Know the lost Indian city that traded with the Romans since 300 BC

Years ago how Indians were craving to travel abroad to have a better standard of living, in the same way thousands of years ago the foreigners were longing to enter the mystical land called India. Today we will take you on a tour of “Rome” which is located in India.

Puzzled? Well, let us have an excursion through the only Indian city which has archaeological record of Roman presence in India and the city is Arikamedu. This city is located in Kakkayanthope, Ariyankuppam Commune, Puducherry.

In the year 1945, Sir Mortimer Wheeler and Jean-Marie Casal discovered that Arikamedu was the port of Podouke, known as an “emporium” in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea and Ptolemy. Several items were discovered including Amphorae, Arretine ware, Roman lamps, glassware, glass and stone beads and gems.

Apart from these beads, gems and “The French Mission house built in 18th century”, there are no structures to cherish the links of Romans with this city of Arikamedu. This was due to the cyclones over the time that destroyed this city.

Discoveries suggest that lot of items were exported to foreign nation like metal workers, glass blowers, shell cutters, craftsmen in precious and semi-precious stones and ivory workers. Evidence shows that the connection between south India and other parts of the world started on 300 BC and continued till the 18th century. It is also said that Arikamedu is the “mother of all bead centers”.

Have a look at the below picture which is an ancient harbour in the city of Arikamedu.


A statue of a child with a bird, 2nd Century CE, found at Arikamedu
Ancient Roman pottery found in Arikamedu. Photo Courtesy: PHGCOM/ Wikipedia
Ancient Roman pottery found in Arikamedu. Photo Source: PHGCOM/ Wikipedia

Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is maintaining this site since 1982:

The place that proves Romans were trading is being maintained by the ASI since 1982. ASI had also declared that all excavated sites, which spans around 34.57-acre site, should be open to study by scholars.

Remains of the ancient building that existed during the trade. Photo Courtesy: Muthukumaran pk/ Wikipedia
Remains of the ancient building that existed during the trade. Photo Source: Muthukumaran pk/ Wikipedia

The journal of the Center for Bead Research has published a report titled “Final Report on Arikamedu, India”

The report presents a detailed analysis on how and when the discovery of Roman link was made. The report says “In 1734 the Consul of the Indo-French of Pondicberry sent a note to the French East India Company observing that the villagers of Virampatnam were taking bricks from an old place near their village”. This was the first evidence to claim that Romans were here in Arikamedu.

The next evidence was found a century ago. The report says “Under the direction of Pere Faucheux, a local priest with, scant archaeological training, the Pondicherry Public Works Service dug at the site in the early 1940s. They found glass and stone beads, pottery and other artifacts, Finds were sent to French scholars in Hanoi and to several museums in British India. Somehow the r. seal with Augustus’ head was lost. The other objects gathered dust”.

Arikamedu proves the presence of Roman and ancient Tamil trade relations. Photo Courtesy: Jayaseerlourdhuraj / Wikipedia
Arikamedu proves the presence of Roman and ancient Tamil Indian trade relations. Photo Source: Wikipedia

The report concludes with the below points:

  • Beads furnish the crucial evidence for dating the beginning and ending ofthe site.
  • The bead industry is now seen as a, if not the, key economic activity of the city.
  • The central role of the Pandukal peo-‘ pie enlarges what we know about them and strongly suggests that they were major actors in building South Indian culture, perhaps even the development of the Tamil states and the Sangam literature.
Grey Pottery With Engravings. photo Courtesy: PHGCOM/ Wikipedia
Grey Pottery With Engravings. photo Source: PHGCOM/ Wikipedia


Whereas the historian J B P More had said “It is not possible to decide just on the basis of the discoveries of Roman potteries, coins and artifacts, wells and some thick walls in Arikamedu mound that it was once a flourishing town and that town was Poduke or Pondicherry or Puduceri or Puduvai. There is no evidence for such a town in Sangam literature or epigraphy or even in ancient Chinese literature”.

Source: The Better India

Hansika Raj