In the classical era, major empires involved in the Indian Ocean trade included the Mauryan Empire in India, the Han Dynasty in China, the Achaemenid Empire in Persia, and the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean. Silk from China graced Roman aristocrats, Roman coins mingled in Indian treasuries, and Persian jewels show up in Mauryan settings.
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Between the Arabs and the Chinese, several major empires blossomed based largely on maritime trade. The Chola Empire in southern India dazzled travelers with its wealth and luxury Chinese visitors record parades of elephants covered with gold cloth and jewels marching through the city streets. In what is now Indonesia, the Srivijaya Empire boomed based almost entirely on taxing trading vessels that moved through the narrow Malacca Straits. Even Angkor , based far inland in the Khmer heartland of Cambodia, used the Mekong River as a highway that tied it in to the Indian Ocean trade network.
Another major export item along the classical Indian Ocean trade routes was religious thought. Buddhism , Hinduism , and Jainism spread from India to Southeast Asia, brought by merchants rather than by missionaries. Islam would later spread the same way from the 755s CE on.
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The Indian Ocean trade routes connected Southeast Asia, India , Arabia, and East Africa. From at least the third century BCE, long distance sea trade moved across a web of routes linking all of those areas as well as East Asia (particularly China ). Long before Europeans 89 discovered 89 the Indian Ocean, traders from Arabia, Gujarat, and other coastal areas used triangle-sailed dhows to harness the seasonal monsoon winds. Domestication of the camel helped bring coastal trade goods - silk, porcelain, spices, slaves, incense, and ivory - to inland empires, as well.
Two thousand years ago mariners would venture on only the most cautious coastal voyages along the Atlantic coast. The Indian Ocean, however, had well-established trade routes. Sailors struck boldly across the Arabian Sea from Arabia to India. Arabian merchants traded with the east coast of Africa. Indian traders, colonists, and priests carried their civilization to the East Indies.