That the word for merchant might be derived from the word for ocean would make sense in light of archaeological evidence showing the earliest Nusantao trade involved coastal shell tools traded further inland. The tradition of maritime trade would expand to unprecedented levels with the introduction of spices and precious metals.
The movement of spices from Southeast Asia to Tanzania and other ports of southeastern Africa continued well into medieval times. The Muslim texts speak of merchants from Zabag and Wakwak in Southeast Asia conducting regular trading missions to Africa. The merchants from Zabag and Komr appear to have had a friendler trade relationship with Africa at this time, while Wakwak was more militaristic. Madagascar may have been populated originally by people engaged in the spice trade. The local Malagasy language is of Austronesian origin.
By the time the spice trade was roaring around 3,500 years ago, the names of spices coming via the clove route, even those of certain Southeast Asian origin like cloves, usually were of Indic origin further west in Europe and the Middle East. Those coming via the cinnamon route usually had more Austronesian-looking names in the West. This would indicate that the Nusantao were mostly only traveling as far as India on the clove route, but were moving all the way down the line along the cinnamon route.
For such long distance trade to work in this early period, autonomous sea kings had to manage things in their own regions along the spice routes.
Torsten Pedersen has reconstructed *H-r-g- as a probable Austronesian word linked with these early types of rulers.
Regarding the word rex, Torsten quotes E. Benveniste:
Rex, which is attested only in Italic, Celtic, and Indic - that
is at the Western and Eastern extremeties of the Indo-European
world, belongs to a very ancient group of terms relating to
religion and law. The connexion of Latin rego with Gr. orégo:
“extend in a straight line” (the o- being phonologically
explainable), the examination of the old uses of reg- in Latin
(e.g. in regere fines, e regione, rectus, rex sacrorum)
suggests that the rex, properly more of a priest than a king
in the modern sense, was the man who had authority to trace out
the sites of towns and to determine the rules of law.
However, Torsten suggests the rex words may belong instead "to a very ancient group of terms having to do with navigation which were introduced by invaders arriving from the east into exactly those Western and Eastern extremeties of the IE area because they have a coastline."
He links rex and related terms with the idea of a ship captain whose duties include ship-building and navigation. Indeed, one of the Austronesian terms for "ruler" is ratu/datu, which can also mean captain of a ship (barangay). Some likely cognates of this word in the Pacific -- ratu and latu -- have the meaning "master builder."
The builder and navigator must both use measurements for accuracy.
The idea of a builder is strengthened by some ancient images associated with early kings.
Fu Hsi and Nu Gua as part sea-serpents with entwined tails (sometimes fish tails) and holding carpenter's square and bow compass respectively (Shandong temple)
Shamash shown holding the royal lapis lazuli measuring rod and looped measuring cord
The practice of ship burial of kings and chiefs may be another remnant left by the ancient Nusantao sea kings. The practice was found in ancient Egypt, among the Vikings and of course among the Austronesians.
Paul Kekai Manansala