CU Natural History Museum
1030 N Broadway St.
Boulder, CO 80309
The island of Crete has never received sufficient attention in discussions of the Roman economy. Well positioned along East-West and North-South trade routes, Crete’s economy flourished throughout Roman history as a transshipment point for goods travelling across the Mediterranean and as an exporter in its own right. The most visible export shipped from the island’s shores was wine packaged in ceramic amphorae. These amphorae have been found in almost every province of the Roman world, indicating the large scale of this export trade.
This lecture aims to examine three interconnected aspects of the trade in Cretan wine. First, it assesses how and why the destination for the island’s exports changed over the course of Roman history. In the first two centuries AD, the Tyrrhenian coast of Italy was the primary importer, followed by the southern Adriatic in the third and fourth centuries, and finally the region of the Black Sea in the Late Roman period. Second, the paper assesses how the trade in Cretan wine can be used as a proxy for understanding broader economic patterns across the Mediterranean. Finally, it asks the question ‘Why Cretan wine?’ What was the appeal of this product that led to it dominating the import market of so many centers throughout the Roman period?