The Silk Road
The Silk Road or Silk Route is a modern term referring to a historical
network of interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass that
connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European
world, as well as parts of North and East Africa.
Extending 4,000 miles
(6,500 km), the Silk Road gets its name from the lucrative Chinese silk trade
along it, which began during the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE). 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.
Trade on the
Silk Road was a significant factor in the development of the civilizations of
China, India, Persia, Europe and Arabia. Though silk was certainly the major
trade item from China, many other goods were traded, and various technologies,
religions and philosophies, as well as the bubonic plague (the "Black Death"),
also traveled along the Silk Routes.
The main traders during Antiquity
were the Indian and Bactrian traders, then from the 5th to the 8th century CE
the Sogdian traders, then afterward the Arab and Persian traders.