8 Jan

With support from the Consulate General of India in Houston, India House and the Center for International Studies at the University of St. Thomas, Dr. Roberta Tomber of the British Museum is presenting a lecture titled “Spices – The Taste of Commerce.” Subtitled “The King of Spices, India and the Roman Empire,” the talk is scheduled at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Jones Hall at UST. 

As Dr. Tomber’s work in India and elsewhere clearly demonstrates, pepper and other spices transformed the ancient world through commerce. Thousands of ancient Roman coins in southern India?  Seven and a half kilos of black pepper in an Indian storage jar at a Roman port in Egypt? India had a wide range of goods sought after by the Romans.  From 30 BCE, when Augustus annexed Egypt as a Roman province, a brisk trade in spices, particularly pepper, a precious luxury, was established between the Roman Empire and India.  This trade in spices helped establish empires in the west with the resulting commerce serving as a basis in centuries to come for Western expansionism, leading to global voyages and propelling colonialism.  Its intriguing to think how a small commodity such as pepper or other spices from India could have such an impact on world civilization and served as perhaps the earliest form of globalization.  

Who were the traders who made this possible?  How were these routes established?  What role did pepper play in the West?  And, how was India transformed by this trade?  At this evening, you will traverse the earliest trade routes between the Roman Empire and Asia, uncover the identities of the earliest merchants and learn of the pivotal role pepper from India played in the commerce of the ancient world.  This trade led to the exchange of ideas between two continents and influenced world events for centuries to come.  

Dr. Roberta Tomber has been a Visiting Fellow in Conservation, Documentation, and Science at the British Museum since 2002.  Dr. Tomber specializes in Roman and Indian ceramics and has participated in fieldwork in Britain, Sicily, North Africa, Turkey, Egypt, the Levant, and India.  Since 1998, her focus has been on Indian Ocean commerce through the study of Roman and non-Roman pottery in the region, particularly from the Red Sea ports and India.  She has relied heavily on the latest scientific technologies in investigating pottery to determine site of origin and in the process has uncovered revolutionary new material on the role of India in world commerce.  Her work challenges, confirms, and refines the stories handed down to us by historians.  


General Admission – $15.00

Members of AIA and India House – $10.00

Students – $10.00

 WHAT:            Spices – The Taste of Commerce. The King of Spices, India, and the Roman Empire

WHEN:            7:00 p.m., Tuesday, January 12, 2010

WHERE:         Jones Hall, The University of St. Thomas, Sul Ross at Yoakum


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