the sweet smelling woods point to India as the land of their origin.
(source: Art Culture of India and Egypt - By S. M. El Mansouri  p. 14).
This expedition really appears to have been a great commercial success. The queen proudly recorded on the walls of the temple of Deir-el-Bahri: "Our ships were filled with all marvelous things from Punt (India); the scented wood of God's land, piles of resin, myrrh, green balsan trees, ebony, ivory, gold, cinnamon, incense, eye-coloring, monkeys, grey dogs and panther-skins." These objects indicate Indian goods exported to Egypt. 
Alexander's passage of the Indus was effected by means of boats supplied by Indian craftsmen. A flotilla of boast was used in bridging the difficult river of Hydaspses. For purpose of the voyage of Nearchus down the rivers and to the Persian Gulf, all available country boats were impressed for the service, and a stupendous fleet was formed, numbering around 800 vessels, according to Arrian, and to the more reliable estimate of Ptolemy nearly 2,000 vessels which accommodated 8,000 troops, several thousand horses, and vast quantities of supplies. It was indeed an extraordinary huge fleet, built entirely of Indian wood and by the hands of Indian craftsmen. All this indicates that in the age of the Mauryas shipbuilding in India was a regular and flourishing industry of which the output was quite large. 
A book, called the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, written by a Graceo-Egyptian sailor in the first century A.D., gives a very detailed and interesting account of Indian trade from the author's personal knowledge. He came to India and found the Indian coast studded with ports and harbors, carrying on brisk trade with foreign countries. The chief articles of export from India were spices, perfumes, medicinal herbs, pigments, pearls, precious stones like diamond, sapphire, turquoise and lapis lazuli, animal skins, cotton cloth, silk yarn, muslin, indigo, ivory, porcelain and tortoise shell; the chief imports were cloth, linen, perfume, medicinal herbs, glass vessels, silver, gold, copper, tin, lead, pigment, precious stones and coral. 

The value of Indian trade may be estimated from the well-known passage of Pliny, in which he recorded that India drained the Roman empire of fifty million sesterces every year. The wealth of early India is confirmed by the lament of Pliny the Elder in Historica Naturalis (Natural History), completed in 77 AD that all of Rome's coffers were being emptied into India to satisfy Roman demand for transulent Indian muslins. Pliny's statement is corroborated by the discovery, in India, of innumerable gold coins of the Roman emperors, which must have come here in course of trade. Most of the coins have been found. Most of these coins have been found in South India, and their evidence is corroborated by many passages in classic Tamil literature. We read of 'Yavanas of harsh speech' with many wares; of foreign merchants thronging sea-port towns like Mamallapuram, Puhar, and Korkai; or busy customs officials, and those engaged in loading and unloading vessels in the harbor. The wealth of the Roman Empire reached India through the ports of Kalyan, Chaul, Broach, and Cambay in Western India. Tamralipti was an important port in Bengal. It carried on trade with China, Lanka, Java and Sumatra. In the Andhra region, the ports were Kadura and Ghantasala, Kaveripattanam (Puhar) and Tondail were the ports of the Pandya region. The ports of Kottayam and Muziris were on the Malabar coast. There was a great maritime trade between India and Southeast Asia and China. The rulers of India facilitated trade by building and maintaining lighthouses at the necessary points and by keeping sea routes free and safe from pirates. 
According to Surjit Mansingh: "India's trade with Europe, both by land and sea, was a constant fact of history from ancient times"

(source: India: A Country Study 1985).
The close connection between the early civilization of Ninevah and Babylon and the West Coast of India is borne out by indisputable evidence and this was possible only through the navigation of the Arabian sea. There is ample evidence of a flourishing trade between the Levant and the West Coast of India, as may be inferred from allusion in the Old Testament. 
