Long Distance Trade and the Silk Roads Network: The spread of economic activity, religion, & disease through trade
What are Impacts of Long-distance Trade? • Provides wealth to civilizations • Gives civilizations access to foreign products • Enables people to concentrate their efforts on economic activities best suited to their regions • Facilitates spread of religions • Made transmission of disease over far distances possible
Classical China, India, & Rome: Linked by Trade • The Classical powers of Rome, India, and China provided internal stability to large territories • Improved transportation infrastructure • Their expanding size brought each of these into closer contact with one another • Costs of long-distance trade were reduced • Merchants began establishing an extensive network of trade routes that linked much of Eurasia and northern Africa • These overland trade routes are known as the “Silk Roads”
ROMAN EMPIRE CHINA INDIA INDIAN OCEAN
Route of the Silk Roads • Connected the two extreme ends of Eurasia • Linked China, India, the Roman Empire, and other cultures in between • Started in the Han capital of Chang’an • Skirted the TaklamakanDesert • Passed through oasis towns on the edge of the desert • Continued west to Bactria (modern-day Afghanistan) and then forked, heading in two different directions: to northern India or to northern Persia (modern-day Iran) • In northern Persia, the route joined with roads to ports on the Caspian Sea & Persian Gulf • Route proceeded to Palmyra (modern Syria) in the Middle East • Met roads coming from Arabia & ports on the Red Sea • Continued west & terminated at Mediterranean ports that linked to other Roman ports
Route of the Silk Roads • The Silk Roads also provided access at ports like Guangzhou in southern China that led to maritime (sea) routes to India & Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
Organization of Long Distance Trade on the Silk Road • Individual merchants usually did not travel from one end of Eurasia to the other • Instead, they handled long-distance trade in stages using camel caravans • There were many merchants serving as middle-men • Chinese, Persians, Indians, Romans, & others would dominate the caravan or maritime trade routes with their empire or territory of influence
Economics • Silk & Spices traveled west from southeast Asia, China, & India • China was the only country in classical times where cultivators & weavers had developed techniques for producing high-quality silk fabrics • Spices served not just to season food, but also as drugs, anesthetics, aphrodisiacs, perfumes, aromatics, & magical potions
Economics • Central Asia produced large, strong horses & jade prized by Chinese stone carvers • The Roman empire traded glassware, jewelry, works of art, perfumes, bronze & iron goods, wool & linen textiles, olive oil, wine, & silver • However, Europe offered things of less value compared to Asian goods. As a result, Europe had a huge trade imbalance with Asia. It lost money because it imported so many rare luxury goods from Asia.
Religion: Buddhism • Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) first announced his teachings publicly in India in 528 BCE • By the 3rd Century BCE, Buddhism was well-established in northern India • Buddhism was especially successful in attracting merchants as converts
Religion: Buddhism • Merchants & monks carried Buddhism along the Silk Roads where it first established a presence in the oasis towns where merchants & their camel caravans stopped for food, rest, lodging, & markets. • Dunhuang, in China, was one such spot.
Religion: Buddhism at Dunhuang • Between 600 & 1000 CE, Buddhists built hundreds of cave temples around Dunhuang depicting scenes of Buddha • Leaders at Dunhuang… • assembled libraries of Buddhist literature • Supported missionaries which spread Buddhism throughout China
Silk Road Art: Buddhists at Dunhuang • Who is depicted in these sculptures? • What cultures may have influenced the artistic style of these sculptures?
Religion: Christianity • Antioch, in modern-day Turkey in the Middle East, at the western end of the overland Silk Roads, was an important center in early Christianity • Antioch is mentioned many times in the Bible as a site of conversion to Christianity after Jesus’ death: • “Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year, Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” Acts 11: 25-26 St. Peter’s Grottos Church - Antioch
Saint Paul, an early convert to Christianity, began his missionary journeys at Antioch 45-67 CE
Religion: Christianity • Like other religions, Christianity followed the trade routes and expanded east throughout Mesopotamia, Iran, & as far away as India • However, Christianity’s greatest concentration was in the Mediterranean Sea area, where Roman roads, like the Silk Roads, provided ready transportation
Disease • The Antonine Plague (165-180 CE) was a plague of either smallpox or measles brought back to the Roman Empire by troops returning from campaigns in the Near East after traveling the Great Silk Road. • The disease broke out again 9 years later & the Roman historian Dio Cassius reported it caused up to 2,000 deaths a day at Rome • Total deaths of the Antonine Plague have been estimated at 5,000,000 • One of the reasons for the collapse of the Roman Empire and the Han dynasty in China was a terrible plague that spread along the Great Silk Road due to merchant activity.