The fame of Indian spices is older than the recorded history. The story of Indian Spices is more than 7000 years old.Centuries before Greece and Rome had been discovered, sailing ships were carrying Indian spices, perfumes and textiles to Mesopotamia, Arabia and Egypt. It was the lure of these that brought many seafarers to the shores of India.
Long before Christian era, the Greek merchants thronged the markets of South India, buying many expensive items amongst which spices were one. Epicurean Rome was spending a fortune on Indian spices, silks, brocades, Dhaka Muslin and cloth of gold, etc.It is believed that the Parthian wars were being fought by Rome largely to keep open the trade route to India. It is also said that Indian spices and her famed products were the main lure for crusades and expeditions to the East.
Today when spices cost so little, it seems unbelievable that they were once a royal luxury and that men were willing to risk their lives in quest of them. Though it were the Dark Ages, but there were rich people who had gold to exchange for pepper and cinnamon. It was in the year 1492 A.D., that Christopher Columbus discovered the New World. Five years later, four tiny ships sailed southward from the port of Lisbon, Portugal, under the guidance of Captain Vasco Da Gama. Like Columbus, Vasco Da Gama too was searching for a new route to the spice lands of Asia. While Columbus failed to achieve the goal, Da Gama succeeded. In a two year, 24,000 miles round trip, he took his ships around the continent of Africa to India and back to Lisbon. Only two of the four ships survived to reach their homeport. These two ships brought back a cargo of spices and other products worth 60 times the cost of the said voyage.
The spices of the East were valuable in those times, During these Middle Ages, a pound of ginger was worth a sheep, a pound of mace worth three sheeps or half a cow. Pepper, the most valuable spice of all, was counted out in individual peppercorns, and a sack of pepper was said to be worth a man`s life. Da Gama`s successful voyage intensified an international power struggle for control over the spice trade. For three centuries afterwards the nations of Western Europe - Portugal, Spain, France, Holland, and Great Britain - fought bloody sea-wars over the spice-producing colonies.