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Significance of Historical Maritime Linkages in Evolution of Human Civilizations: Analytical Essay

In subsequent centuries, specially in 307 BCE when Alexander the Great succeeded his father Philip II, the concept of enforcing naval blockade came into existence. Blockade of Greek harbour Miletus, against Persia and subsequent advance to conquer Egypt by Alexander resulted in establishment of leading Mediterranean seaport “Alexandria” (Paine 2014). The Macedonian’s subsequent campaigns across Mesopotamia and Persia were bound to the land until Alexander’s arrival to Indus, where, it is believed that a huge fleet of ships were built to transport his army in Indian Ocean. After the death of Alexander, the great in 323 BCE, the great empire fell into the hands of Romans, who subsequently shaped up the history of Mediterranean nations. During the Punic War between Rome and cartage between 264 BCE to 146 BCE, Roman mastered the Mediterranean Sea and trade (Schafer 2016). Pompey the Great’s campaign against the pirates in 69 BCE in Mediterranean resulted in division of entire Mediterranean into 13 naval districts for better and efficient control and is an early example of systematic control of sea through sub headquarters. Naval engagement in Battle of Actium between Roman i.e. Octavian and Egypt i.e. combined forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra in 31 BCE, on the lonian sea brought entire Mediterranean in single imperial rule of Rome. Subsequent to this Victory, Octavian established first Roman Standing Navy in North Adriatic to safeguard the sea trade by positioning the naval fleets at Egypt, Syria, North Africa, in Black Sea i.e. on Danube and Rhine Rivers, and on English channel.

Maritime History of Indian Ocean

The maritime history of the Indian Ocean had shaped entirely different from that of confined sea of the Mediterranean world. The great distances, the lack of enclosure by opposing shores, and the paucity of island chains linking land masses ensured that the interaction of Indian Oceans mariner were less intense and immediate than those of Mediterranean. Mediterranean traders became directly involved in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean in the 4th century BCE and their contacts intensified following Rome’s annexation of Egypt. Early Hindu and Buddhist scriptures gave glimpses of the maritime world of Indian subcontinent. The detailed instructions for the role and conduct of the controller of shipping as mentioned in “Navadhyaksa” written by Kautilya, advisor during Chandra Gupta Maurya reign during 321-297 BCE are even comparable to the functions of Modern Coast guard and Marine revenue department (Paine 2014). Ancient Indian texts with maritime content describes the extent of sea voyages across the Bay of Bengal or Suvarnabhumi and Suvrnadwipa, “The Island of Gold in SE Asia”. Greeks has mentioned ‘Bharuch’ in Gujrat as an important port of call. The Port founding in the mid first millennium BCE followed the revival of sea trade between Indian & Persian Gulf and growth of the Trans-Arabian caravan trade that carried Indian goods from the Gulf to the Mediterranean ports of Phoenicia and Syria, where they were subsequently shipped further to Egypt, Greece and beyond.

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The effect of prevailing monsoon winds in Indian ocean is prudent in Alexander’s History where he halted his eastward march at the Indus river in 325 BCE. He divided his force into three, out of which one named “Nearchus” was designated to sail from Indus to the Persian Gulf after building a fleet of 800 “Trireme” (a kind of ancient vessel) and other crafts, Greeks waited at the city of Patala (near Hyderabad in Pakistan) founded by Alexander himself till the trade winds calmed down (Mclauglin 2014). After the death of Alexander, Selucids, the Persian Emperor maintained the diplomatic relations with the Mauryan court of Chandra Gupta and Bindusar. Trading of war elephants from Ashoka’s India to Egypt and Persian under Ptolemy reign are well recorded. Roman Pottery in addition to Roman silver coins has been found in the Chola town of Arikamedu (near Modern Puducherry, India) which was a centre of local, regional and inter-regional trade for 1000 years from about 3rd century BCE (Arunachalam 2004). Puhar (presently known as Poompuhar near Nagapattinum, Tamilnadu) was one of the important seaport capital of Chola Kingdom on Bay of Bengal.

The most exhaustive description of the Indian Ocean trade is mentioned in 1st century AD “Periplus of the Erythraean Sea” written in Greek. It mentioned the transportment of good and cargoes between Indian ports to Egypt especially spices, precious stones, drugs, dyes, animals, metal, slave, Chinese silk from 17 Indian ports comprising from Gujrat, Konkan & Malabar coast, and South India in Bay of Bengal. Many lead coins and scale of 1st to 3rd century of Indian dynasties has been found decorated with mast ships. Even a 7th century wall painting at Ajanta caves has showcased full-fledged ship. Indian trade and traders had reached Indonesia by early 1st millennium. Subsequent finding of South-East Asians mariner in Madagascar and Eastern Africa points towards the early settlement of SE Asian for reach by sea. The Indian trade with China connected through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Malay Peninsula also brought spread of Buddhism by seafaring Monks from India and subsequently to Korea and Japan (Karashima 2014).

