The Silk Road was not actually a road. It
was not paved. It was not even a single route.
The Silk Road was a name given to any
route that led across China to Rome. It was a 4000-mile trip. At one end
was China. At the other end was Rome.
Each had something the other wanted. Rome
had gold and silver and precious gems. China had silk and spices and
Ideas also traveled along the Silk Road,
ideas that affected everyone.
The Romans were not surprised to hear of
another great civilization hidden over the mountains. They had been
looking for “the Silk People” for a long time.
The Romans discovered pieces of silk from
some of the people they conquered. Silk quickly became popular in Rome.
But it was scarce. The Romans wanted more silk. But they did not know
who was making this wonderful material.
The Romans tried to find the traders as they came into
the towns and villages. But the traders hid from the Roman soldiers.
They knew they had nothing to tell them. They did not know who was
making the silk. They only traded for the silk. They traveled a short
way along the silk road and traded with the people they found.
In frustration, the Romans sent out
parties of soldiers to follow the Silk Road, and find the source, the
people who were making the silk. Most of the soldiers never returned.
Those who did reported they could not find a way through the desert.
They had to turn back.
It was incredibly dangerous to travel
along the Silk Road. You faced desolate white-hot sand dunes in the
desert, forbidding mountains, brutal winds, and poisonous snakes.
There was one nice section, called the Gansu Corridor, a relatively
fertile strip that ran along the base of one of the mountains. To reach
this strip, you had to cross the desert or the mountains. And of course,
there were always bandits and pirates.
Even the traders did not make the whole
trip. They worked in relays. Each trader would go a certain distance,
exchange their goods for other goods, and hopefully return. The next
would move along the road, trade, and hopefully return.
There were three main routes, and all were dangerous.
Northern Route – Westward to Black
Central Route – Westward to Persia,
Mediterranean Sea, Rome
Southern Route – Westward to Iran,
The Silk Road took caravans to the
farthest extent of the Han Empire. Sections of the Great Wall were built
along the northern side of the Gansu Corridor to try and prevent bandits
from the north from harming the trade.
Over the centuries, the Silk Road
developed a civilization of its own. Where possible, the Silk Road
became lined with huge temples and booming cities. It became far easier
to travel the road. But it was never easy. There were still vast
stretches of deserts
and mountains to cross, with no city or water in sight.
of the Silk Road
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