Transnationalism in Ancient and Medieval Societies

The Role of Cross-Border Trade and Travel

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About the Book

While scholars have long documented the migration of people in ancient and medieval times, they have paid less attention to those who traveled across borders with some regularity. This study of early transnational relations explores the routine interaction of people across the boundaries of empires, tribal confederacies, kingdoms, and city-states, paying particular attention to the role of long-distance trade along the Silk Road and maritime trade routes. It examines the obstacles voyagers faced, including limited travel and communication capabilities, relatively poor geographical knowledge, and the dangers of a fragmented and shifting political landscape, and offers profiles of better-known transnational elites such as the Hellenic scholar Herodotus and the Venetian merchant Marco Polo, as well lesser known servants, merchants, and sailors. By revealing the important political, economic, and cultural role cross-border trade and travel played in ancient society, this work demonstrates that transnationalism is not unique to modern times.
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About the Author(s)

Michael C. Howard is a professor of International Studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. He is editor of the series Studies in the Material Cultures of Southeast Asia and author or editor of more than 30 books.

Bibliographic Details

Michael C. Howard
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 313
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2012
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6803-4
eISBN: 978-0-7864-9033-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1

Introduction    3

1. Basic Features of Transnationalism in the Ancient and Medieval World      7

Societal Types      7

Contexts      8

Motivations and Personnel      11

Transportation and Communication      12

2. Ancient Empires    27

The Middle East      28

South Asia      45

The Roman Empire      50

East Asia      58

3. Medieval Empires    70


The Byzantine Empire      70

South Asia      72

The Caliphates      73

The Tang and Song Empires      76

The Mongol Empires      81

The Aztec Empire      86

4. Polities Along the Major Trade Routes      88

The Yuezhi-Kushan      88

Tamil Kingdoms      91

Malay Kingdoms      95

5. Long-distance Trade Goods      102

Obsidian      102

Beads      104

Textiles      107

Copper and Bronze      108

Gemstones      114

Incense      117

Tropical Spices      120

Tea      125

6. Long-distance Traders      128

Phoenicians      128

Greeks      130

Sogdians      132

Trans-Saharan Caravan Traders      135

Vikings      138

Nestorian Christians      142

Radhanites and Other Jewish Traders      145

Marco Polo and the Venetians      147

Gujaratis      149

Ryukyuans      151

Aztec Traders      153

7. Merchant Communities      157

The Middle East      157

South Asia      160

Melaka      162

Guangzhou      165

Western Europe      167

8. Cities      169

Mesopotamian Cities      170

Mediterranean Cities      172

South Asian Cities      188

East Asian Cities      190

Southeast Asian Cities      193

New World Cities: Teotihuacán      204

9. Soldiers      206

Mercenaries in the Ancient Mediterranean      206

The Roman Empire’s Army      213

Medieval Mercenaries in Europe      216

Chinese Imperial Armies      222

The Aztec Military      224

10. Monks and Scholars      226

Transnational Buddhists      227

Hellenic Scholars      235

Transnational Christians      239

Transnational Muslims      247

Notes      251

Bibliography      273

Index      289