Spread of Religion & Culture Through Maritime Contacts

Naval battle of Hallespont between Roman emperor Constantine and Byzantium emperor Licinius fleet, where 200 Constantine ships were put against 350 ships of Licinius. Post victory, Constantine established his capital at Byzantium which was renamed as Constantinople (Modern Istambul) in 330 CE, and become capital of entire Rome. It was a major port city for sea trade from Asia, Europe, Black Sea, and Mediterranean was controlled. However, by the start of 6th century, North West of Mediterranean was divided among Italy, France, Spain, and Rome (Abulafia 2014). Maritime commerce carried Judaism, Christianity, and Islam around the Mediterranean, just as sea trade spread Buddhism from India to Sri Lanka, South-East Asia, and China. Though Byzantine remained coherent state in the Mediterranean basin but emergence of Arabs in 635 CE, Byzantinean rule was challenged both at land and sea. Naval battles between Muslims and Byzantine, reached from Damascus to Port of Phoenix, famously known as Battles of Mast, Muslim won the battle and their maritime superiority was established at sea (Paine 2014). For the next four centuries Mediterranean remained the battleground between Byzantine and Muslims. By the Middle Ages, North European started absorbing the sophisticated influence of Pagan and Christian Rome, seafaring developed from within, most notably Angles and Saxons (3rd - 5th century), Frisians (5th - 9th century) and Scandinavian Vikings (9th - 11th century) [Sanyal 2016]. The emergence Port trade such as Dorestad in Netherlands, Birka in Sweden, and Novgorod in Russia. Novgorod commanded the trade between the Baltic and Byzantine until it was superseded by the Kiev. By the Mid-7th century, the territory of Modern comprised of seven kingdoms i.e. Anglian, North Umbria, Mercia and East Anglia, Saxon Essex, Sussex and Wessex, and Jutish Kent. Whales and Scotland remain in the hands of Britons. Charles Magne’s or Charles the Great campaign to push Frankish rule beyond the Rhine coincided with the start of the period of Scandinavian expansion known as the Viking age. He has been called as “Father of Europe” as he united most of the Europe in early 8th century. Post his death, struggle for control over till 11th century was extensive, subsequently, which was with Norman conquest of in 1066 bought end to the Viking age.

The History of Eurasia in the 7th and subsequent centuries is dominated by the advent of Muslim caliphates and the resurgence of unified China. At the start of 7th century, South West Asia was divided between Byzantine and Sasanian Empires. The emergence of Muslim invasion in 643 in Damascus reached upto Central Asia (i.e. up to Modern Uzbekistan) by 714 CE. In 751, they defeated Chinese in Talas River in modern Kazakhstan. However, Tibetan tribes checked their Eastward advance. By 8th century, Islam had spread as far East as Indus River. The increase in maritime trade without accompanying extension of political authority led to an increase in piracy in Arabian sea between the Indus delta and Gujarat. In an effort to restore the order, the Viceroy of Ummayad Caliphate Al-Hajjaj ordered his armies into Indian subcontinent in year 711 CE. With capture of Sind (in Pakistan), Al-Hajjaj was able to secure the sea route that skirted North-West India and the coasts of Konkan & Malabar to Sri Lanka. During 9th and 10th century, Basra and Bagdad were established as port city (Paine 2014). Merchantmen from as far as China, India, and East Africa called these port cities for trade. Establishment of Baghdad made the Persian Gulf as the primary terminus of trade from the Western Indian Ocean. Similarly, Jeddah was established as port of Meccah for pilgrims.

In East African coast, the port cities in Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Mozambique were crucial for Gold trade from Zimbabwe till 15th century. The shipping of slaves from Africa was prudent in that Era. It is believed between 850 to 1000 CE, about 2.5 million black African were shipped from Horn of Africa, which in time was also called as Cape of Slaves. Subsequently, another 10 million slaves were shipped before 1900 CE. In 7th century, central and southern India were dominated by the dynasties of the Chalukyas and the Pallavas. Under the reign of Pulakeshin II, the Chalukyas conquered the Konkan coast between Gulf of Khambhat and Modern Goa. Their venture of a fleet of 100 ships to Puri possibly from Modern Mumbai were well recorded in the history. They subsequently marveled the East coast of modern Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. Pulakeshin was also known as “Lord of both the Eastern and Western Sea” (Karashima 2014). He attacked Pallavas to the South, who were heavily invested in the long distance trade of the Bay of Bengal. The struggle for control of Southern India gave rise to the smaller Kingdom of Pandayas and Cheras, and kings of Sri Lanka. By mid-8th century, two major power emerged in Northern India, the Rashtrakutas dynasty founded by Chalukya general and the Buddhist Palas of Bengal and Eastern Ganga Valley (Shamy 2000). Palas rule continued until the Muslim conquest in 13th century. Buddhism was flourished by Palas in SE Asia and China. Though in the South West, Rashtrakutas forged one of India’s most extensive and wealthiest empire and stronghold the control of the Western coast of India up to Kerala. Much of their wealth came from the commerce that flowed from ports in Gujarat and Konkan coast which were home to the Persian and Arab traders during that era.

