The King's Highway of the Middle East and the Silk Roadby Rit Nosotro
Compare and contrast the traditional trade routes of the King's Highway of the Middle East and the Silk Road. In what form do these exist today?
Merchants, somewhat like traveling salesmen, had a long and treacherous path to travel in order to either deliver or sell their goods. One would suppose that these merchants had no more than one trail to follow; however, most trading routes had several beginnings, ends, and forks in the road. Traveling merchants that went by the King’s Highway had the ability to stay at fifteen different towns if they made the whole trip. Those merchants who traded on the Silk Road could stop at about thirty-four different towns along the way if they traveled the whole of the road and took each different way. Even through the fear of roaming bandits and the thought of perhaps not surviving to the next stop to those that traveled them, these trading routes were useful and important to the growth of all surrounding towns, cities, and countries. Trading routes involved several trying situations—safety, difficult decisions, travel hardships, sharing religions, and trading goods—but beyond all of the hardships, trading routes brought different countries together for the purpose of growing in population and wealth, and for improving the overall quality of life.
Beginning in a town called Heliopolis, modern day Cairo, the King’s Highway stretched from Egypt to Resafa, modern day Makhfar, which bordered the Assyrian, Syrian, and Palestinian Empires. This trade route passed through many different places, such as Petra, Shaubak, Philadelphia, and Damascus, along with several other lesser-known cities. Along the way travelers had to endure pebble-strewn grounds, deserts, sandstorms, possible flash floods when traveling in a dried up wadi (riverbed), sand dunes, boulders, washed-out trails, narrow roads, and fording rivers. Beside the environmental dangers, travelers had to pay taxes for guaranteed safety, and of course they also had the expected lack of provisions, the possibility of injured animals, and the danger of hurt fellow travelers.
With many different roads to take, the Silk Road looks the more difficult passage. This trade route began in Chang’an, now known as Xi’an, China, and went as far as Rome, Italy. Some of the hardships that travelers of the Silk Road had to undergo included traveling over mountains, fording usually more than one river, and the usual deprivation of supplies and unexpected injuries. Around seventeen different road options opened themselves to the travelers, several more than those on the King’s Highway.
Most of the cities through which both the King’s Highway and Silk Road passed were relatively small and obscure. Cities that both trade routes went through were chosen for their convenience and safety. Trade routes made the cities wealthier and better known. When traders only usually stayed overnight, then the city remained small, but the longer the travelers stayed, or the more roads that passed through, the bigger and wealthier the city grew. Politically, each government had to make the surrounding area safe and convenient for the traveling merchants. If a city did not meet the needs, or presented safety hazards, then travelers simply ignored that particular city and changed the route to pass through a more useful city.
Travelers also had to pay taxes at some of their stops, usually located a day’s travel apart, to ensure protection. This often resulted in a long ordeal of pleasing the local Sheik, or chief, and then bargaining on what “gift” or tax would be used to gain the Sheik’s blessing. Anyone wanting to please the Sheik would invite him into the tent, and then feed and entertain him until the Sheik saw fit to leave. Bandits usually did not attack large caravans, or groups of traveling people, and bandits would not dare—unless completely desperate—attack a caravan that had the blessing of the Sheik. Caravans could have as little as one hundred camels, to as many as one thousand. Generally, each camel carried about five hundred pounds of cargo.
Even though silk became this trading route’s namesake, merchants traded silk for only about thirty percent of their average trading on the Silk Road. However, silk—one of the few items to do so—went from beginning to end of the entire road. China traded items such as ceramics, furs, iron, and jade in return for glass, precious stones and metals, and gold. Another well-known route, the Pepper Route, joined the Silk Road at Afghanistan. The Pepper Route, named after its product, which came from India, also traveled the entire length of the Silk Road.
Having a completely different variety of traded goods, the King’s Highway transported Egyptian linen, grain, and flax from Egypt to the Euphrates River. Caravans traveling towards Egypt carried mostly incense and spices, but jewelry and carved ivory also made their way down the Highway to the land of the Nile. Other items that the merchants could trade or take payment for along the way were fish, raw copper, cloth, and steel. The King’s Highway appears to have traded more items that the people needed rather than wanted, especially compared to the Silk Road. More of the items traded on the King’s Highway were for food, necessary clothing, and everyday requirements. Most of the products traded along the Silk Road were luxury items usually not required for everyday life.
Though the logistics of trading seem simple enough, merchants had a lot of work cut out for them—both physically and intellectually. Traders had the responsibility of keeping their fellow travelers, animals, and goods safe and well. They also needed the intellectual powers to make good bargains, selling or trading their items at the right time for the right amount. Good merchants could make use of every stop along their route to sell and trade objects if they knew what they were about. Besides the goods they traded and sold, merchants also brought and took different religions along their road. Because of this, religion and culture spread considerably into different countries. Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity made their way into China, while Islam made its way out of Egypt, heading along the Highway, and Christianity made its way in.
Today many of the cities along these routes either have different names or have died out. Those that remain inhabited have changed drastically with the additions of electricity and modernized living. Most of the King’s Highway now stands as paved roads used for travel, but little used for trading. Due to quarrelling countries, the Silk Road had diminished into nothing over times, but beginning in the nineteenth century, the Silk Road had its roads restored. Now thanks to paved roads and railways along the same old trade route, the Silk Road still provides a route for trading—this time consisting primarily of heavy industry and consumer trading. Trade routes, including the Silk Road, still exist between countries struggling to survive and live peaceably with each other, even if on a smaller scale than so many years ago when long distance trading first started.
1. Where did the King’s Highway begin and end?
A. Delhi to Xiamen
B. Los Angeles to Chicago
C. Chang’an to Rome
D. Heliopolis to Resafa
E. Naples to Tianjin
2. What did the governments do to help with the trade routes?
A. Bought or traded for lots of goods
B. Ensured travelers’ safety as they continued on
C. Used metal detectors to check for weapons in each caravan
D. Gave the caravans guides
E. Provided them with free rations
3. What percentage of silk was traded on the Silk Road?
4. Where did the Pepper Route join the Silk Road?
1. D., 2. B., 3. C., 4. C.
Baird, Rodney R. <http://www.ancientroute.com/HeadrFtr/tkingshwy.htm> “King’s Highway.” 13 Sep. 2003.
Baird, Rodney R. <http://www.ancientroute.com/SilkRoad.htm> “The
Silk Road.” 13 Sep. 2003.
Humboldt State University. <http://www.humboldt.edu/~geog309i/ideas/raysilk.html> “The Geography of the Silk Road.” 13 Sep. 2003.
Travel China Guide. <http://www.travelchinaguide.com/silkroad/index.htm> “Silk Road Index.” 13 Sep. 2003.
Additional information about <http://hyperhistory.net/apwh/essays/comp/cw02tradesilkkings.htm>
Map Graph Focus on Facts Biography
The above essay was donated to hyperhistory.net.
of inaccuracies or plagiarism.
Post a link to this essay,
a great essay
on your blog or website :
|Comparative Essays||Biographies||Doc. Based Questions||Change Over Time|