Beginning around 950 B.C.E., Arab merchants caravanned to the Far East on the Incense Route to provide spices to the Greeks. Alexander the Great established Alexandria as a spice trading port in 80 B.C.E. Early Romans expanded the use of spices in foods, medicines, and perfumes. After the ﬁrst century, A.D., Rome established a direct trade with India via the Red Sea, and effectively broke the Arab monopoly on the spice trade. By the ﬁrst century A.D., the Silk Road was established along the routes of the Spice Road.
Romans introduced spices throughout Europe. When the Goths overtook Rome in 410 A.D., they demanded gold, silver, and silks, as well as 3,000 pounds of pepper as ransom to spare Roman lives. Trade between Europe and eastern Asia nearly disappeared for 400 years after the fall of Rome in 476 A.D., as the Muslim conquerors shut down the Spice Road trade lanes.
Beginning around the 14th century, sea routes from Europe to eastern Asia were discovered. In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered the New World while searching for a water route to ﬁnd black pepper and cinnamon. From 1519 to 1522, Spain discovered islands where cloves, nutmeg, mace, and pepper were produced.
By the 1700's, the British and the Dutch were forming the Dutch East India Company to trade spices and teas (and opium) throughout the world. During the early 1800's, spice plantations were established in other locations around the world ending the spice trade cartel forever. The United States entered the spice trade in the late 1800s and is the largest spice importer and consumer in the world with an average of over 500 million pounds at a value of over $400 million. The newest member of the spice trade is Afghanistan where farmers are working with American veterans to replace the illegal opium poppy crops with saffron, the most costly spice in the world. More about that later!