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In 275 BC, Ptolemy II (Philadelphos), king of Egypt, founded a shipping port on the Red Sea coast and named it after his mother, Berenike I. The most important reason for creating this new harbour was the need of the Ptolemies for elephants. These were used in the wars against the Seleucids in the Near East, who blocked the import of Indian elephants. The Ptolemies decided to catch African elephants in what now is eastern Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia and ship them over the Red Sea on special ships (elephantagoi) in order to land them in southern Egypt and walk them to the Nile valley. The geographic position of Berenike was eminently suitable since it was a natural harbor, protected against the prevailing northern winds by a large peninsula. Furthermore, the dangerous shipping route over the Red Sea, with its treacherous coral reefs and its pirates operating from the Arabian peninsula made it desirable to have a safe landing place as far to the south as possible. From Berenike there were overland routes through the Eastern desert to the Nile valley, protected by way-stations (hydreumata). These provided the caravans with water and shelter.In the Roman period, Berenike developed into a trade emporium: spices, myrrh, frankincense, pearls and textiles were shipped via Berenike to Alexandria and Rome. The nature of this trade was more or less known from textual evidence, especially from the so-called Periplus of the Erythraean Sea which lists the harbors along the Red Sea, East African, 

South Arabian and Indian coasts as well as the commodities which were in demand in these emporia. The ruins of Berenike are located on the shore of the Red Sea, close to the border between Egypt and Sudan, in a deserted area just south of the village of Arab Saleh (Baranees). This village, at approximately 15 km (10 m) is inhabited by the Ababda, a nomadic people that live traditionally from herding sheep, goats and camels. The only feature indicating the remains of an ancient town is a hilly patch, covered with fragments of coral and pot sherds. In all periods of occupation the inhabitants of Berenike had access to luxury items, such as finely decorated glass and imported ceramic fine wares. Their houses, although built of local materials of poor quality, such as fossil coral heads, gypsum blocks and sand bricks, were furnished with rich tapestries. Some of the buildings were decorated with marble flooring or wall revetments, imported from Asia Minor. Most food was imported from the Nile valley, over a distance of at least 375 km (235 m). Water was supplied by a number of wells at the foot of the mountains of the Eastern Desert, approximately 8 km (5 m) of the town

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