The Silk Road: Positive and Negative Influence

After the conquest of Greece in 336 B.C.E the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C.E. marked the start of the Hellenic Era. The Hellenic Era was a time in which Greece flourished. Before the Greeks were conquered Greece was divided into city states, such as Sparta and Athens, this would lead to their downfall since they were not united. During the Hellenic period Greece went from city-states to a full-blown cosmopolitan. The mix of Greek and Roman influence can be seen in their art, philosophy, culture, and the political ideology. The Hellenic era would also help set the stage for the famous Silk Road.

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Long distance trade was often dangerous for merchants. With the constant threat of robbery, long distance trade would be a game of life or death. The developments of long-distance roads and bridges would help reduce these risks by creating infrastructure. These would also build closer relationships to “neighboring” countries. This relationship would then help influence the famous trade route known as the silk road. The Hellenic era had promoted long distance trade between the Chinese Empire and the Roman Empire. The Silk Road was a trade route that helped introduce new materials amongst various countries as well as aided the spread of major religions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity.

The Silk Road had not only introduced the spread of new commercial goods but also religion and culture. For the commercial goods spices, such as, cloves, mace, cardamon, mace, and nutmeg came from the Southeast Asia. Ginger came from southeast Asia as well as China; Peppers, and sesames came from India, Southeast Asia, and Arabia; Central Asia raised and traded horses, as well as jade. But the reason why it was called the Silk road because silk was the commonly traded material. Silk was known for being extremely rare, as well as soft. Since the material was so rare it symbols of wealth. Silk comes from the silkworm which only can be found in the Asian empires. The skill of weaving the fine thread was a skill learned and mastered by skilled craftsmen. Besides silk, China traded porcelain (fine china), and tea, sugar, and salt these were known as luxury goods and were still a highly sought after by the rich. From the Roman Empire side glassware, fine jewelry, perfumes, pottery, works of art, and decorative items were the luxury consumer goods. Bronze, gold, and silver were also traded from the Roman Empire side as well. Cooking items such as olive oil was also introduced to the Asian market as well as the introduction of fine wines. While China dominated the silk market, the Roman empire sold textiles as well. Textiles such as cotton, wool, and linen were produced in the Roman empire and imported into China and other Asian countries. As previously stated, religion was also traded along the Silk Road. Buddhism, which is the dominant religion in China, was traded along the Silk Road. The famous monk, Xuanzang, was a Buddhist monk who travelled to India to learn and translate Buddhism. Buddhism eventually started to spread like wildfire along the Chinese continent. Hinduism and Christianity ideology also spread along the silk road. This came from the mixing of many empires and eventually their ideologies spread as well. However, amongst the positive impact there is a negative impact that came from the silk road, disease. The black death which ravaged through Europe also spread throughout parts of China as well. Since the invention of vaccines was nonexistent disease such as this spread rampant throughout the continent. Since these merchants traded along major cities and trade stops, disease was unfortunately, promoted along these stops. These dark times would affect the European continent as well as parts of the Asian continent.

Trade often promotes the spread of new commercial goods, as well as religion. The idea that such a simple way of economic gains invites other benefits is amazing. The silk road help promote new perspective and influenced empires even up to the present day. Despite all the positives negatives also appeared as well. Unfortunately, trade does not discriminate, and the spread of the bubonic plague was another outcome of this trade. It wasn’t biological warfare but rather an unknown topic. However today we take trade for granted; A lot of these items we have today are mass produced and the ways of producing them benefit industries. Trade is still a major part to a country’s economy as well as a mutual uniting factor.  

07 July 2022

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