The Organisation of the Palmyrene Caravan Trade
Eivind Heldaas Seland
How can we explain that the Syrian city of Palmyra became one of the most important centres of commerce between the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean in the first three centuries AD? Where past studies of Palmyrene trade have focused on elite involvement, this article argues that the contribution of the elite can only be appreciated if we understand their interaction with other groups: merchants, nomads and Parthian and Roman authorities. Concepts borrowed from New Institutional Economics enable us to study the dynamics of caravan trade, and suggest that the role of the elite was indeed critical, but went beyond investment and protection.