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The 'Myth' of the Silk Road
#16
On the import of Silk from Cherala in India, check out this paper:

https://www.academia.edu/8209957/Origin_...._pp.13-25
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#17
Thanks, Evan
Something to look at. :-)
Alan J. Campbell

member of Legio III Cyrenaica and the Uncouth Barbarians

Author of:
The Demon's Door Bolt (2011)
Forging the Blade (2012)

"It's good to be king. Even when you're dead!"
             Old Yuezhi/Pazyrk proverb
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#18
So we know that in antiquity elephants were transferred from India/Asia all the way to the Mediterranean area. They only moved large numbers of giant mammals along a land route and nothing else?
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#19
Hello, Bryan

I just read Evan's link to Malinowski's article, Origin of the Name Seres, and found it informative. I could not find any passage within his paper referring to moving "giant mammals along the land route and nothing else." Malinowski talks about a sea route and equates the "Seres" with the southwestern Indian dynasty of Chera, and he makes a good point. Where did you get your information about anyone trading elephants, and elephants only, along the land route? Cool
Alan J. Campbell

member of Legio III Cyrenaica and the Uncouth Barbarians

Author of:
The Demon's Door Bolt (2011)
Forging the Blade (2012)

"It's good to be king. Even when you're dead!"
             Old Yuezhi/Pazyrk proverb
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#20
Bryan wrote:

So we know that in antiquity elephants were transferred from India/Asia all the way to the Mediterranean area. They only moved large numbers of giant mammals along a land route and nothing else?

 That is probably the case in regards to Indian elephants to the Mediterranean, I have not heard of Asian elephants crossing overland at least in ancient times. There were transport ships for elephants at the time but probably not suitable for Indian Ocean travel.  Seleucus I Nicator transferred to Chandragupta Maurya’s kingdom his easternmost satrapies in exchange for 500? elephants and their mahouts and a treaty was sealed with a marriage where Chandragupta married a female relative of Seleucus.

 Considering how his war elephants played a major role in the defeat of Antigonus Monophthalmus at the battle of Ipsus and the fact that he probably didn’t have the forces to hold onto his eastern satrapies while fighting a war in the west anyway, it was probably a good deal for Seleucus. It is highly unlikely that he had the naval resources to transport 500 elephants and fodder as well as fresh water so he would have marched the elephants and their mahouts along with his army back to Babylon.

 It seems fitting as this thread is about land versus sea trade that the southern Egyptian Red Sea ports with elephant stations which were later used and improved by the Romans much later for the Indian Ocean trade, were developed by Ptolemy II Philadelphus when he sent hunting expeditions to find African elephants from for his army, as access to larger Indian elephants was blocked by his enemies the Seleucids. Shipping elephants from India was clearly not feasible, or if possible it would have been extremely hazardous, and would have resulted in an unacceptably high attrition rate of elephants, ships, and crews, and would certainly have been expensive so an alternate source had to be found closer to home from Sudan and Eritrea. Elephants were not the only reason for the development of ports, roads and canals on the Red Sea coast but the Egyptians felt they needed elephants to match the large war elephants of the Seleucid armies. He had his sailors ship them in specially designed ships called ‘elephantegoi’ as described by Diodorus Siculus for Red Sea navigation.
For ships, then, which are equipped with oars the place is suitable enough, since it rolls along no wave from a great distance and affords, furthermore, fishing in the greatest abundance; but the ships which carry the elephants, being of deep draft because of their weight and heavy by reason of their equipment, bring upon their crews great and terrible dangers.  For running as they do under full sail and often times being driven during the night before the force of the winds, sometimes they will strike against rocks and be wrecked or sometimes run aground on slightly submerged spits. Smile
Regards
Michael Kerr
Michael Kerr
"You can conquer an empire from the back of a horse but you can't rule it from one"
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#21
(03-29-2017, 07:37 PM)Alanus Wrote: Hello, Bryan

