Ancient spice trade

The spice trade was important during ancient times and the Middle Ages.  Spices led to the creation of vast empires and powerful cities.

When Europeans heard of spices like cinnamon, pepper, ginger and vanilla they travelled to Asia to bring them home. People used spices to flavour their food and make them taste better. Some were used to preserve food and make it last longer.
The origins of trading valuable materials go back prehistoric times. Ancient Egyptians traded with places to the south.  Greek merchants traded with India and got as far as south-eastern Asia .The Romans explored the Mediterranean Sea.
During an intensive period of trading with India they brought goods back from the east and set up a trading post in Alexandria. There goods were transferred to ships that sailed back to Rome.
Most of the trading went along the Silk Road. During the Middle Ages Arabs started taking control of the overland routes to Asia. Their influence reached as far as the Indus valley, which gave them control of large parts of India.
Marco Polo and other traders brought goods back Venice and Genoa, which became major trading hubs and powerful cities. Silk and spice trade made these cities very rich. Venetian merchants sold their goods throughout Europe.
In the 15th century, the Ottoman Turks started cutting off supply routes between Asia and Europe. By this time, the spice trade was an important factor in European economy.