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silk-road-msg – 6/11/06


The silk road medieval trade route.


NOTE: See also the files: p-spice-trade-msg, commerce-msg, salt-comm-art, spices-msg, silk-msg, Mongols-msg, Mongl-Mission-art, Italy-msg, travel-msg, travel-foods-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



Date: Sun, 30 Apr 2006 22:04:52 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Silk Road timeframe

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


The Silk Road (which is actually a number of trade routes rather than a

single highway) is over 5000 miles long.  A camel caravan can make 25 miles

a day, but the length of the journey is such that rest, recuperation,

weather, and trade would likely cut the daily average to 10 miles per  

day resulting in about a two year journey.


In fact, very few caravans would make the entire trek. Goods would be

traded from merchant to merchant over the length of the route, being

transferred to different caravans over time.  Individuals traveled the

entire route for their own purposes, but trade goods normally would not.


Most caravans would have traveled in the Spring, Fall or Winter (say after

the rain, but before the drought) depending on local weather conditions.





Date: Mon, 1 May 2006 21:00:20 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Silk Road timeframe, take 2

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


Rather than try to answer your questions, permit me to give you a few online

references, so you may make your own determinations.




Main Caravan Routes and Information about Trade:


http://depts.washington.edu/uwch/silkroad/texts/pegol.html (Pegolotti's

Merchant Handbook)


William of Rubruck (including the journey of John Pian of Carpini):




Ch'ang Ch'un:



Fa Hsien:



Benedict Goes:



Anthony Jenkinson:



Ruy Gonzales de Clavijo:



Hou Hanshu:









> I need to know how long it took PEOPLE to travel from Constantinople to

> Samarkand, especially noting what time of year this was.  That is: when

> did they leave Constantinople?  How long/what time of year was it when

> they reached Samarkand?  And then what time of year/how long for  

> them to reach Beijing?


> Morgana



Date: Mon, 1 May 2006 22:11:26 -0400

From: "King's Taste Productions" <kingstaste at comcast.net>

Subject: RE: [Sca-cooks] Silk Road timeframe, take 2

To: "'Cooks within the SCA'" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


In Gary Jenning's "The Journeyer", it takes the Polo expedition 3 years

to get from Venice to the Khan's capital.





Date: Tue, 2 May 2006 06:44:13 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Silk Road timeframe, take 2

To: <grizly at mindspring.com>, "Cooks within the SCA"

      <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


In the 15th Century, a series of tribal wars along the route cut off much of

the silk trade with the Genoese factories on the Black Sea, forcing the

Genoese to look for a sea route to the Orient.  With declining trade income

and the loss of overseas possessions to the Turks and the Spanish, they tied

their fortunes to those of the Iberian navigators.


At the same time, the spice trade was a monopoly largely controlled by the

Venetians and the Alexandrians.  When the Portuguese opened the route around

Africa, spice prices in Europe dropped by 1/3.  Shipping time dropped from

several years to one year (about 3 months actual travel, 9 waiting for the

right conditions).  The economic shift of a fast route to India left Venice

a declining power.


The trip west to get to the East was an attempt by the Spanish to gain

advantage on the Portuguese, who controlled the sea route down the coast of

Africa.  The Portuguese got the spices of India.  The Spanish got the gold

of the New World.


It is worth noting that the trade between Manila and Panama with the

resulting transshipment to Spain may have been a safer and more lucrative

trade route than the Portuguese navigation of Africa to India.




> That sounds more like what I was thinking.  I have no ready resources on the

> asilk road travel as it isn't myarea of interest, but thinking in terms of

> seaons passing may be a just a bit too small . . . There must've been a

> reason that the trip west to find a short route to India was so important.

> Cost and monopolies existed for lots of reasons, and I suspect military was

> only part of issue; it's a smackin' long way to the Pacific overland from

> Europe.


> niccolo



Date: Tue, 2 May 2006 22:07:54 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Silk Road timeframe, take 3

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


> I did not ask about the geopolitical history of Asia Minor.  I don't care

> if it took so many years that your grandchildren finished the trip.  I'm

> trying to put together a menu, not write a thesis.


Other than the first website, all of the sites listed are the accounts of

people who travelled at least part of the Silk Road within SCA period.  The

first website is a collection of Appendices dealing with many aspects of the

Silk Road.  All solid documentation for researching the questions you asked.

Unfortunately, I have yet to find the Cliff's Notes with the answers.


> What season was it when you got your ass kicked out of Constantinople?


In most cases, you would never see Constantinople.  Most of the trade routes

that make up the Silk Road began in the Levant to as far south as Alexandria

and from the Black Sea north to Kiev.  Usually you leave this area in Spring

or Fall, but IIRC, John Pian of Carpini left Kiev in November.


> What season was it when you staggered into Samarkand?


Six months after you leave, give or take.


> What season was it when you reached Beijing?


You normally would not reach Beijing.  The terminus of the Silk Road was

Xian far to the southwest of Beijing.  You should also know that Beijing was

not the capitol until 1267.  Around 1300, it stopped being the capitol until

1421.  The season would depend on how long you had to wait for favorable

conditions in the Takalmakan.