Muslim trading communities started settling in India between Khambhat to Saymur (South of Modern Mumbai). Around 10th century, under the Rashtrakutas, the Muslim community “Bayasisa” leader has made appointment in port authorities who also looked after the Muslim affairs. In late 9th century, the Chola kingdom of Tamil Nadu, long distance trade in Indian Ocean i.e. to Fatimid Caliphate in Egypt and Song dynasty in China by the Tamil merchants. South India, due to its famous shipment of spices became the trans-shipment point and market between East and West route from Indonesia. Srivijaya kingdom of Malay Peninsula (Indonesia) was most influential sea power in SE Asia from 8th to 12th century. His control of strait of Malacca allowed Srivijaya to gather wealth from traffic transiting between Indian Ocean, South East Asia, and China. Chola’s invaded Sri Vijaya Kingdom in mid-10th century and brought an end to the Srivijayan empire (Kilke 2009 et al). Subsequently, the chola’s remained in power till 12th century and setup their marine relation to the China.

China’s Maritime Emergence

In the early 6th to 9th century, during the Tang Dynasty, Chinese influence reached further west. Dependent on Korean intermediaries for trade with Korea and Japan was expanded during the Tang dynasty. By the 10th century, Chinese merchants were plying the sea lanes of Asia, and their influence was felt from Southern India to Japan. Between 6th to 9th century, South East Asian countries like China, Korea, and Japan were engaged in various naval battle with one another. In 939 CE, Vietnam ended more than a thousand year of Chinese Rule. “Battle of Baekgang” on Geum River between Chinese and Japanese fleet in which Japanese lost 400 ships against 170 Chinese ships is an example of sophisticated tactical naval engagement during that era (Paine 2014). Chinese kept engaged with Koreans kingdoms from 644-663 CE. China’s embrace of sea trade under the Northern Song dynasty was due to a combination of misfortune and opportunity. The collapse of its western frontier forced the emperor to relocate to the east, closer to the elaborate canal system and seaports up on whose the business the treasury increasingly relied for revenues. The export of silk and ceramic to Monsoon sea had seen considerable growth. At the same time, China’s sea trade was expanding, Korean kingdom was on decline which gave Chinese merchantmen to dominate the traffic of North East Asia.

Medieval Mediterranean & Europe

In 10th Century, establishment of Fatimid caliphate in Egypt signaled the realignment of Mediterranean and European commerce. The Red Sea became the destination of choice for Indian Ocean trade which subsequently spread across the Levant. The wealth of Byzantine Empire, the caliphates, and the Levantine ports continued to attract western traders and rulers. Further, the rise of the Italian port cities and the ascendency of the merchant class to a place of privilege and authority are hallmarks of the earliest stages of European’s medieval commerce revolution. The Venetians and Genoese extended their commerce and political influence throughout the Mediterranean, Black sea and Northern Europe which by 13th century reached by sea route. The armies of first crusade (Holy war sanctioned by the Pope) converged on Constantinople in 1097 before marching across Anatolia. They took over Euphrates (Turkey) and Jerusalem (Mclauglin 2014). By 1100, the Venetians had a fleet of 200 ships enroute to the Levant and over the long term they profited more from the crusader states than any of their maritime rivals. Though, Fatimid’s in Mediterranean, suffered heavy loss from the crusaders for being the only standing Navy in Eastern Mediterranean. The fleet administrator of Fatimid fleet was overseen by the Emir of the Sea (Emir al-bahr), a title that entered European language as “Admiral” (Paine 2014).

