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A Long Walk in the Desert: A Study of the Roman Hydreumata along the Trade Routes between the Red Sea and the Nile

Christina W.M. Scott


The routes through the Eastern Desert of Egypt were critical during the Roman Empire for the distribution of trade goods from the east; the roads that led from the ports of Myos Hormos and Berenike to the Nile emporium of Koptos were especially well travelled by caravans carrying valuable imports and exports. Along both of these roads watering stations, hydreumata, provided protection and respite for travelers. An examination of these stations, taken from archaeological evidence and written sources, provides insight into an additional function of the route from Myos Hormos to Koptos that the Berenike route did not fulfill—namely, that it acted as an internal limes within the desert that was meant to deter bandits and marauders from causing civil unrest. A successful show of force such as this was an effective way for the Empire to protect its revenue stream in a potentially unstable province.


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