Some of the ruins of Palmyra.
Trade routes of the Western Sahara Desert c. 1000-1500. (Goldfields are indicated by light brown shading).
Ruins of Hatra, a caravan city flourished in the 2nd century[1]

A caravan city is a city located on and deriving its prosperity from its location on a major trans-desert trade route.[2] The term is believed to have been coined by the great scholar of antiquity, Michael Rostovtzeff, for his work O Blijnem Vostoke, published in English for the first time by the Clarendon Press in 1932 as Caravan Cities. The English translation of the work dealt principally with Petra, Jerash, Palmyra and Dura in the "near east", after Rhodes, Cyprus and Mycenaean Greece were removed from the translation as not being caravan cities.[3][4] Dura, too, has been later considered to be more than a caravan city.[5]

Other caravan cities include Aroer[6] in Jordan, Hatra in Iraq,[1] Oualata in Mauritania, Damascus in Syria, and Samarkand in Uzbekistan.

The caravan cities of the Near East declined as the small trade states between the Roman and Persian empires were gradually absorbed by the two, and the "wall mentality" became dominant, that is, construction of defensive systems (Roman limes and Persian defense lines) and implementation of trade through a single point, the city of Nisibis.[7]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Schmitt, Rüdiger. "HATRA". Encyclopaedia Iranica. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  2. ^ "Late Antinquity" by Richard Lim in The Edinburgh Companion to Ancient Greece and Rome. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010, p. 115.
  3. ^ Rostovtzeff, M. (1932) Caravan Cities. Translated by D. & T. Talbot Rice. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1932, p. v.
  4. ^ Palmyra as a Caravan City Albert E. Dien, Walter Chapin Simpson Centre for the Humanities, Washington University, 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2013. Archived here.
  5. ^ Pierre Leriche, D. N. MacKenzie, "Dura Europos", Encyclopaedia Iranica, December 15, 1996, last updated December 2, 2011.
  6. ^ Anatomy of a Caravan City: Aroer on the South Arabian Trade Route by Yifat Thareani-Sussely. Israel Antiquities Authority, 2013.
  7. ^ Bowman, Alan; Garnsey, Peter; Cameron, Averil (2005). The Cambridge Ancient History: Volume 12, The Crisis of Empire, AD 193-337. Cambridge University Press. p. 473. ISBN 9780521301992.

Further readingEdit

  • Sommer, Michael. Hatra. History and culture of a caravan city in Roman-Parthian Mesopotamia. Mainz, 2003. ISBN 3-8053-3252-1