The Importance of Silk Roads in the World History
Stretching across the land from the Black Sea to the eastern Chinese coast is a network of ancient trade routes known to historians as the Silk Road. The Silk Road, and the travelers who made it was an instrument in forging trade relations among diverse civilizations, but it also initiated the spread of culture throughout the continent.
Most historians claim that the Silk Road was first utilized around the second century BC, but in his book Shadow of the Silk Road, Colin Thubron claims that transcontinental trade began much earlier. “Chinese silk from 1500 BC had turned up in tombs in northern Afghanistan, and strands were discovered twisted into the hair of a tenth-century BC Egyptian mummy” (Thubron 24). As Susan Whitfield attests in her book Life Along the Silk Road, the cities along the Silk Road were “cosmopolitan. Many languages were heard, and many different people were seen in their marketplaces…And these people practiced a variety of religions…” (Whitfield 15-16). The Silk Road allowed an exchange of ideas among people who were geographically distant.
According to Joshua J. Mark, the disease also traveled along the Silk Road, “as evidenced in the spread of the bubonic plague of 542 CE…” (Mark). As the plague crippled the Byzantine Empire, the trade routes of the Silk Road were closed for good.
However, the Silk Road still provided benefits for the people of Eurasia. “The closing of the Silk Road forced merchants to take to the sea to ply their trade, thus initiating the Age of Discovery…” (Mark). Although the Silk Road itself had become a memory, interaction, trade, and cultural exchange between Eurasian people continues to this day.