Mediterranean Travels to the Silk Road
Source Wikipedia (extracts):
The Silk Road (or Silk Routes) is an extensive interconnected network of trade routes across the Asian continent connecting East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean world, as well as North and Northeast Africa and Europe. The Silk Road gets its name from the lucrative Chinese silk trade, a major reason for the connection of trade routes into an extensive trans-continental network.
The German terms “Seidenstraße” and “Seidenstraßen”- ‘the Silk Road(s)’ or ‘Silk Route(s) were first used in 1877 by Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen, who made seven expeditions to China from 1868 to 1872. The English term “The Silk Road” has come into general use in spite of the fact it was a network of routes, few of which were more than rough caravan tracks, and silk was by no means the only item traded along them. China traded silk, spices, teas, and porcelain; while India traded ivory, textiles, precious stones, and pepper.
In recent years, both the maritime and overland Silk Routes are again being used, often closely following the ancient routes.
The Silk Routes (collectively known as the “Silk Road”) were important paths for cultural, commercial and technological exchange between traders, merchants, pilgrims, missionaries, soldiers, nomads and urban dwellers from Ancient China, Ancient India, Ancient Tibet, Persia and Mediterranean countries for almost 3,000 years. It gets its name from the lucrative Chinese silk trade, which began during the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE).
Extending 4,000 miles (6,500 km), the routes enabled people to transport goods, slaves and luxuries such as silk, satin and other fine fabrics, musk, other perfumes, spices, medicines, jewels, glassware and even rhubarb, as well as serving as a conduit for the spread of knowledge, ideas, cultures, zoological specimens and some non indigenous disease conditions between Ancient China, Ancient India (Indus valley, now Pakistan), Asia Minor and the Mediterranean. Trade on the Silk Road was a significant factor in the development of the great civilizations of China, India, Egypt, Persia, Arabia, and Rome, and in several respects helped lay the foundations for the modern world. Although the term the Silk Road implies a continuous journey, very few who traveled the route traversed it from end to end. For the most part, goods were transported by a series of agents on varying routes and were traded in the bustling mercantile markets of the oasis towns.
The central Asian sections of the trade routes were expanded around 114 BCE by the Han dynasty, largely through the missions and explorations of Zhang Qian, but earlier trade routes across the continents already existed. In the late Middle Ages, transcontinental trade over the land routes of the Silk Road declined as sea trade increased. Though silk was certainly the major trade item from China, many other products were traded, and various technologies, religions and philosophies as well as the bubonic plague (the so-called “Black Death”) also traveled along the Silk Routes. India played a vital role in the trade, being virtually by the center of the route as well as having unique products such as spices, precious stones, and hand-crafted goods. With the fall of the Han dynasty in the 3rd century trading between the east and west had decreased. Byzantine historian Procopius had said that two Christian monks uncovered the way of how silk was made. From this revelation spies were sent to steal the silkworm eggs and after this silk was also produced in the Mediterranean. Emperor Wu Di (141-87)had to battle the Hsiung-nu nomads in the north and sent out his general Zang Qian to find allies and to buy the famous Iranian war horses from Nisaia. Although Zang Qian failed in his mission, he visited Bactria and had found the way to the west. With Wu Di in power, the Silk Road had been opened. Then it was not until around 1400 when the Silk Road stopped as a shipping route for Silk. In 1492 Christopher Columbus wanted to make another Silk route to China but that just led to disappointment in the Western nations.
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