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Silk Road
But the majestic River floated on,
Out of the mist and hum of that low land,
Into the frosty starlight, and there moved,
Rejoicing, through the hushed Chorasmian waste,
Under the solitary moon: — he flowed
Right for the polar star, past Orgunjè,
Brimming, and bright, and large: then sands begin
To hem his watery march, and dam his streams,
And split his currents; that for many a league
The shorn and parcelled Oxus strains along
Through beds of sand and matted rushy isles —
Oxus, forgetting the bright speed he had
In his high mountain-cradle in Pamere,
A foiled circuitous wanderer: — till at last
The longed-for dash of waves is heard, and wide
His luminous home of waters opens, bright
And tranquil, from whose floor the new-bathed stars
Emerge, and shine upon the Aral Sea.
Sohrab and Rustam, by Matthew Arnold

The Silk Road is a name given by the Adventurer Archaeologist Ferdinand von Richtofen(the uncle of guess who ), to the overland luxury trade routes between China and the Mediterranean. It was not a "road" per se; more like a "web". But a web that shifted to and fro as natural, economic and political circumstances favored one route above another. It's name came from the Chinese silk traded along the road, which was more valued then any silk manufactured at the time. There were other goods transported along the way, such as jade, glass, porcelain, horses, spices, and what not. In fact from China's point of view it might be called the "jade route" as Chinese for a long time valued jade as much as westerners valued silk. As well, ideas and customs were carried back and forth along the routes. For instance Greek colonies descended from veterans of the army of Alexander the Great have left traces of merging of Oriental and Occidental art forms. From the other direction Arabic-actually-Indian numerals, both by the Indian Ocean commerce and through the Silk Road were carried largely by Islamic traders(the reason for the name "arabic") to the west. On the whole, the Silk Road was inclined toward the desert and mountain areas of Central Asia because, hazardous as those were they were usually less hazardous then the steepes riddled with constant clan wars among the nomads dwelling there.

Few traders actually went all the way across. Not only were the perils great but the tarrifs charged by each prince along the way mounted up until they became unaffordable, not least because there were few occasions in which the entire route was ruled by one empire; in normal times each petty prince got a peace of the action so to speak. Thus the trade along the Silk Road naturally formed a sort of relay system where one trader would sell to another, and so on taking his own cut at the end of his journey. The Silk Road, like much of Central Asia, resembled an "ocean" in which each city was an "island". The names of the cities have become famous in romance and poetry and are well remembered. Names like Samarkand, Bactria, Kashgar, and so on.

The end of the Silk Road as remembered in the past came when the Cape of Good Hope was circumvented by Portuguese and the luxury products from China could be gotten cheaper. Much of the Silk Route declined. Still to this day it is a notable trade route and caravans frequently cross. Usually with trucks instead of camels but often carrying the same kind of goods as their ancestors.

A number of famous people had part of their lives associated with the Silk Road. These include, but are not limited to Alexander the Great, Fitzroy Maclean, Genghis Khan, Gustav Mannerheim, and most famous of all Marco Polo.

Tropes associated with the Silk Road:

  • All Jews Are Cheapskates: Subverted. On the Sabbath Jewish traders would linger behind the caravan and pay mercenary escorts extra to abide by the change in schedule. However much they were risking for money, they considered piety more important.
  • Ambadassador : Many times. Often the chief problem of diplomacy was for each empire to actually find the other. Not to mention surviving the trip.
  • Arabian Nights Days
  • Badass Jews: The Khazar Empire which controled large parts of the area for a long time. It was a great and cultured civilization as well as being as handy with their swords as anyone around.
  • Bazaar of the Bizarre
  • Barbarian Tribe: Many along the way.
  • Bold Explorer: In a way, everyone who traveled on the Silk Road.
  • Born in the Saddle: Many of the peoples along the way. It is the Great Steppe, after all.
  • Crossing the Desert
  • Do You Want to Haggle?
  • Fanservice: One reason Chinese silk was so valued was that it could be woven translucent.
  • Intrepid Merchant: Some of whom came from a Real Life Proud Merchant Race.
  • Kill It with Ice: Zig-Zagged. The Silk Road went through some of the coldest parts of the world. In a way, however, this was an advantage; water often carries easier as ice blocks. And sometimes even the cold was better then times and places when it was hot.
  • Land of One City: Usually several along the way.
  • Merchant City
  • Outlaw: These would form small armies and clearing them away was an actual military operation.
  • Redshirt Army: A caravan. Individual merchants were seldom professional warriors although the needs of their profession might mean that they were at least capable of showing you a thing or two. But the large numbers of them could protect them from outlaws. In a way the silk road was a 1500 year arms race between traders and outlaws.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Each end of the Silk Road was this to the other end. Romans and Chinese practically looked on each other as an alien race.

Works associated with the Silk Road:

Historical:

The Silk Road A History, by Irene Franck and David Brownstone
To the Ends of the Earth by Irene Franck and David Brownstone
The Great Game series by Peter Hopkirk

Memoir:

Eastern Approaches by Fitzroy Maclean

Fiction:

The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio takes place in a setting rather like the Silk Road and seems to have allusions which might be caught by someone fammiliar with the history of the area.
Silent Age of HollywoodAdministrivia/Useful Notes Pages in MainSimo Häyhä
Romanovs And RevolutionsUseful NotesThe Space Race

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