The Silk Road was a major ancient trading route, which spanned from the Mediterranean to as Far East as China. It extended over 4000 miles, and allowed the interaction between cultures and brought many new inventions to many parts of the world. It played a significant part in the development of many cultures in India, China and Europe.
The Silk Road was never one long stretch of a road; there were several routes used, and many branched off from each other. It is thought that the Western part of the route was developed before the Eastern part; possibly due to the development of empires in the West. The Iranian empire was in control of a large area, stretching East to the Indian kingdom, and it is thought significant trade routes were found then, to make trade between the two easier and possible.
When Alexander the great conquered the Iranian empire in 330BC, he brought along with him his Greek culture, which influenced the area. He brought along the Greek language with him from Greece, which influenced, in part, the sharing of cultures and values. Ideals of Greek culture blended with Iranian and Indian ideals, superimposing all three cultures; the area became a crossroads where Eastern and Western ideas met and collaborated.
The Eastern routes developed more slowly, in part due to the conflicts in China of the warring states, with a series of brutal conflicts, which brought China together under one language and standardized system. Routes were developed around 125 BC when the Chinese emperor wanted to venture westward, after hearing of bigger horses that could be used for cavalry, and bridges and paved roads were constructed.
Trade was a major part of the route, as well as sharing cultural value and knowledge. The Romans acquired silk through this trade route, which they considered even more than gold, and it remained rare and very pricey. The infatuation with silk for westerns was so rife that they simply called the Chinese ‘’silk people’’, and the capital ‘’silk city’’. In the opposite way gold and ivory was introduced in China.
The route also brought along many cultural values, which influenced societies. For example, Buddhism was brought into China through the route from India, where it grew to have many followers, and influenced the culture. Christianity was also introduced to people along this route. Some claim that silk was not the most significant commodity transferred on this route, but rather religion. The Silk Road was a major trading hub that developed to allow trading between many major civilisations and empires. It introduced many people to new concepts and commodities, which they had never seen before.