> Notice that how many years this covers is not relevant.

> Morgana


You're right they aren't.  Nor do the seasons count, because you traveled

when weather and local political conditions permit.


You asked how fast PEOPLE crossed the Silk Road.  Since most people on the

Silk Road travelled with caravans, they travelled as fast as the camels (or

the mules, yaks, or porters over the Panirs).  That would on average be

about 10 miles per day, as previously stated.





Date: Wed, 03 May 2006 17:13:51 -0400

From: Johnna Holloway <johnna at sitka.engin.umich.edu>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Silk Road timeframe, take 3

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


Wouldn't  a copy of the really good cookbook

Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey  help

solve this problem of a menu? Then there are books like

The Silk Road : Two Thousand Years in the Heart of Asia (Paperback)

by Frances Wood. and Life along the Silk Road (Paperback)

by Susan Whitfield.


There's over 300 titles available on Amazon alone that talk

about the Silk Road. You could start by ordering a number of those and

looking for yourself if the answers given here don't work for you.

You can of course search www.loc.gov and discover what titles the

Library of Congress has catalogued under the subject to.


You could then print off a list and hit your local library.

Ask about interlibrary loan if you can't find them locally.





Date: Wed, 3 May 2006 17:02:20 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: [Sca-cooks] Silk Road revisited

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


Since I have a casual interest in historical commerce and economics, I was a

little nonplused to find that while there is a lot on the Silk Road, there

does not appear to be a simple description of the sections of the road and

their lengths.  So for fun and the benefit of the list, I've assembled a

quick and dirty route description of the main path of the Silk Road.  


One does need to remember that the "Road" has existed in one form or another for

5000 to 6000 years and that the primary junctions I list may or may not have

been in use at any given time.  For example, some references give Baghdad as

a major city on the Silk Road, but that city has only existed for about 1500

years. Seleucia predates it by 1000 years.


So, for your pleasure, An Itinerary of the Great Silk Road.





The Western terminus of the main Silk Road was Antioch on the Turkish coast,

the route angled southeast across Syria and down the Euphrates to Seleucia

(near Baghdad), about 600-700 miles.


The route then went west across Iran to Merv (approximately 1700 miles). On

this leg of the journey, Gorgan ( at the foot of the Caspian Sea) and

Mashhad were major stops. Water and land routes from the north fed into the

Silk Road at Gorgan.


At Merv, a branch of the Silk Road angled southeast into Bactra (Balkh) then

over the Pamirs to rejoin the main path at Kashi. From Bactra, a feeder

route followed the southern edge of the Himalayas through Afganistan and

into India. The main path followed the northern edge of the Himalayas to

Bokhara (Bukhara) approximately 400 miles. From Bokhara it was about 200

miles to Samarqand.


From Samarqand, it is about 800 miles to Kashi (Kashgar). About midway in

this section, feeder routes from Tashkent enter the Silk Road heading East

and West.


At Kashi the road splits into north and south branches around the

Takalmakan, one of the worst deserts in the world. Both branches end in

Dunhuang 1500 miles away. Between bandits, drought and bad weather, this was

probably the most dangerous part of the trip and the most unpredictable. At

least six branch routes cross between the north and south routes. Hotan was

on the southern branch.


Dunhuang to Chang'an (Xian), the Eastern terminus of the Silk Road was

1200-1300 miles.


Straight line distance of the entire route is about 5000 miles. Actual

travel distance is as much as 7700 miles, or about the distance of a round

trip from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles.



Date: Tue, 9 May 2006 16:16:50 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] 14th Century Food Imports

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


I think you will find the route through the Steppes with or without a drop

south to the main Silk Road was a favorite of the Europeans.  It mostly

avoided Byzantium and the Arabs (reducing duties on imported goods) and was

a faster (because of navigation on the rivers and inland seas) and more

direct route for the diplomatic expeditions going to Karakorum and Khanbelig

(Beijing), the capitols of Mongol dominated China.  There were a number of

outposts and colonies around the Black Sea to take advantage of the trade.


The route lost some of it's popularity after the Ming dynasty booted the

Mongols out of China and moved the capitol to Nanking.  In the late 14th

Century to 1405, Tamerlane controlled most of the central area of the route.

When his empire disintegrated after his death, banditry and tribal warfare

reduced the flow of goods over the route.  The fall of Constantinople in

1453 and the expansion of the Ottomans into the area around the Black Sea

ended European control of the western end of the route.


Pegolotti, being a merchant rather than a monk, viewed "comfort" and profit

as desirable.  I suspect his view was more common on the road to China than

asceticism or chivalry.




> Mille grazie, Signore Bear,


>  And double that for the link and additional comments.  I'm the veriest

> beginner at this and didn't know/wouldn't have been looking for the two

> trade routes...  Cool text. "Irregularities" being practiced against

> Franks during Tatar? interregnum particularly caught my eye, as did the

> bit about bringing along a woman (any woman will do), for "comfort."


>  Judith


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org