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Current time:0:00Total duration:6:54

Video transcript

in our study of world history we have looked at many different empires and several of them are depicted on this map right over here we spent a lot of time on the Roman Empire and the highlighted yellow you see the Roman Empire at roughly its maximum extent and on this timeline you see the Roman kingdom and then the Roman Republic and then the Roman Empire which ends in the fifth century although the eastern Roman Empire the Byzantine Empire continues on for roughly another thousand years now we also have depicted here a significant Persian Empire you have the Parthian Empire and they were preceded by the Seleucid Empire and they were succeeded by the sustaining Empire but I have the Parthians depicted here on the timeline and on the map I also show Han China both the eastern and western han dynasties you can see on this timeline as well and in India I show the Maurya dynasty on the timeline I don't depict it here on the map but on the map I show the cushion Empire and I also show it on the timeline now the reason why I wanted to pick these empires at this specific time in the world is to highlight the fact that they weren't operating in complete isolation in fact as we get to the second and first century BCE especially as we get into the Common Era we start seeing a significant amount of Trade and interaction between these empires not to say that there wasn't trade and interaction before that time but it started to get accelerated and to a large degree it got accelerated because you had these contiguous empires that at least within their borders were able to provide some level of stability for someone to travel across roads or travel across borders and so you start to see the emergence of these trading networks in red you see trading roads or paths in red and in blue you see those paths by sea and this isn't even comprehensive and even what I show on the empires or many other smaller kingdoms that also existed in the world that I just don't have depicted here but what this contiguous block of empires allowed is for the trade of goods and ideas and some collectively the routes that were used for this trade is referred to as the Silk Road or the Silk Roads or really you could say the silk routes and so it's a collective number of paths that people use to trade things now why call it silk what all boils down to silk being a major commodity of trade at this time period so if you want to think about the different things that were traded around the world this is just a sample of it silk which comes from cocoons of these silk worms that eat mulberry leaves was considered a sign of wealth it was considered the finest cloth and China had a monopoly on how to make silk for many hundreds of years even after the period that we were talking about right here so you can imagine around the world people were interested in getting access to that Chinese silk but silk wasn't the only thing that was being traded in fact in order to trade you need to give something in exchange for even that silk one of the Chinese motivations for creating with others is having access to horses horses were valuable not just for transporting goods but also in war especially fighting some of their northern enemies who had access to horses they also were able to get gold from Europe be able to get cotton from India in Europe you also had other manufactured goods so you had this fairly vast trading enterprise emerge between these different parts of the world and to be clear some of the things that were traded allowed or facilitated the trade itself I mentioned horses were source of transportation but camels in particular were very powerful sources of transportation especially across Central Asia and as you get into the Middle East and Africa because you have these large swaths of desert camels could not only carry a lot but they had a lot of stamina and they did not have to stop for water as frequently a lot of world history we focus on the large non nomadic empires like the Roman Empire and Han China but as trade became more important especially as you go through Malaysia you could imagine that many of the people who were very good at trading who are good at moving things were people who are good at moving themselves in particular the nomadic people in Central Asia many of their cities along these trade routes became more and more wealthy and more and more powerful now as I mentioned goods were not the only thing that were transported along these routes one of the not-so-good things was the spread of disease so in the historical record we have two major plagues in Rome during the Roman Empire and we believe these plagues were smallpox although some people believe it might have been gzhel and it is believed that it came from traders and it came from Asia from the Middle East and these were significant plagues and the reason why we think that it was due to trade is that there's some evidence in Han China during this first plague of similar symptoms of a similar plague but it really affected Rome in these plagues it's estimated that as much as 10% of the population might have died in certain cities it might have been 25 30 percent of the population some historians even point to these plagues as destabilizing the Roman Empire and this is a theme that you'll see often in world history where if you have a population that doesn't have exposure to something say smallpox and all of a sudden they encounter a population that does have exposure well that smallpox might wreak had it but it wasn't just disease you also have the spread of ideas and technology and religion and the two religions that perhaps benefited the most from the early trade along the Silk Route or the Silk Roads or Christianity and Buddhism and Buddhism in particular was very appealing to many of these Silk Road merchants the cushion Empire in particular started to significantly spread Buddhism in previous videos we talked about Ashoka sending missionaries but the cushion Empire helped spread Buddhism into China and into the Far East so what we talked about in this video is the very beginning of the Silk Road as we get into the first few centuries BCE or the first few centuries of the Common Era but as we'll see the Silk Road will continue on for many hundreds or really over a thousand years