The Silk Road was a commercial and cultural network that influenced several nations. This extensive (more than 5,000 miles) trade path held not only tangible items such as: slaves, luxury goods, and food, but the routes also helped to distribute other things like culture, religion, philosophies, and one the most important epidemics... the plague.


Who emerged along the silk roads (countries and their corresponding cities)?
The Silk Road was essentially a route that connected South Asia’s oldest civilization (China) to the Mediterranean parts of Europe with the purpose of encouraging trade. From the Classical to the Post-Classical periods of history, the destruction, reformation, and construction of nations and their cities happened along the Silk Road. The Silk Road connected various peoples and cities. Whether a port city for gathering ideas, philosophies, and trading goods, or just a civilization to pass through, the silk road was a catalyst to prosperity and improvement.

Who established the Silk Routes?
The Silk Routes were first established during the Han dynasty in order to trade with countries in Europe. It is considered that the diplomatic mission of Zhang Qian, a Chinese envoy from the former Han court, along with the creation and enlargement of Alexander the Great’s empire of the Hellenistic world played the most important role in the opening of the Silk Road.

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Picture 1: The ancient ruins of a civilization (The Roman Empire) that had a huge part in the development of the Silk Roads.


What is the Silk Road?
The Silk Road is widely understood to have been the overland trade route from China to the Mediterranean, opened first in the 3rdcentury B.C.E. and came to an end between the 15th and 17thcenturies C.E. due to a variety of political and economic changes. The 5,000 to 7,000 mile route spanned China, Central Asia, Northern India, and the Parthian and Roman Empires.

What were the consequences of the Silk Road?
  • Exposing both the Chinese and visitors to their country to different cultures and religions.
  • Buddhism spread from India to China because of trade along the Silk Route.
  • China had spread their influences to its “daughter” countries through “ Sinification”.
  • Korea learned the ways of Chinese art, language structure, and receiving manufactured items.
  • During the reign of the Mongols, trade flourished and cultural exchange increased throughout the Silk Routes.
  • The Mongols who heavily participated in the Eurasian silk routes, were believed to have spread the Bubonic Plague to places like Western Europe.


Summary:The classical civilizations (China, India, and the Mediterranean) all started out with internal trade. Around 200 B.C.E., Empires grew and international trade began as a result of the need for resources. This is when the Eurasian trade network first started. The Eurasian Silk Road lasted roughly between the years 200 B.C.E. and 1500 C.E. This window of time is based on when the Silk Road was generally utilized. (It may have existed for longer.)

When was the Eurasian Silk road first defined?
The Classical Period was when the Eurasian trade routes first developed. Around 200 B.C.E, under the Han dynasty, China began to have more direct contact with other empires, like Rome. The silk routes developed to facilitate trade. Slowly, other classical civilizations joined the commercial system. Around 300 B.C.E. was when the Mauryans in India came to power and the cores of the major civilizations were now frequently trading with each other. Definite trade paths were established from then on.

When did the Eurasian trade routes loose importance?
The routes were important because of the way they linked civilizations economically and culturally. Their importance lessened around the 15th century, because exploration of the New World was the new focus. Nations saw transportation by sea as cheaper and more effective, since ships could carry more products. New lands and new resources made old trade routes less essential to the structure of civilizations.


Summary: The inhabitants of the areas surrounding the Silk Road needed a way to maintain their strong imperial foundation- so, they developed a path. This path, (the Silk Road) was the equivalent to our modern day I-35 highway system! This route allowed a more sufficient way of communication throughout varying empires. The Silk Road also enabled populaces and their empires alike, to engage in a wider range of trade, which resulted in the increase of cash flow throughout the empires affected by the Silk Road (China, Roman Empire, etc.).

Why did the Silk Road exist?! Why was it used?! Why was it beneficial to empires?!
Why was it called the “Silk Road?!”
Two words… COMMUNICATION and MONEY! This complex road was a very convenient means of travel for various matters such as: goods, ideas, and communication. Inhabitants of the areas surrounding the Silk Road needed an easy way to communicate to their own empire and bordering empires, which was very beneficial to those domains, and increased the use of the Silk Road. The natives also needed a more sufficient way to trade and obtain money. The Silk Road was not the first establishment of a “road” system in the classical era.


Summary:The Silk Road not only made communication between empires, trade, and obtaining money more efficient, the Silk Road also lead to ample advances in transportation and innovations –while commercial growth was simultaneously cultivated!

How were goods and ideas transported along the Silk Road?!The great importance that the Silk Road possessed in the hands of various empires, allowed the Silk Road to flourish and maintain its title as the key contributor to the surrounding empires: economy, culture, and politics. This massive road was able to link with other smaller routes, which allowed many empires to become more global! All of these variables that the Silk Road controlled contributed to the survival of the massive route itself.

How did the Silk Road change over time?

Over time, The Silk Road immensely altered various empires' ways of life. Old empires grew, new civilizations developed, manufacturing improved, tools were invented, transporting vessels advanced, and how the merchant classes were perceived in societies, such as Tang and Song Dynasty in China, were improved due to their rise in economic importance. Prior to their progress in the Chinese society, during the Qin and Han dynasty, the merchants were not credited for the important role they played in supporting that dynastic civilization they were a part of. Merchants were even seen lower than the peasant class themselves.

Additionally, during the post-classical era of the Chinese empire, the Chinese society saw the enhanced role that the growing merchant class played in their government, supplying the society with more revenue. The merchants also traveled widely which gave the Chinese a more global perception on the world around them!