I just read Evan's link to Malinowski's article, Origin of the Name Seres, and found it informative. I could not find any passage within his paper referring to moving "giant mammals along the land route and nothing else." Malinowski talks about a sea route and quates the "Seres" with the southwestern Indian dynasty of Chera, and he makes a good point. Where did you get your information about anyone trading elephants, and elephants only, along the land route? Cool

We know for a fact that various Hellenic kingdoms were using war elephants gained from the original breeding stock of 500 Indian elephants gained through the marriage alliance Seleucus made with his daughter and Chandragupta Maurya, the Indian king. We know elephants came from eastern India. So how did they get to Turkey, Levant, Egypt? Either they were teleported from India to the Hellenic kingdoms, or else all 500 were put inside a giant fleet, or else they walked. Most likely they walked...

Along the same route that Seleucus used for his east-west line of communication/supply route, which would have been the same route previously used by the Achaemenid empire, then used by Alexander to travel west, and then used by later kingdoms as well. Or are we also supposed to believe that Seleucus and those that came after (not to mention those before, who had an empire stretching from Egypt to Bactria) had no land route to reach the eastern side of their own empire?

(03-30-2017, 10:16 AM)Michael Kerr Wrote: Bryan wrote:

So we know that in antiquity elephants were transferred from India/Asia all the way to the Mediterranean area. They only moved large numbers of giant mammals along a land route and nothing else?

 That is probably the case in regards to Indian elephants to the Mediterranean, I have not heard of Asian elephants crossing overland at least in ancient times. There were transport ships for elephants at the time but probably not suitable for Indian Ocean travel.  Seleucus I Nicator transferred to Chandragupta Maurya’s kingdom his easternmost satrapies in exchange for 500? elephants and their mahouts and a treaty was sealed with a marriage where Chandragupta married a female relative of Seleucus.

 Considering how his war elephants played a major role in the defeat of Antigonus Monophthalmus at the battle of Ipsus and the fact that he probably didn’t have the forces to hold onto his eastern satrapies while fighting a war in the west anyway, it was probably a good deal for Seleucus. It is highly unlikely that he had the naval resources to transport 500 elephants and fodder as well as fresh water so he would have marched the elephants and their mahouts along with his army back to Babylon.

 It seems fitting as this thread is about land versus sea trade that the southern Egyptian Red Sea ports with elephant stations which were later used and improved by the Romans much later for the Indian Ocean trade, were developed by Ptolemy II Philadelphus when he sent hunting expeditions to find African elephants from for his army, as access to larger Indian elephants was blocked by his enemies the Seleucids. Shipping elephants from India was clearly not feasible, or if possible it would have been extremely hazardous, and would have resulted in an unacceptably high attrition rate of elephants, ships, and crews, and would certainly have been expensive so an alternate source had to be found closer to home from Sudan and Eritrea. Elephants were not the only reason for the development of ports, roads and canals on the Red Sea coast but the Egyptians felt they needed elephants to match the large war elephants of the Seleucid armies. He had his sailors ship them in specially designed ships called ‘elephantegoi’ as described by Diodorus Siculus for Red Sea navigation.
For ships, then, which are equipped with oars the place is suitable enough, since it rolls along no wave from a great distance and affords, furthermore, fishing in the greatest abundance; but the ships which carry the elephants, being of deep draft because of their weight and heavy by reason of their equipment, bring upon their crews great and terrible dangers.  For running as they do under full sail and often times being driven during the night before the force of the winds, sometimes they will strike against rocks and be wrecked or sometimes run aground on slightly submerged spits. Smile
Regards
Michael Kerr

That's in line with my point. It would require either a giant fleet making an extremely long sea voyage with a large force of adult male elephants, or else a slightly smaller fleet making numerous trips back and forth. Or they could walk. We know they could walk, as there was a route, because Alexander was following it when he was chasing after Darius III and the pretender into Bactria from Persia. This route was also used by the Archaemenid empire previously because Bactria was a satrap for some time and being land locked you can be sure there was a land route. You can't have an thousand mile empire with no roads and routes, they are the key. 

