Horses for Spices: Trade Along the Silk Road
by Theodore Morrison, age 13
Have you ever heard of a road that wasn’t a road? If so, perhaps it was the Silk Road, which was not a single road but a series of routes.
The Silk Road stretched across Europe and Asia, and traders carried goods back and forth along its routes. Silk was often bought from China to dress European royalty and any patrons who had enough money to afford it. Jades, other precious jewels, porcelain, tea, and spices also were exchanged from Asia. From Europe came horses, textiles, and manufactured goods.
Trade along the Silk Road started around 130 BCE and continued until the Ottoman Empire closed the road for good in 1453 CE. The silk road stretched for 4000 miles across both the European and Asian continents. It crossed the Gobi Desert and the Pamir Mountain range, both of which were difficult to traverse due to their treacherous landscapes. The routes were not maintained so it was common for robbers to be lurking on the side of a route waiting to steal from travelers. To protect their goods, travelers moved in groups called caravans.
The Silk Road was not only a means to transport goods. The cities and towns along the routes often had multiple cultures due to the number of traders and travelers passing through, who spread their culture and ideas to the inhabitants.
Unfortunately, disease was also passed along the Silk Road. It ran rampant because traders caught diseases and carried them along the routes. Some researchers even believe that the Black Death spread to Europe along the Silk Road.
The Silk Road has played a major role in world history. It helped Europe and Asia prosper with the resources they traded and parts of it are included in UNESCO's World Heritage List.