Traditions and Encounters, AP Edition (Bentley), 5th Edition

Chapter 12: Cross-Cultural Exchanges on the Silk Roads


The classical era witnessed the growth and consolidation of vast empires such as Rome, China, and Parthia. The relative political stability, economic prosperity, and close proximity of their borders encouraged an unprecedented growth in long-distance trade. Regular land and sea trading routes, collectively known as the silk roads, became established thoroughfares for the spread of goods from the coast of China to western Europe. This extensive trading network had several consequences, both intended and unintended.

  • Regions began to specialize in certain products that were particularly valuable as trade goods.
  • Merchants, traders, mariners, and bankers became much more wealthy and influential than they had ever been before.
  • Merchants, travelers, and missionaries carried popular religious beliefs to distant lands via the silk roads. Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Mithraism in particular became much more widespread.

Disease pathogens were carried to populations that had no immunities to them, causing widespread epidemics throughout Eurasia. Inadvertently these epidemics contributed to the downfall of the Han and Roman empires.

Traditions & Encounters, 5e
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