Sunday, November 7, 2010

What is Barbarikon?

Barbarikon was the name of an ancient seaport situated near the modern city of Karachi - probably to the southeast and further inland. It is mentioned in the 1st Century AD text "Periplus of the Erythraean Sea"  as a port at the "middle" mouth of the Indus delta.The importance of the port can be judged by the following description from Periplus:

"The ships lie at anchor at Barbaricum, but all their cargoes are carried up to the metropolis by the river, to the King. There are imported into this market a great deal of thin clothing, and a little spurious; figured linens, topaz, coral, storax, frankincense, vessels of glass, silver and gold plate, and a little wine. On the other hand there are exported costus, bdellium,lycium, nard, turquoise, lapis lazuli, Seric, skins, cotton cloth, silk yarn, and indigo. And sailors set out thither with the Indian Etesian winds, about the, month of July, that is Epiphi: it is more dangerous then, but through these winds the voyage is more direct, and sooner completed."

(ref Wikipedia:

The word "Barbarikon" corresponds to the Latin "Barbaricum", meaning regions beyond the pale of the established order - the land of Barbarians, so to speak. Its application to the port city on the Indus was probably just a coincidental corruption of a local name.

There has been some debate about the exact location of the city. Initial conjectures identified it with Gharo or Bhambore, but Maj. Gen. M.R. Haig, writing in his "Indus Delta Country: A Memoir Chiefly on Its Ancient Geography and History" (London: 1894), proposes that the city lay further south and east. It is interesting to note that the Indus followed a very different course 2000 years ago, and that the river's mouth was much further inland than it is today (as a result of extensive silting since that time). Indeed, the entire area around Karachi has an extremely rich history going back to pre-Alexanderian times - a fact of which almost all current inhabitants of the city are entirely unaware.

This blog has been named "Barbarikon" for two reasons: First, because I wanted to celebrate an interesting ancient link to my native city, Karachi; and second, because a lot of this blog's content will, I hope, challenge conventional wisdom - much as wild ideas (and people!) from Barbaricum challenged the settled conventions of Rome and Byzantium.


  1. Ali Chacha welcome to blogdom. Very interesting post I see,
    Yousuf Mehmood

  2. i want to know the relation between Arabs and Sindh before arab conquest of sindh, what are the source book for this topic ?