The Silk Road Was More Than A Great Trade Route

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Silk Road; It is very important as it enables religions, new technologies, and ideologies to spread throughout Eurasia. The Silk Road evokes an exotic image for most Westerners. Spice and silk caravans, open-air markets full of brightly dressed merchants, stacked rugs, turbaned travelers …

According to an ancient Eastern man, it would have been the same if the trade route connecting the two civilizations had started in reverse. Foreign concepts such as knights and Roman legionnaires were transported by merchants from the mysterious land to the Eurasian steppe.

Today, the legacy of the Silk Road is not the products it carries, but the philosophies and technologies that spread with them. For the first time, two different worlds mingled There was an exchange of ideas, languages ​​, and arts between the West and the East. While Christianity spread to the east, Buddhism spread beyond India. Gunpowder and paper were introduced to the West and Roman glass to the East. In the middle, the mixing of people and thoughts enabled the development of new cultures.

A Tough Road

The Silk Road concept did not exist until it was popularized by the German explorer Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen in the 19th century. Before that, there were no specific names of trade routes that spread from Asia to Europe. The Silk Road consisted of a combination of several different trade routes to transport goods from China to the Arabian Peninsula. Few traders have traveled the entire 6000km Silk Road. Few merchants such as Marco Polo and Rabban Bar Sauma were able to gather valuable information on the Silk Road. They were also the exception.

What we call the Silk Road today, BC. It began to form in the 2nd century, during the Chinese Han Dynasty. After capturing the nomadic Xiongnu tribes in the north and west, the Khan began to colonize new territories and expand his relations with external civilizations. This expansion served to expand diplomatic relations and gather information about new lands by sending Han envoys such as Zhang Qian. Qian’s travels later provided the infrastructure for expansion towards the west and the creation of new and valuable trade networks. Han expanded the Great Wall of China both to protect caravans from bandits and to support the flow of goods to China. The Han was looking for strong horses to strengthen his army. He aimed to do this by exchanging silk and various products.

Commodities such as silk, jade, spices, jewelry, and ironically, rhubarb (precious because of its medicinal properties), began to be carried westward by merchants across the dangerous deserts, mountain ranges, and vast steppes. Long caravans, consisting of camels carrying loads of up to 150 kilograms each, sailed between oasis cities such as Balkh, Samarkand, Turfan, and Kucha, hoping not to be affected by bandits or sandstorms.

Eventually, the goods reached the wealthy people of the rising Rome, who had begun to take an interest in various exotic beauty, especially silk. However, some products spread from Rome. In later archaeological studies, Roman glassware was found in Japanese tombs, and glass beads produced in Rome were found in China.

In addition to the Silk Road, there was a seaway that was sprouting and connecting the East to the West.

It started from Chinese ports, stopped in Sri Lanka and India, and sailed to the Red Sea in Egypt. And he was responsible for most of the spice trade. It starts from Xi’an city and moves east to the Great Wall of China. While surrounding the Taklamakan desert north and south, Semekerkand, while the rate was still present on the territory of Turkey and the eastern Mediterranean countries. The caravan was divided into India, where Chinese Buddhists went to find ancient inscriptions. From there it was moving to North Africa, Constantinople, and Greece.

The Silk Road, which got bigger and smaller as the lands it passed through changed hands, continued its existence for about two thousand years. Just as in the Mongol Empire, trade was very strong in the Tang Dynasty. However, with the collapse of the Mongol Empire, it started to collapse. But trade between East and West continued for centuries.

The Silk Road Is Still Alive

Goods on the Silk Road were coming from both ends of the road. But most of the trade was carried out by people living in the middle of the road. The most prominent of these were the Sogdians, a central Asian civilization that was fortunate enough to be in the middle of a very lively trade route. Sogdian seaside caravan traders toured the Silk Road in four towns, and it seems that the Sogdian language was the common language on the giant trade route.

Sogdians Helped Spread Religions

In addition to their wealth, the Sogdians likely helped spread different religions where they went. They introduced a variant of Buddhism and Christianity to China and Islam to the Turks. Today, the Silk Road is known for its blending of ideas and philosophies from different regions, among other features. This has led to fundamental cultural changes, such as when Buddhism was introduced to China, as well as new variations in religions such as Nestorianism.

The Silk Road was also responsible for the expansion of cultural horizons wherever it went. Sources such as Marco Polo’s Travels introduced the miracles of China to European audiences (although not entirely correct). Rabban Bar Sauma’s writings also documented medieval Europe from the eyes of a stranger down to the finest detail.

Today, we can see the heritage of the Silk Road in human DNA. Studies on modern humans have found evidence of mixing European and Asian genes in central regions of the Silk Road, in central Asia. It can be seen that the Silk Road carried people far from their homes to foreign regions together with their culture. The new traditions and people that emerged within civilizations also led to the formation of multinational countries.