Pliny the Elder on the Silk Road


…we have come now to see…journeys made to Seres [China] to obtain cloth, the abysses of the Red Sea explored for pearls, and the depths of the earth scoured for emeralds. They have even taken up the notion of piercing the ears as if it were too small a matter to wear those gems in necklaces and tiaras unless holes were also made in the body into which to insert them…at the lowest computation, India and Seres and the [Arabian] Peninsula together drain our empire of one hundred million sesterces every year. That is the price that our luxuries and our womankind cost us.

Excerpt from: Susan Whitfield, Life Along the Silk Road (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), quoting Pliny the Elder in his Natural History