We know for a fact there was a land route to India. I have no idea what the situation between India and China was, but I'm guessing there was at least some direct land trading between each other. So if you can get to India by land (which we know they could, Alexander did it by following established routes, then Seleucus did it with his empire), then you can get to China by land, which means there was a "Silk Road".
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#22
Thanks, Bryan

Your post is an incredibly convincing argument for the western half of a "Silk Road." And it seems, if I recall correctly, Seleucus founded the city of Antioch... which was a major contact point along the land route. I'm not sure how China would fit into this period, 3rd cent. BC, considering their connection to Bactria occurred later, I think around 120 BC or thereabouts. Still, as you pointed out, I'm incredibly leery of Ball's premise of a sea-route only.

I just don't know China's earliest link to India. I do know that even before the Bronze Age, northern China was receiving cowrie shells from southern India. Attempts to show a "cowrie connection" to the South China Sea and Nam have always fizzled-- no signs of shell-heaps or cowries in the archaeological strata. So, the logical assumption would indicate a land route.

Anyway, thanks. Big Grin
Alan J. Campbell

member of Legio III Cyrenaica and the Uncouth Barbarians

Author of:
The Demon's Door Bolt (2011)
Forging the Blade (2012)

"It's good to be king. Even when you're dead!"
             Old Yuezhi/Pazyrk proverb
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#23
(03-30-2017, 02:51 PM)Bryan Wrote: So if you can get to India by land... then you can get to China by land, which means there was a "Silk Road".

The regular land route to India seems to be well supported (although I would suggest that we wouldn't need a constant flow of hundreds of elephants - after the early transfers, most elephants used by the Hellenistic and Parthian/Persian states were probably 'home grown'!)

Do we have firm evidence for a land route between China and India? How early might this have been established?

But even if there was one, that still doesn't make a 'silk road' - we only know of a small handful of people who ever made the full journey from west to east, and the central hub of the route seems to have been firmly controlled by middlemen, principally the Indian states.

Perhaps we could better imagine the 'silk routes' (plural) as a sort of networks of webs: a 'Roman' web stretching from Egypt via the Red Sea to India, a 'Persian' web stretching from Mesopotamia down into northern India, east to Afghanistan and north into the steppe, an 'Indian' web stretching from the Red Sea to the Malay Peninsula and north into central Asia, and a 'Chinese' web running west into central Asia and south by sea to the Gulf of Siam.

These webs intersect at various nodal points, but there's no one strand that stretches all the way from west to east. That would require a land route through central Asia that entirely bypassed the Indian middlemen - and we still don't seem to have any evidence for that.

Meanwhile, looking around for further material, I came across this dense mass of quotations and ideas:

https://depts.washington.edu/silkroad/te...dices.html

There's some very interesting stuff in there, if you can be bothered to pick though it - mostly secondary sources, and I'm unsure of the accuracy or provenance of the Chinese translations.

There is a suggestion of an early land route from the Gulf of Siam to the Bay of Bengal (which introduces the idea of the Malay peoples as additional middlemen!).

