In early Roman times pepper was one of the major traded goods between India and the Roman Empire. The longing for culinary nuances was the driving force to overcome long distances by ship and to spend millions of sestertii per year, as Pliny (nat.hist. 6.101f.) complained. The Roman trade in pepper, particularly its way from India to Coptos and on to Alexandria, has already been the subject of a variety of seminal studies in the past. This talk is going to deal with a different aspect of this topic: I would rather like to discuss what we know about the distribution of pepper on Egypt‘s domestic market. On the basis of papyri, ostraca and literary sources, I will give some examples of where we find organised and non-organised markets for pepper from the Roman to the early Islamic period: who traded in pepper and what kind of role did social, economic and religious networks played in distributing it? Case studies from Byzantine and early Islamic Egypt may, moreover, provide further insight into the role the church played in the pepper trade.
„... and send me 10 grains of pepper." Patterns of Pepper Distribution in Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic Egypt