Impact of the Silk Road and the Fertile Crescent trade routesby Rit Nosotro
Compare the Silk Road with the Fertile Crescent trade routes. How did they have major impact upon humanity?
Both of these routes had social and economic impact, and even more importantly they both served as pathways for spreading God’s truth.
The Fertile Crescent trade routes formed because of an excess of food and a lack of natural resources by the Mesopotamians. Merchants traded grain, and clay items for the building materials that they lacked. The trade routes led two different ways, one to the Indus River Valley, the other to the Mediterranean Sea and Egypt. The Silk Road were groups of trade routes from China to Europe. Besides the trading of silk from China to Europe, China also sent jades and ceramics in exchange for precious stones and glass from Europe. Goods didn’t usually travel directly through the route, but instead through middlemen, of a different culture, causing many cultures to mix.
Throughout history international trade has held a prominent role in the development of societies and continues to do so today. In addition to providing a means of obtaining goods, trade causes interaction between various cultures. It facilitates growth, development, and change, because when people trade, they not only exchange commodities, but also customs, ideas, and religions. In fact, this exchange has actually helped to spread God's truth. Two of the most influential trade routes of the ancient world were the route along the Fertile Crescent and the Silk Road. Both of these routes had social and economic impact, and even more importantly they both served as pathways for spreading God's truth.
The earlier of the two routes was the route through the Fertile Crescent. Located in the Middle East, the Fertile Crescent received its name due to the rich agriculture that the area supported. The region formed an arch that stretched from Palestine in the west to the Tigris River in the east. Because the region lacked natural protection, numerous invasions occurred here through the years, and it fell into the hands of various rulers.
Archaeologists believe that Sumer became the earliest civilization in this region, and that it began to flourish around 3500 B.C.. Sumer lay between and around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in a region which the Greeks later called Mesopotamia (which means "between the rivers"). Thanks to the two rivers, the soil was the most fertile here, and the Sumerians increased its fertility by digging a network of canals for irrigation and transportation. Mesopotamia's fertile soils produced an excess of food, so fewer farmers were required, and more people could live in towns and cities. However, Mesopotamia's lack of natural resources, such as wood, stone, and metal, sparked trade with other parts of the world.
Merchants from Sumer traded grain and manufactured items, such as pottery and tools which the Sumerian cities could produce, in exchange for the natural resources that Sumer lacked. Among the goods which the merchants brought home were building materials, such as wood and stone, as well as precious metals. With these materials, the Sumerians created marvelous cities which still serve as a monument to their great civilization.
Sumerian traders generally went in one of two directions. Some followed the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to the Persian Gulf and then took sea routes to India, where they traded with the people of the Indus River valley. Others traveled through the Fertile Crescent, trekking northwest by land until they reached the Mediterranean Sea and even continued on to Egypt at times. Abraham, the patriarch of Israel, followed a similar route when he left his home in Ur-Sumer's capital-and followed God to the land of Canaan. His journey likely led him along previously established trade routes used by the Sumerians. The Fertile Crescent trade routes, therefore, provided a road by which Abraham carried the truth about God to Canaan. Once in Canaan, Abraham became the father of God's chosen people, Israel, whom God would later use to reveal His truth to the entire world.
Many centuries after trade began in the Fertile Crescent, the Silk Road became a prominent route linking Europe and China through commerce. The road reached its height between 600 A.D. and 900 A.D.. However, this "road" was not actually a road or even a particular path at all. In fact, several routes sprang up, just as had occurred in the Fertile Crescent. Together these routes constituted what became known as the "Silk Road." All the routes began in China. Two paths skirted the borders of the Takla Makan desert before crossing the Pamir Mountains. Another trail reached the Pamir Mountains through Central Asia, while still another led travelers through Persia.
Despite its name, the Silk Road's merchants actually traded many different commodities-not just silk. Other goods which westerners obtained through the Silk Road included furs, ceramics, jade, lacquer, bronze articles, and iron. In exchange, goods such as ivory, precious stones, and glass went to China. Like so many others before them, including the Sumerians, the Silk Road's merchants also traded precious metals. But of course the route became known chiefly for silk, for which there was a high demand in Rome.
Many believe that the Romans first stumbled upon silk among their enemies, the Parthians. Apparently the Romans learned from their Parthian prisoners that the amazing fabric came from a region far to the east and that it was made by a people that the Parthians named the "Seres" or "silk people." In Rome, demand for silk grew rapidly. When the Parthians observed this, they acted as middle-men, obtaining silk from China and selling it to the Romans. Thus, the Silk Road became an extremely frequented trade route.
Few merchants traveled the entire distance from Europe to China, however. Goods often changed hands many times before reaching their final destination. This meant that many cultures intermingled along the road. A European merchant, for example, might take his goods to a certain point along the Silk Road where he could trade them to a Parthian for silks and other commodities from the East. His goods might then travel farther along the route and change hands again. It could, therefore, take a long time for the goods from Europe to actually reach China, and the same held true for goods traveling the opposite direction. As cultures intermingled during this process, many cultural elements were transferred.
Among the most significant cultural transfers was that of religion. Both Christianity and Buddhism were among the religions that entered China by way of the Silk Road. Buddhism originated in India, but the dominantly Hindu culture of India caused persecution of the Buddhists. As a result, many Buddhists took the Silk Road to China, where their religion became widely accepted. The Silk Road also gave China contact with Christianity in Europe. It opened the door for the Gospel to reach China and made a road for missionaries. In a country that would otherwise have remained isolated from Christianity, this trade route made it possible to spread God's truth.
In conclusion, the Fertile Crescent trade route and the Silk Road have provided examples of the economic impact which the ancient trade routes had, as well as how they carried God's truth to different locations and cultures. Although trade along each route was driven by different products, both routes assisted the economies of the various societies involved. This furthered development in these societies. But most importantly, both routes served as pathways for God's truth by making ways for His people to accomplish His purpose, according to His plan.
“The Lord said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will cures; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ So Abram left, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran.” (Genesis 12:1-4). From Ur, Abram followed the Fertile Crescent up the Tigris River and across furtile plains toward Canaan, forever providing an example of spreading truth along trade routes.
Kent L. Forrest. Sumer and Babylonia. St. Louis, Missouri. Milliken Publishing Co.
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"Fertile Crescent Civilizations." Killeen Harker Heights Connections. 10 Sept. 2003
Wild, Oliver. "The Silk Road." University of California, Irvine. 10 Sept. 2003
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Geography of the Silk Road." Humbolt State University. 10 Sept. 2003
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