Also a curious note (towards the end) of 'Christian carvings' from Xuozhou supposedly dating from AD86 - although the identification of these carvings as 'Christian' might perhaps be a little tendentious... [Image: shocked.png]
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#24
Thanks Nathan, I like the plural form of silk routes. Will have to find time to look through your link in a couple of hours as the sun is out and I have lawns to mow. One of the items of trade that always fascinated the Chinese was "sea silk" and "water sheep" from the Roman Eastern provinces which a lot of historians thought could only be a mistranslation by the Chinese but was a very fine filament secreted by certain types of molluscs & probably used in the garment workshops of Tyre & Sidon.The Chinese elites had a liking for re-worked textiles from these regions.
Regards
Michael Kerr
Michael Kerr
"You can conquer an empire from the back of a horse but you can't rule it from one"
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#25
 I must admit that I am not quite sold on the Chera = Seres theory, all Roman reports, including Pliny have been compiled on the information of 3rd parties or middlemen. It appears that most ancient sources regard whoever sold them silk were Seres, whether they be Wusun, Kushans, or Indians. Kerala itself was famous for its pepper production and any silk finds in India have been found either at the Indus or Ganges rivers, much further north of Kerala and these finds were mainly twine for beads and jewellry and  were for the most part the products of wild silk cocoons like the bombyx mandarina silk moth, or the antheraea penyi or tussah silk moth which feeds on oak trees and not the bombyx mori or the domestic silk worm of China. India did not get serious about domesticated silk production till the early Gupta period which would have been in the middle of the third century AD like the Japanese and Koreans they managed to get hold of the larvae of the bombyx mori. I have no doubt that the Cheras traded in silk when they could get their hands on the stuff but as silk growers I don't think so. Unfortunately dating the origin and species of silkworm in ancient silk is a destructive process. Another theory For the origin of the word Sere and its transmission to Europe which is proposed by Adam Hyllested is the Sarmatian connection to the word Sere.


 It is commonly assumed that the term sericum and its deviations as well as the English word silk from Old English seoloc, seoluc, sioloc, seolc, Old Norse silki, Old High German silehho and countless other European words, as well as the Mongolian sirkeg, Manchu sirge, sirhe – ultimately derive from the Chinese word for silk se/sei. The first instances of the term serica appear in texts from the 2nd half of the first century BC. The term probably spread west and impacted on the European languages as a loan word (first Greek contact through the Black Sea and the Graeco-Bactrian kingdoms before they were destroyed by the Saka and Yuezhi and then on to Latin when the Romans dominated the Mediterranean and later on German, Slav and Rus) through transmission via the various nomadic groups travelling along the northern routes of the silk roads that played an important role in the distribution of silk, usually as agents in the silk trade with Europe. Aristotle wrote about the silk worm in the 4th century BC and about how wild silk worms were used on the island of Kos but he referred to them as bombycina with no mention of sericum/seres.

 Interestingly enough the word sere/silk could have developed firstly in the Altaic languages (Proto-Turkic, Mongolian, Tungusic) then possibly Tocharian and through to the Scytho-Sarmatian languages in the sub-group comprising Scythian, Sarmatian, Alanic, Iassic and Ossetian. We have the Pazyryk tombs in the Altai where preserved samples of both Indian wild silk and Chinese silk were found, then we have the Chinese giving annual gifts for peace to the Hsiung-nu.

 The first peace agreement ho-ch’in between the Hsiung-nu and China took place in 198 BC where the Han gave the Hsiung-nu silk sometimes from 8000 to 30,000 catties (a catty was about 500 grams) of lower quality silk floss which was used as a liner in clothing for warmth and similar amounts of raw silk (30,000 bolts of silk) as well as silk clothing, money, 34,000 bushels of rice, wine and other types of grain. After these items were distributed to the ruling elites for their loyalty you can see that the Hsiung-nu were swimming in silk which was used for trade and barter for other goods with the Tarim cities who owed their allegiance to the Hsiung-nu and even the Graeco-Bactrian kingdoms who probably sent some silk west to the Seleucids and later the Parthians when the Seleucid empire evaporated before Han China expelled the Hsiung-nu much later and dealt with the Parthians directly and various nomadic groups who shipped silk west following a northern route eventually reaching the Greek Black Sea city-states and more than likely passing through lots of middlemen. Any silk to Tarim would have probably been transported to India in exchange for cotton and other exotic products. I think many Central Asian steppe peoples valued horses and cattle in bolts of silk.

