WI Roman Settlement of Canary Islands/Cape Verde and West African Trade

Hi all. I've lately been considering the effects of a Roman Republic/Empire that had done more to exploit West African resources via sea trade ( whilst the Roman Republic/Empire OTL was more transfixed by Eastern wealth via conquest as well as trade ) and the potential economic boon this may have held. Historically the Canary Islands were known to the Greeks, Carthaginians as well as the Romans ( noted by Pliny the Elder ) and if such islands would be a perfect spot for Roman colonization as a result of West African sea trading routes, and may have prospered.

I was wondering what people on the forum would think A) About far more Roman emphasis on West African sea trade routes. B) The potential of Island Colonies around the West African coast i.e Madeira, Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Bissagos Islands ( which would save on major military expenses on creating and protecting mainland African colonies ). And C) The long term effects...
 
I've thought about the same topic sometimes, but the main problem is this: by that time, archipelagoes like Madeira, Canary Islands or Cape Verde were absolutely uninteresting for the Roman power or similar.
Rome, despite some stereotypes, didn't colonize or invade territories for pure sport. They always wanted something from them. And the Western African archipelagoes had little to offer: their soil were poor for agriculture, had no big animals for hunting or fur trade, they were little or nothing at all populated (so all the workforce should be imported from far), they had no mines, scarce water resources...
Colonizing them would have been too much effort for nothing. The Roman Empire should have lasted more centuries with expanding population for finally considered that option (or had discovered America more than one millennium in advance).
 
I totally agree Mario that the islands themselves have little to offer, I was thinking more along the lines of stop off points and safe port for Roman traders going to or from West African ports along the Ivory Coast, for which Cape Verde for example is well placed half way between there and Roman Morocco.
 
What would draw the Romans farther down the African coast? Is there a cash crop which they could have grown on the Islands. Would one of the Emperors have decided to conquer the Islands for an easy war then decide that it would make a good place to send exiles aside from the black sea area?
I see no reason that they couldn't do it, we just need a why.
 
What would draw the Romans farther down the African coast? Is there a cash crop which they could have grown on the Islands. Would one of the Emperors have decided to conquer the Islands for an easy war then decide that it would make a good place to send exiles aside from the black sea area?
I see no reason that they couldn't do it, we just need a why.
Somewhere as a base of operations to access the southern West African coastlines so as to exploit resources such as gold, cotton and ivory more directly as opposed to relying on Saharan caravans.
 

katchen

Banned
The real end of the West Africa trade route (as far as what may be feasible for Roman triremes) is probably Mt. Cameroun or maybe up the Niger River past it's delta to the Benue and up the Benue to Yola. From there, it's a relatively easy trip across the Sahel to Ethiopia and the Indian Ocean coast. Yola might even be far enough north for camels and donkeys and cattle and horses who come down there to survive fly borne illness.
As for what West Africa has to offer, it has the largest source of gold in Late Antiquity. Very important for Emperors and Tribunes alike who need to inflate the currency without denaturing the currency. And all sorts of wild animals for the arenas of Rome. Besides the obvious lions and leopards, hyenas, wart hogs, honey badgers, crocodiles, hippopotani and elephants (assuming one can get them and keep them aboard ship), rhinoceri, giraffes, chimpanzees (we all know THEY are more dangerous than they look and can you imagine how TLs might subtly change if troops of them get loose permanently in Italy?), gorillas and ostritches and zebras, eland and wildebeest and buffalo. And for "other uses", a wide variety of poisonous snakes from Congo water cobras to Gaboon Vipers to puff adders to boomslangs to most dreaded of all, green mambas and black mambas, both of which could probably survive in Italy if they get loose there. And rock pythons.
And yes, unfortunately, slaves. Africans make slaves of each other and alas, are willing to part with those slaves to foreigners for trade goods before those slaves get their freedom.:mad: Then as OTL, slaves will be a big export from West Africa.
So those islands, where there is protection from malarial mosquitos and tsetse fly will be very important. As will be the islands of Sao Tome, Princepe, Annabon and Fernando Po" OTL, in the Gulf of Guinea near Mt. Cameroon.
Past Mt. Cameroon (or at least past the Congo Estuary, the Namib Current and trade winds make further pasage south difficult if not impossible. And during late Antiquity, there is little south of the Congo but hunting and gathering !San People.
 