As stated by Prof. K. A. Nilakanta Sastri  in Indian Antiquary, 1938 p. 27: "the evidence of South Indian connections with the West drawn from references in his (Solomna's) reign to Ophir and Thar Shih to ivory, apes and peacocks is seen to be only a link in a more or less continuous chain of data suggesting such connections for long ages before and after. The earliest Indian literature, the Vedas speak of sea voyage. One well-known mantra (Rig Veda 1, 97, 8) prays: "Do thou convey us in a ship across the sea for our welfare." Besides this, there are numerous allusions in the Rig Veda to sea voyages and to ships with a hundred oars. 
(source: India and the Indian Ocean - K. M. Panikkar The MacMillan Company, 1945 p.23-24).
Indian seafarers did not absent themselves from the Middle East or the European mainland. From the Sanskrit name of Socotra (Island abode of bliss) and from certain Hindu-like divisions and customs among the people of East Arabia. C. Lassen suggested that the first sailors and colonizers on the Indian Ocean came from India. According to Jeannie Auboyer "merchant shipping was very active in India and had, even since Roman times, linked the Mediterranean world to China with great vessels (nava) of which the Indian king owned a fleet, though most of them belonged to wealthy individuals."
(source: Daily Life in Ancient India - By Jeannie Auboyer ISBN 8121506328 p. 75).
The achievements of Indian seafarers in the Far East and Southeast Asia have been acknowledged by a host of scholars. The late Professor Buhler says: "References to voyages are also found in two of the most ancient Dharma Sutras."
There was also an active trade between India and Greece. The mention of ivory by Homer and of several other Indian articles assign the trade a very ancient date. In addition to ivory, India also supplied indigo to Greece, whence the inhabitants derived their knowledge of its use. Homer knew tin by its Sanskrit name. Professor Max Duncker says that the Greeks used to wear silken garments which were imported from India, and which were called "Sindones, or "Tyrian robes." "Trade existed between the Indians and Sabaens on the coast of South Arabia before the 10th century B.C. the time when, according to the Europeans, Manu lived. 
Of the producer of loom, silk was more largely imported from India into ancient Rome than either in Egypt or in Greece. "It so allured the Roman ladies, " says a writer, that it sold its weight in gold."

(source: Encyclopedia Britannica Vol. XI p. 459). For more information refer to chapter on India and Egypt).
Testimony to the flourishing condition of the ship-building industry in India is available in the description of the return journey of Alexander from India via the sea route. According to estimates of Ptolemy nearly 2000 vessels which between them accommodated 8000 troops, several thousand horses, and vast quantities of supplies. This vivid description speaks not only of the ready resources and expertise of the Indian craftsmen but also of the tonnage of the seaworthy ships estimated at about 75 tons (or 3000 amphorea) by Pliny. 
The most valuable of the exports of India was silk, which was under the Persian Empire is said to have exchanged by weight of gold. 
(source: Indian Shipping - By R. K. Mookerji p. 83).
It is evident that "there was a very large consumption of Indian manufactures in Rome. This is confirmed by the elder Pliny, who complained that there was "no year in which India did not drain the Roman Empire of a hundred million sesterces (1,000,000 pounds)....so dearly do we pay for our luxury and our women." The annual drainage of gold from Rome and its provinces to India was estimated by him at 500 steria, equal to about Rs. 4,000,000. We are assured on undisputed authority that the Romans remitted annually to India a sum equivalent to 4,000,000 pounds to pay for their investments, and that in the reign of Ptolmeies, 125 sails of Indian shipping were at one time lying in the ports whence Egypt, Syria, and Rome itself were supplied with the products of India."
(Life in Western India (Guthrie), from Colonel James Tod - Western India p. 221. Hindu Raj in the World - By K. L. Jain p. 37).
Roman coins in large quantities are found in places in Southern India, whence beryl, pepper, pearls and minerals were exported to Rome. Some of these are described by Mr. Sewell. "These hoards," he says, "are the product of 55 separate discoveries, mostly in the Coimbatore and Madura districts."