   

 Adam Hyllested in his paper Word migration on the Silk Road: the etymology of English silk and its congeners wrote that the ‘l’ variants are found primarily in Northern and Eastern Europe, notably Old English, Old High German, Old Norse, Baltic and Old Russian while the ‘r’ variants have basically spread through Greek, Mongolian and the Scytho-Sarmatian languages as well. A possible scenario is that the word Sere migrated north from Byzantium through Russia, Ukraine and then to Central and Northern Europe which would indicate that the Greek word was the more archaic version. There is no better example of this ‘r’ to ‘l’  than in the names of the Alans themselves Ariana, Aryan, Aorsi, Rauxs-Ariana (Roxalani)  to Alan. He goes into a lot more detail than I can fit into this post but if a foreign word sir or ser was borrowed into Scytho-Sarmatian then the suffix aka is often added making sirak or siraka and possible late development into silk.
Regards
Michael Kerr
Michael Kerr
"You can conquer an empire from the back of a horse but you can't rule it from one"
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#26
Nathan Ross wrote:
My interest is mainly in the overland silk (etc) trade through the entrepots of Nisibis and Callinicum (the only ones permitted, it seems, after AD298), so I'm sure there should be some useful material in there.

 Not much material on Nisibis or Callinicum in the book Silk which is a bit more general covering regions from Rome to China even though some chapters do cover Rome they mainly deal with the Price Edict of Diocletian and Roman silk traders.

There are three books that I know of that cover mainly Nisibis.
“Rome's Eastern Trade” by Gary Young.
“The Roman Near East 31 BC 337 AD” by Fergus Millar which is available at Scribd
“Rome and Persia in Late Antiquity - Neighbours and Rivals” by Beate Dignas and Engelbert Winter.
 The third book goes into a bit of detail on the 298 AD Treaty of Nisibis and is probably the best one.

Gary Young when writing of Nisibis mentions that the silk trade there was probably dominated by Jewish silk merchants and that the siting of Nisibis meant that it received most of its goods via the overland route which maybe was more profitable for Rome in late 3rd century as it seems sea trade was severely hampered at this time with a combination of high inflation partly due to severe debasement of Roman currency meant that their merchants and agents were outbid by Sassanid merchants for their goods at the source, Southern India was in turmoil at this time and the earlier Cheran and Pandian dynasties that ruled Tamil India were if not destroyed, were still severely weakened by conflict around this time. The Cherans in particular were good trading partners with the Romans. The aggressive Sassanids built a series of ports on both sides of the Persian Gulf all the way to India which enabled them to dominate Indian Ocean trade up to the rise of the Arabs who in turn displaced the Persians. Sea trade in the Indian Ocean did pick up during the reign of Constantine but it never reached the heady heights of the 1st and 2nd centuries.

 Fergus Millar thinks that the selection of Nisibis was an acknowledgement that after the treaty of 298 that the Tigris and not the Euphrates was the new border between Rome and Persia. Millar writes about Nisibis after the Treaty of Nisibis in 298
 The provisions relating to Nisibis were also of great significance. In spite of reported objections by Narses, it was laid down tbat commercial exchanges between the two empires would take place there. For over sixty years, until it was surrendered after Julian's campaign in 363, Nisibis was to be the commercial and military centre of the eastern part of Roman Mesopotamia. Like Edessa, it was also to be one of the major centres of Christian Syriac literature. The greatest of all Syriac writers, Ephrem, was born there a few years after the treaty, and left it only when it was abandoned to the Persians in 363.
 
Winter and Dignas mentioned in their book about the Treaty of 298 that in a region of numerous caravan and trade routes that the Romans were trying to funnel and centralize trade. Fiscal reasons must have been important though as the Roman ambassador Sicorius Probus insisted on the inclusion of the clause of the 298 treaty that Nisibis be the only place of trade in Mesopotamia where as a result every Sassanid merchant had to pay customs duties if he wanted to sell his goods in Nisibis, possibly up to 25%. Nisibis also served as a strategic fortress.
 