The real end of the West Africa trade route (as far as what may be feasible for Roman triremes) is probably Mt. Cameroun or maybe up the Niger River past it's delta to the Benue and up the Benue to Yola. From there, it's a relatively easy trip across the Sahel to Ethiopia and the Indian Ocean coast. Yola might even be far enough north for camels and donkeys and cattle and horses who come down there to survive fly borne illness.
As for what West Africa has to offer, it has the largest source of gold in Late Antiquity. Very important for Emperors and Tribunes alike who need to inflate the currency without denaturing the currency. And all sorts of wild animals for the arenas of Rome. Besides the obvious lions and leopards, hyenas, wart hogs, honey badgers, crocodiles, hippopotani and elephants (assuming one can get them and keep them aboard ship), rhinoceri, giraffes, chimpanzees (we all know THEY are more dangerous than they look and can you imagine how TLs might subtly change if troops of them get loose permanently in Italy?), gorillas and ostritches and zebras, eland and wildebeest and buffalo. And for "other uses", a wide variety of poisonous snakes from Congo water cobras to Gaboon Vipers to puff adders to boomslangs to most dreaded of all, green mambas and black mambas, both of which could probably survive in Italy if they get loose there. And rock pythons.
And yes, unfortunately, slaves. Africans make slaves of each other and alas, are willing to part with those slaves to foreigners for trade goods before those slaves get their freedom.:mad: Then as OTL, slaves will be a big export from West Africa.
So those islands, where there is protection from malarial mosquitos and tsetse fly will be very important. As will be the islands of Sao Tome, Princepe, Annabon and Fernando Po" OTL, in the Gulf of Guinea near Mt. Cameroon.
Past Mt. Cameroon (or at least past the Congo Estuary, the Namib Current and trade winds make further pasage south difficult if not impossible. And during late Antiquity, there is little south of the Congo but hunting and gathering !San People.
By the Roman times, lions, elephants, crocodiles and hippopotami just existed in the Mediterranean area, so there were no need to such big trip for acquiring them. Romans were not big sailors, additionally.
 

katchen

Banned
But not honey badgers or wart hogs or giraffes or many other African fauna. But that alone would not drive African trade. It was the gold that would do it. The gold that would make denaturing the currency that kept disappearing east to India and Serica in return for silks and other luxury goods, and kept needing to be replenished, unnecessary.
It was the need for more silver for currency, supposedly, that was Trajan's excuse to invade Dacia. So why not a gold trade to West Africa?
And as for the Romans not being very good sailors, the Romans relied upon sea power to a HUGE extent to hold their Empire together. For all the Roman's much vaunted roads, it was Roman shipping that kept Egyptian and African grain flowing to Rome and the Legions travelling to and supplied in the East. And those legions, unlike China's contemporary forces, were not terribly effective far from the Mediteranean or Black Seas where they could be resupplied or reinforced easily. So the Romans relied quite heavily on seapower and missed it terribly when they did not have it at their disposal.
 
A good start would be to have an emperor that sees it as an easy and quick way to get a conquest on his resume. From there though, I don't know how you make it stick or make them open up trade with west africa-the Romans weren't the Carthaginians, they were not sea traders.
 
1) was there enough gold in trade to be worth very very expensive maritime trade? Roman ships were ill suited to those voyages. They would need to land regularly, and every time they do they have to defend against locals, have men come down with tropical fevers, etc. At a wild guess, theyd lose half the ships they sent out and three quarters of the men. Ie half the men for the surviving ships.

2) what do the Romans have to trade the locals for that gold?

3) why cant the trade happen acrosd the sahara? Thats what happened otl, iirc, at least in the Islamic period. Although that might require high value goofs going south.
 
Maybe the Phoenicians or Carthaginians establish trade routes with the West Africans and the Romans inherit them?
 
works for me. It would be good fro the Romans to have an off shore retreat.
Will this change Roman maritime technology enough to cross the Atlantic?
Sorry about all the questions. I like the idea.
 
I'm not sure what incentive there is to go out into the unknown when all these products are being shipped through established Trans-Saharan trade routes.
 
Maybe they use the islands as places of exile. Could we see the Jews (or at least a significant number of them) being deported there after 70AD?
 
I'm not sure what incentive there is to go out into the unknown when all these products are being shipped through established Trans-Saharan trade routes.
Cut out the middleman: Same incentive that there was later on to sail west to China, India & the Indies, instead of relying on the established Silk Road & spice-importing routes.
 
Didn't the Romans think Africa was manly the Sahara and northern coast? They might not have thunk there was much down south to go to.
 
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