(source: Journal of Royal Asiatic Society for 1904, Roman Coins). 
There is extant, a Prakrit text on ship-building named Angavijja written in the Kushana period and edited in the Gupta period. This text enlists about a dozen names of different types of ships, such as Nava, Pota, Kotimba, Salika, Sarghad, Plava, Tappaka, Pindika, Kanda, Katha, Velu, Tumba, Kumba and Dati. Some of these varieties of ships such as Tappaka (Trappaga), Kotimba and Sarghad have also been mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythrean Sea. They are considered to be very large ships capable of sailing along the coast as well as in deep sea. 
Mr. Momensen in his Provinces of the Roman Empire (Volume II p. 301), says: "Somewhat further to the south at Kananor numerous Roman gold coins of the Julio Claudian epochs have been found, formerly exchanged against the spices destined for the Roman kitchens."
Arabia being the nearest of the countries situated to the west of India, was the first to which the Indian commercial enterprises by sea were directed. The long-continued trade with Arabia dates from a very remote antiquity. "The labors of Von Bohlen (Das Alte Indian, Volume I, p. 42), confirming those of Heeran and in their turn confirmed by those of Lassen (Ind Alt. Vol II. p. 580), have established the existence of a maritime commerce between India and Arabia from the very earliest period of humanity. Lassen also says that the Egyptians wrapped their mummies in Indian Muslin.
Agarthchides of Cnidus, Ptolemaic Dynasty, President of the Alexandrain Library, who is mentioned with respect by Strabo, Pliny and Diodorus, and who lived upwards of 300 years before the time of Periplus, noticed the active commercial intercourse kept up between Yemen and Pattala - a seaport in Western India. Pattala in Sanskrit means a "commercial town" which circumstance if it is true, says Prof. Heeran, "would prove the extreme antiquity of the navigation carried on by the Indus. Agatharchides saw large ships coming from the Indus and Pattala.
 The importance of trade was highly appreciated by the people of Kalinga - a kingdom on the Eastern seaboard of India. Inscriptions "speak of navigation and ship commerce as forming part of the education of the princes of Kalinga." 
J. Takakusu writes: "That there was a communication or trade between India and China from 400 A.D. down to 800 A.D. is a proven fact. Not to speak of any doubtful records we read in the Chinese and Japanese books, Buddhist or otherwise, of Indian merchant ships appearing in the China Sea; we know definitely that Fahien (399-415 A.D) returned to China via Java by an Indian boat...at further in the Tang dynasty an eyewitness tells us that there were in 750 A.D. many Brahmin ships in the Canton River."
(source: Journal of Royal Asiatic Society, Great Britain and Ireland. October 1905 p. 872).
Historian Vincent Smith in his book Early History of India, writes" "Ancient Tamil literature and the Greek and Roman authors prove that in the first two centuries of the Christian era the ports on the Coromandel or Cholamandal coast enjoyed the benefits of active commerce with both East and West. The Chola fleets.....uncrossed the Indian ocean to the islands of the Malaya Archipelago."
(source: Early History of India - By Vincent Smith p. 415).
"The Hindus themselves were in the habit of constructing the vessels in which they navigated the coast of Coromandel, and also made voyages to the Ganges and the peninsula beyond it. These vessels bore different names according to the size." writes Prof. Heeran. There were commercial towns and ports on the Coromandel coast. Masulipatam, with its cloth manufactures, as well as the mercantile towns situated on the mouth of the Ganges, have already been noticed as existing in the time of Periplus. Even as late as the 17th century, French traveler Tavernier in 1666 A.D. said: "Masulipatam is the only place in the Bay of Bengal from which vessels sailed eastwards for Bengal, Arrakan, Pegu Siam, Sumatra, Cochin China and the Manilla and West to Hormuz, Makha and Madagascar."
(source: Hindu Raj in the World - By K. L. Jain p. 42).