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Location Hafun, Somalia
City-state existed: 1st millennium BC - 500 AD

Opone was an ancient city situated in the Somali Peninsula. It is primarily known for its trade with the Ancient Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Persia and the states of ancient India. Through archaeological remains, the historic port has been identified with the northeastern Hafun peninsula in modern-day Somalia.[1]

History and trade[edit]

Pottery found in Oponean tombs date back to the Mycenaean Kingdom of Greece that flourished between the 16th and 11th century BC.[2] Its major periods of activity were during the 1st century BC and the 3rd to the 5th centuries AD.[3] Opone was mentioned by an anonymous Greek merchant in the 1st century CE Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. The town is featured in the ancient document's thirteenth entry, which in part states:

And then, after sailing four hundred stadia along a promontory, toward which place the current also draws you, there is another market-town called Opone, into which the same things are imported as those already mentioned, and in it the greatest quantity of cinnamon is produced, (the arebo and moto), and slaves of the better sort, which are brought to Egypt in increasing numbers; and a great quantity of tortoiseshell, better than that found elsewhere.

Opone served as a port of call for merchants from Phoenicia, Egypt, Greece, Persia, Yemen, Nabataea, Azania, the Roman Empire and elsewhere,[citation needed] as it sat at a strategic location along the coastal route from the Mochan trading center of Azania to the Red Sea. Merchants from as far afield as Indonesia and Malaysia passed through the city, exchanging spices, silks and other goods, before departing south for Azania or north to Yemen or Egypt on the trade routes that spanned the length of the Indian Ocean's rim. As early as 50 CE, it was well known as a center for the cinnamon trade, along with the barter of cloves and other spices, ivory, exotic animal skins and incense.

Archaeological remains[edit]

Ancient Egyptian, Roman and Persian Gulf pottery has been recovered from the site by an archaeological team from the University of Michigan. In the 1970s, Neville Chittick, a British archaeologist, initiated the British-Somali expedition where he and his Somali colleagues encountered remains of ancient drystone walls, houses with courtyards, and the location of the old harbour.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Indian Ocean in antiquity By Julian Reade pg 449
  2. ^ An Archaeological Reconnaissance of the Horn: The British-Somali Expedition 1975, Neville Chittick pg 133
  3. ^ Shaw, Ian; Robert Jameson (2002). A Dictionary of Archaeology. Wiley. p. 264. ISBN 978-0-631-23583-5. Retrieved 25 September 2010.