In their treatment of faraway lands, the ancient novelists present a peculiar combination of a ‘culture of the bazaar’ and the High classical tradition of Herodotus, Ctesias and Alexander’s historians. These novelists blended the enticing old accounts on the marvels of India, with the more contemporary mercantile information of the early centuries of the first millennium ce. In the Roman novels, the array of exotic products (pepper, nard, silk) that were increasingly available in the Mediterranean world offered useful allegories for decadence and excess. The sexual ordeals endured by the protagonists and the perils of their journey were often connected to eastern products in these narratives. By contrast, in the more ‘idealistic’ Greek novels, the plots often involved travels in Egypt and the Levant where encounters with people coming from far-off countries (merchants, sages, etc.) were possible.