  But even later on in 408/409 there was a constitution de commerclis et mercatoribus (mentioned in the Codex Justininius) under the emperors Honorius and Theodosius II regarding guidelines for trade between the Romans and the Persian empire where it was forbidden for merchants of either empire to hold markets outside the cities or towns agreed on together which were Nisibis, Callinicum and Artaxata in Armenia which infers a channelling of the flow of goods, Nisibis for the trade beyond the Tigris, Artaxata for the trade through Armenia and Callinicum for the more southerly regions including the Gulf and Arab peninsula. At this time Nisibis and Artaxata were in the Sassanid realm.
 Until late in the third century the most important route from the Persian Gulf was via the Euphrates where goods were transported to Callinicum, where luxury items like silk were taxed before being transported to the markets of Edessa, Batnae, which is mentioned as a market for Indian and Chinese goods by Ammianus (Book XIV,3,3) and Harran (Carrhae), the situation seemed to change after the treaty of Nisibis in 298 even after the Sassanids regained the city in 363.
From what I know Callinicum was a customs district where before entering the empire via the Euphrates, raw silk and other luxury items were taxed before being transported to the markets of Edessa, Batnae and Harran (Carrhae) from where merchants transported their goods to the Mediterranean coastal cities. (Ammianus mentions Batnae as a market for Indian and Chinese goods in Book XIV,3,3). From the reign of Theodosius the comes commerciorum was the only person permitted to acquire and sell (raw silk) from the barbarians. This official was also largely in charge of assessing import and export duties and was responsible for ensuring that official bans on the export of certain goods like arms, iron and gold were respected. Smile
Regards
Michael Kerr
Michael Kerr
"You can conquer an empire from the back of a horse but you can't rule it from one"
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#27
(04-13-2017, 03:47 PM)Michael Kerr Wrote: There are three books that I know of that cover mainly Nisibis.
“Rome's Eastern Trade” by Gary Young.
“The Roman Near East 31 BC 337 AD” by Fergus Millar which is available at Scribd
“Rome and Persia in Late Antiquity - Neighbours and Rivals” by Beate Dignas and Engelbert Winter.

As I mentioned by PM, thanks for all the information in your posts, Michael! I have the Dignas and Millar books already on their way to me, but I shall certainly take a look at 'Rome's Eastern Trade' as well.
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#28
Just on the book Silk, it does discuss the "Price edict of Diocletian”, which was for the most part ignored by merchants. According to the edict raw silk was not to cost more than 12,000 denarii per Roman pound but the blatta (Tyrian) purple dyed silk was not to cost more than 150,000 denarii per pound which was roughly 13 times the price of plain raw silk so either the dyeing process was extremely expensive or the extra labor used to unpick the raw silk and re-weave it with other textiles to make gauzes and brocades, or both led to the huge difference, so it does not surprise me that the Roman/Graeco/Phoenician cities were keen on maintaining a monopoly of raw silk from the east going by the massive profit margins. Smile
Regards
Michael Kerr
Michael Kerr
"You can conquer an empire from the back of a horse but you can't rule it from one"
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#29
As a brief addendum to this thread, this paper by Khodadad Rhezakhani builds on Warwick Bell's scepticism about the 'silk road', and goes on to suggest that the whole idea is 'eurocentric'!:

https://www.academia.edu/229387/_The_Roa..._Exchange_
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#30
Just a modest point to this discussion.  True, there is little evidence for Roman direct trade overland to China.  That said - there were a lot of people / rulers etc in the way !  the excavations at Dura-Europos found bolts of raw Chinese Silk in good condition.  Granted this site was overrun in the 250's.  There is evidence of Sogdian traders operating routes over some 1500 miles to China over a lengthy period - see images of these traders in the form of grave statues!  So, at least some one-way trade to the West took place over a lengthy period.  As to Roman goods heading toward the East.... it would be interesting to see / understand if any pottery or weapons made that trip.
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