In this paper new evidence is presented for long-distance trade in the western Atlantic in the Roman period, chiefly from Augustus to the second century AD, on the basis of documented shipwrecks and numerous amphora types. Well-dated contexts from northern Portugal and Spain, as well as similar sites in northern France and Germany, suggest a thriving trade of amphora-borne commodities during the Principate. The Atlantic route was initially developed during Augustus' campaigns against the Cantabri and Astures, and later consolidated with the exploitation of the mines in the north-west of the Iberian Peninsula. Supplying the Roman armies in the German Limes gave a new impetus to this commercial route, complemented by the conquest of Britain. © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.