Where did the ancient Romans go with their travels? Is it true that they arrived in America?

In the time of the emperor Trajan (98-117 AD), Rome had expanded its empire across the entire basin Mediterranean, from the tip of the Iberian Peninsula to Mesopotamia, from Egypt to Great Britain. However, thanks to trade the ancient Romans reached places far beyond the borders of the empire. THE archaeological finds and the historical sources they can help us reconstruct some of these journeys, from northern Europe to Africa, up to the Far East. Let's retrace these journeys and try to answer a further question: is it true that the Romans also reached America? Is there concrete evidence to support this thesis?

Where did the Romans go?
  • 1The Romans in Northern Europe: Scotland, Ireland and Scandinavia
  • 2The Romans in sub-Saharan Africa
  • 3The Romans in the East: India and China
  • 4Did the Romans ever arrive in America?

The Romans in Northern Europe: Scotland, Ireland and Scandinavia

Despite the current England had been subjugated by Rome already at the time of the emperor Claudio (41-54 AD), the imperial legions never completely conquered the Scotland. It was probably a choice dictated by cost which would have meant maintaining a territory so distant and poor in resources. To protect the northern frontier of the empire, the Romans built the famous Hadrian's Wall.

As regards theIrelandthere was never a stable military presence, but archaeological sources highlight how there was a thriving one commercial relationship with the island. Roman imported materials, above all ceramic, jewels and many coins they have been found by archaeologists particularly in the eastern part of Ireland. These goods were probably exchanged for gods slaves, one of the most requested “raw materials”. The empire's influence on the island did not stop there: starting from the 4th century AD, Ireland underwent a process of Christianizationthanks to the figure of Saint Patrick (389-461).

Many coins and artefacts of Roman origin have also been found in Scandinavian region. The populations of the area were included in a commercial network that guaranteed the arrival of highly sought-after goods such asBaltic amber, in exchange for goods from the Mediterranean. This coveted substance reached Rome through the ancient “Amber Street“.

The Romans in sub-Saharan Africa

Rome dominated the Mediterranean coast of the African continent since the times of the republic, from the present day Morocco toEgypt. To the south of these territories lies the important geographical border of Sahara desert, which however did not stop the enterprising merchants of Rome. Historical sources attest several shipments beyond the desert in 1st century AD

These trips were aimed at the foundation of trading outposts that could guarantee Rome control over the main resource of sub-Saharan Africa at the time: thegold. Some of these expeditions reached the Niger River and the Lake Chadwhile at the time of Nero (54-68 AD) some soldiers engaged in the search for sources of the Nile. They did not succeed in their aim, but they probably reached the territories among the current ones Southern Sudan And Uganda.


The Romans in the East: India and China

On the eastern border of the empire, in the present Iraqthere was the most important military and economic rival of the Roman Empire: thePersian Empire. This state precluded Rome from controlling the very rich trade routes of Central Asia, such as Silk Road. However, the Romans found another way to get around the obstacle: the sea.

The Roman merchants reached theIndian Ocean starting from the port of Berenicea very important commercial hub which was located on Egyptian coast of the Red Sea. Relations between Rome, the south of Arabian PeninsulaThe Horn of Africathe coasts of today TanzaniaL'India and it Sri Lanka they are well documented by both archeology and historical sources. An extraordinary document, in Greek and dated to the 1st century AD, is the Circumnavigation of the Eritrean Sea (Erythraean Sea is the name with which the Romans called the Indian Ocean). The text, written by an anonymous navigator, is a detailed guide for navigation and the trade from the coasts of Red Sea up to India.


The Romans traded with the Horn of Africa and the south of the Arabian Peninsula slaves, spices, turtle shells, incense And aromatic resinswhile on the coasts of present-day Tanzania it was possible to stock up on ivory And cinnamon. The wealth and value of trade with the Indian kingdoms can be understood thanks to the presence of numerous treasures of Roman gold and silver coins in southern India.

Merchants brought to India fabrics, coral, incense And glassand exchanged them with precious stones, perfumes, exotic animals, silk, ivory And dyes for fabrics of rare colors, such asindigo. Relations between the Romans and the Indian kingdoms of the time became so close that some rulers of India even began to mint coins in imitation of Roman ones.


Regarding contacts between Rome and ancient times Chinarelationships are witnessed both commercial That diplomatic. Along the Silk Road, exchanges between these two superpowers of antiquity were mediated by Persia, but it cannot be ruled out that Roman navigators, from India, had reached Asian ports. In the territory of the present Vietnamwhich was part of the Chinese Empire at the time, archaeologists have found coins Roman and imported glass.

Rome and China exchanged luxury goods: in China they were appreciated glassi embroidered fabrics and the byssus (a fiber, similar to silk, produced from shell filaments Pinna Nobilis), while Rome imported large quantities of silk.

Chinese silk, once imported into the Roman Empire, was used to make light and transparent clothesa true luxury good And status symbolthe prerogative of women wealthier social classes. Thus the philosopher Seneca (4 BC – 65 AD) describes clothes made from silk, judging them in vain expensive And immoral:

Here are some silk robes, if you can call them robes made of fabrics in which there is nothing that can protect the body or at least modesty, which a woman, wearing them, would find it difficult to swear that she was not naked.

In addition to trade, Rome and China also maintained relations diplomatic. The two empires knew of each other's existence, even if they were not clear about their geographical location. In China, Rome was called “Daqin“, while in Latin China was “Silky” (land of silk). In 166 AD some merchants arrived at the emperor's court Huang (146-168 AD). In Chinese sources this is defined as the first official embassy between the two empires. Other trade missions are reported during the 3rd century AD The explorer had already arrived from China, around 97/98 AD Gan Yingwho however limited himself to visiting only the easternmost parts of the Roman Empire.

Did the Romans ever arrive in America?

As far as some visits to the islands Canaries And Azores in the'Atlantic are known to date there is no valid proof that the Romans ever reached the American continent. In key sensationalisticnumerous pseudoarchaeologistssupported by journalists hunting for scoops, helped create disinformation. The subjects presented by supporters of the theory of the Romans in America, once contextualized And analyzed carefully, they turned out to be however completely inconsistent.

Vial containing black henbane seeds