In 12th - 13th century, Genoese had opened a new epoch in the history of the Mediterranean and Europe, while establishing of regular sea trade between Mediterranean and North Sea. The all four crusades had changed the fate of Mediterranean. The rivalry between caliphate and crusader which resulted in weakening of caliphate control to the conflict amongst French, Spaniards, Aragon and open warfare between Geneva and Venice in 1257 had changed the political paradigm of Mediterranean and Europe. As the Mameluke Sultanate of Egypt and Syria completed the Muslim ‘Reconquista’ of the Levant, Indian Ocean Merchants began avoiding the Red sea, sailing instead to Hormuz at the month of Persian Gulf. Black Sea merchants profited from the decline of the Levantine ports. In 1330s, a plague had erupted in China from where it spread westward by sea across the Eurasian steppes. In 1347, a Genoese ship carried the disease from Caffa to Europe. Also known as the ‘Black Death’ has stuck almost all the sea coasts of the world with mortality rate of 90%. In some part of China and Europe, killing millions of people across the world, affected the maritime trade and commerce in Mediterranean and Europe. Between 12th and 15th century, Europe underwent a metamorphosis (Hans 2017). By the 14th century, a combination of sea and river routes connected all shores of Europe and made it one of the richest trading network of the world. In Medieval Europe, maritime commerce engaged huge amounts of capital and manpower and lay at the heart of civic identity of many maritime cities. The quickening pace of interregional exchange and the allocations of resources and constant search of new markets had revotunalised the European commerce.

The Golden Age of Maritime Asia

By the 11th century, a steady stream of trade flowed along interlinked routes between western and eastern extremes of Eurasia by sea and land. The rise of Fatimid Egypt attracted trade to the Red sea, Christian merchants and Naval power were in the ascendant on the Mediterranean. Jewish and Muslim merchants were driven into more marginal trades or abandoned the Mediterranean for the Indian Ocean, where they capitalized on the commercial relationship elaborated in the preceding centuries. By this time, long distance seafaring and trade on the Monsoon seas had entered a settled and mature phase. The expansion of sea trade led to growth in the size and number of ships, attempts to exercise naval power over ever greater distances and advance in navigational aids including printed sea charts and magnetic compass. The Chinese had long known about the properties of a magnetised needle. The final account of the compass being used for shipboard navigation found in 1117 CE in a written work by Chinese scholar Zhu Yu. In 13th century, “Dry Compass” devised in Mediterranean and Europe, and in 1500 CE it is introduced by European in Asia (Paine 2014). The trading networks of the Monsoon Seas between the 11th and 15th centuries were the most dynamic of any in the world, with the longest routes, the busiest ports, and the most diverse selection of goods in circulation. As a result, there were many centers of maritime vitality along the southern and Eastern littoral of Asia (Guan 2016). This resulted in fastening the formation of distinctive hybrid communities. During this era, Vasco-Da-Gama pioneered the sea route between Europe and India in 1497-99. Horse export from Arabia to India via sea was amongst the most significant trade. Even during Chalukya’s rule in India, Somanath was an integral part of the commercial network of the Monsoon Sea.

The Era of Maritime Voyages

Columbus’s crossing the Atlantic, Vasco-da-Gama’s opening of an all sea route between Europe and the Indian ocean, Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe from east to west and Urdaneta’s first west to east crossing of the pacific, all these voyages made possible the forging the new links between formerly unconnected regions of the globe and lead the foundation of Europe’s gradual ascendancy on the world stage (Fig 5). The Portuguese and Spanish have received the lion’s share of credit for inaugurating the age of European expansion. The Genoese and Venetians pioneered the first commercially successful long distance sea trade between Mediterranean and Flanders of toward the end of 13th century. At same time, Muslim and Christian navigators evolved the coastal trade between the Iberian Peninsula along African coast. On the other side, French navigators piled their coastal waters to Flanders and till Iceland. The record of first printed sailing Directions were found published in Venice in 1490. Many other Navigational instruments evolved during that era were cross staff (end of 15th century), Davis’s backstaff (end of 16th century), Octatant in 1730, the Sextant in 1759, etc (Paine 2014).

Don Henrigue (Prince Henry) “the Navigator” was one of the earliest and most vigorous promoters of the commercial potential of the Atlantic Ocean. The third son of Joaoi and the English Philippa of Lancaster, he is often credited with founding a school of Navigation at Sagres in South West Portugal. In 1420, He sponsored a series of voyages down to coast of Africa for gold and slaves. In 1430, he also organized colonization of Madeisa island for timber and wine. By 1460, Portuguese had explored about 2000 miles of coastal west Africa i.e. Senegal, Gambia, and other rivers. In 1498, Portuguese had rounded Africa and reached the Arabaphone coast of East Africa and in subsequent years to India. Voyages of Columbus and Vasco-da-Gama has opened new links to Americas and Indies in late 14th to early 15th century. In early 15th century, Spain discovered pacific route to trade in Philippine and China.

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