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HIST341: The Silk Road and Central Eurasia

Unit 4: Opening the Silk Road Between East and West   The opening of the Silk Road between China and the Mediterranean was driven by two major factors.  First, Han China sought to expand—and profit from—its lucrative silk trade.  Second, both the Hellenistic and Roman worlds created an enormous demand for silk.  The expansion of Alexander the Great’s empire into Central Eurasia allowed the Greeks to engage in the silk trade; many of the newly conquered lands had important trade nodes along the Silk Road.  During the Han Dynasty, Chinese emperor Wu Di established commercial relationships with Ferghana, Bactria, and the Parthian Empire—all nomadic peoples who played central roles in the rise of the Silk Road.  This new trade spurred a “silk craze” throughout the Roman Empire as well as the dispatch of Roman envoys to China.

In this unit, we will study the expansionist impulses of Han China, the Romans, and the Greeks—all of whom garnered territory in Central Eurasia along the Silk Road.  In fact, as we will see, the silk trade played a significant role in the territorial expansion of these powers.

Unit 4 Time Advisory
This unit will take you approximately 6 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 4.1: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 4.2: 3 hours

Unit4 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:
 
- Describe some of the major political events that led to greater economic exchange between Asia and Europe and thus expanded the length and importance of the Silk Road. - Identify key milestones in the development and history of the empire created from the conquests of Alexander the Great. - Describe the rise of Rome and its role in fostering trade along the Silk Road.

4.1 The Hellenistic Era   4.1.1 Alexander the Great’s Empire   - Reading: Fordham University’s Ancient History Sourcebook: Paul Halsall's version of “Arrian: Speech of Alexander the Great, from Campaigns of Alexander” Link: Fordham University’s AncientHistory Sourcebook: Paul Halsall's version of “Arrian: Speech of Alexander the Great, from Campaigns of Alexander” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire excerpt.  In this speech, Alexander the Great commends his troops for their success in conquering territories in the Middle East and Central Eurasia.  Indeed, Alexander notes that the Hellenistic World had never before covered such an immense and varied territory—it stretched from the Mediterranean to Bactria in Central Eurasia.
 
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  • Reading: University of Washington’s “Art of the Silk Road” Exhibit: Carol G. Thomas's “Alexander and the Silk Road” Link: University of Washington’s “Art of the Silk Road” Exhibit: Carol G. Thomas's “Alexander and the Silk Road” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read this text in its entirety.  This text discusses how Alexander and the Silk Road transformed each other.  On the one hand, Alexander helped to shape the future of the Silk Road through his policy of establishing settlements along it; on the other, the Silk Road facilitated Alexander’s conquering advances.
     
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4.1.2 Alexander and Asia: An Archaeological View of Cultural Exchange   - Reading: The Silkroad Foundation’s The Silk Road Journal: Professor Yang Juping of Nankai University’s “Alexander the Great and the Emergence of the Silk Road” Link: The Silkroad Foundation’s The Silk Road Journal: Professor Yang Juping of Nankai University’s “Alexander the Great and the Emergence of the Silk Road”  
 
Instructions:  Scroll down to the bottom of the webpage for Volume 6, Number 2 of The Silk Road Journal, and select “click here” to download the PDF of the journal.  Please read Professor Yang Juping’s entire article (pages 15-19 and notes/about the author on pages 20-22).  This text builds upon the information contained in the source above and indicates how scholars have used archaeology to reveal cultural interactions in those parts of Asia conquered by Alexander the Great, as well as the significance of Alexander’s empire for the development of the Silk Road.  
           
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4.1.3 The Ptolemaic Dynasty   - Reading: History World: Bamber Gascione's “History of Egypt” Link: History World: Bamber Gascione's “History of Egypt” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this text and all embedded links in their entirety.  Pay special attention to the sections “The Greeks in Egypt: 332-30 BC” and “The Ptolemaic Inheritance: 285 BC.”
 
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4.1.4 The Seleucid Empire and the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom   - Reading: University of Washington’s “Art of the Silk Road” Exhibit: “The Seleucid Empire” Link: University of Washington’s “Art of the Silk Road” Exhibit: “The Seleucid Empire” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this text in its entirety.  The Seleucid Empire was created out of the eastern conquests of the former Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great, and spanned from the Aegean Sea to what is now Afghanistan and Pakistan.
 
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4.2 The Romans and their Commercial Relations with Asia   - Reading: University of Washington’s “Art of the Silk Road” Exhibit: Daniel C. Waugh's “Rome’s Eastern Trade” Link: University of Washington’s “Art of the Silk Road” Exhibit: Daniel C. Waugh's “Rome’s Eastern Trade” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this text in its entirety. In this text, Professor Waugh discusses Roman trade with India and South and Southeast Asia.
 
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4.2.1 Conquest of Egypt and New Eastern Contact   - Reading: The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History:” The Department of Egyptian Art and The Department of Greek and Roman Art's “Roman Egypt” Link: The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History:” The Department of Egyptian Art and THe Department of Greek and Roman Art's “Roman Egypt” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this text in its entirety.  This text narrates how, for the first century following the Roman conquest, Egypt functioned in the Mediterranean world as an active and prosperous Roman province.
 
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4.2.2 Problems with Parthia   - Reading: University of Washington’s “Art of the Silk Road” Exhibit: “The Parthian Empire” Link: University of Washington’s “Art of the Silk Road” Exhibit: “The Parthian Empire” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this text in its entirety.  This text discusses the animosities between the Romans and the Parthian Empire.  Pay special attention to the causes and consequences of their rivalries.
 
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4.2.3 The Roman Silk Craze   - Reading: ibiblio: Richard R. Wertz’s “International Relations: Relations during Imperial China: “Chinese Relations with the Roman Empire.” Link: ibiblio: Richard R. Wertz’s “International Relations: Relations during Imperial China: “Chinese Relations with the Roman Empire
 
Instructions: Please read all the sections on this page, beginning with “Relations with Rome.”  This text will introduce you to major developments in Roman-Chinese trade as well as the creation and progress of the two empires’ diplomatic relations.
 
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4.2.4 Roman Expansion and the Rise of a Maritime Trade Route   - Reading: Hofstra University: Dr. Jean-Paul Rodriguez’s “The Silk Road and Arab Sea Routes” Link: Hofstra University: Dr. Jean-Paul Rodriguez’s “The Silk Road and Arab Sea Routes” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this text in its entirety.  As indicated in subunit 2.3, trade between Asia and other parts of the world was conducted not only overland, but by sea as well.  The present reading indicates how the expansion of the Roman Empire promoted the formation of maritime trade routes linking the Mediterranean and Asia that continued to rise in importance in subsequent eras -- A development that had major implications for the history of the Silk Road.
 
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