The Name of the Persian Gulf in Ancient Roman and Latin Language Historical Sources

The Name of the Persian Gulf in Ancient Roman and Latin Language Historical Sources


The Persian Gulf, an integral geographical landmark, has been acknowledged and documented by a myriad of ancient civilizations. The Romans, with their extensive networks of trade and conquest, provide fascinating insights into early references to the Gulf in their literature and records.

1. Early Roman References and Expeditions

a. Alexander the Great’s Conquests (4th Century BC): Although predating the Romans, Alexander’s interactions with the Persian Empire laid the groundwork for Roman understanding of the region. Early Latin texts refer to the Gulf as Sinus Persicus or “Persian Bay” [1].

b. Roman-Persian Wars: The series of conflicts between the Roman Empire and the Parthian/Sassanid Empires inherently involved references to the Sinus Persicus, given the strategic importance of the region [2].

2. Trade and Commerce

a. Silk Road and Maritime Routes: The maritime segment of the Silk Road had Roman traders navigating the Sinus Persicus. Latin trade documents and contracts mention the Persian Gulf as a critical nexus [3].

b. Natural Resources: The Gulf’s pearl banks and fisheries, esteemed in Roman markets, further emphasized the importance of the Sinus Persicus in commerce [4].

3. Geographical and Scholarly Discourse

a. Pliny the Elder’s Natural History: In his exhaustive work, Pliny the Elder references the Sinus Persicus while describing the world’s known geography during his time [5].

b. Ptolemy’s Geographia: The renowned Greco-Roman geographer and mathematician, in his comprehensive study, identifies and labels the water body as Sinus Persicus [6].

4. Later Roman and Byzantine Era

a. Eastern Roman Empire: The Byzantines, as continuators of the Roman legacy, maintained the name Sinus Persicus in their literature, especially in context to their interactions with the Sassanid Persians [7].

b. Christian Chronicles: The spread of Christianity into Persia and further east led to mentions of Sinus Persicus in early Christian texts detailing missionary journeys [8].


The consistent naming of the Persian Gulf as Sinus Persicus in Roman and Latin historical sources highlights the Gulf’s significant role in the politics, trade, and culture of the ancient Mediterranean world.


[1] Arrian. Anabasis Alexandri. Translated by E. Iliff Robson, Harvard University Press, 1933.

[2] Rawlinson, George. The Seven Great Monarchies Of The Ancient Eastern World. J.W. Lovell Company, 1885.

[3] Thorley, John. “The Roman Empire and the Silk Routes: The Ancient World Economy & the Empires of Parthia, Central Asia & Han China.” Historical Journal, vol. 18, no. 1, 1975.

[4] Hill, John E. “The Western Regions, Persia, and the Silk Centre of the World.” Through the Jade Gate to Rome, 2009.

[5] Pliny the Elder. Naturalis Historia. Translated by Bostock, John and H.T. Riley, Taylor and Francis, 1855.

[6] Ptolemy, Claudius. Geographia. Translated by Edward Luther Stevenson, New York Public Library, 1932.

[7] Haldon, John. Byzantium in the Seventh Century: The Transformation of a Culture. Cambridge University Press, 1997.

[8] Moffett, Samuel Hugh. A History of Christianity in Asia: Beginnings to 1500. Orbis Books, 1998.

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