Jeremy A. Simmons

Award Information

2018 IDRF Program

Classical StudiesColumbia University

Beyond the Periyar: A History of Consumption in Indo-Roman Trade (100 BCE-400 CE)

My proposed project addresses my dissertation research on trade between the Roman Empire and the Indian subcontinent in antiquity (100 BCE-400 CE). I aim to outline the nature of the consumption of Roman imports in the Indian subcontinent and Indian imports in the Roman world, specifically Roman coins, spices, and gems. Roman coins, found in vast numbers throughout India, seem to have functioned beyond their intended role as money, in forms of gift-exchange, personal adornment, and religious donation. Indian spices like black pepper and ginger contributed to Roman culinary, religious, and cosmetic practices, as attested by Roman authors and associated utensils. Indian carnelian and onyx gemstones served as the basis for numerous forms of Roman intaglio jewelry. The SSRC Mellon IDRF would enable me to study the relevant archaeological and epigraphic evidence for the consumption of these products throughout the Mediterranean world and to clarify research that I will conduct in India prior to the fellowship period. I propose a twelve-month long project (Jan.-Dec. 2019), during which I will observe collections in the United Kingdom (4 months), Italy (4 months), and the United States (4 months). In Britain, I intend to catalog data from coins and other archaeological finds housed at the British Museum and make use of pertinent resources at Oxford University. In Italy, I will focus my attention to museum holdings in Rome and Naples, as well as well-preserved archaeological sites around the Bay of Naples. Finally, I will spend four months in New York with the numismatic and material collections of the American Numismatic Society and the Metropolitan Museum. In my interrogation of these sources, I intend to outline the avenues of access to Indian products in Roman urban environments beyond those traditionally associated with luxury consumption. I also wish to explore the human agents facilitating this consumption to help recreate the ancient urban experience.