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Silk Road Cities

Guided Tour to the History of the Cities of the Silk Road


The Silk Road could not have existed without places to stop on the way. At the same time, each of the cities between the Mediterranean and the Far East benefited as roadside inns, as caravan stops, as international trade areas, and as primary targets for expanding empires. Even today, a thousand years later, the cities of the Silk Road contain architectural and cultural reminders of their roles in the amazing trade network.

Rome (Italy)

The western end of the Silk Road is often cited as the city of Rome. Rome was founded, say the legends, in the 8th century BC: by the first century BC it was in full imperialistic flower. Historians tell us that early evidence of Rome's use of the Silk Road is told in this article by N.S. Gill.

Constantinople (Turkey)

The Blue Mosque of Istanbul
Esther te Lintelo

Istanbul, once and again called Constantinople, is best known for its cosmopolitan architecture, the result of over a thousand years of cultural change.

Damascus (Syria)

Damascus was an important stop on the Silk Road, and its culture and history is steeped in the background of its trade network. One example of successful trade between Damascus and India was the production of famous Damascene swords, created from wootz steel from India, forged in Islamic fires.

Palmyra (Syria)

Palmyra's location within the Syrian desert--and the richness of her trade networks--made the city a special jewel in Rome's crown during the first few centuries AD.

Dura Europos (Syria)

Dura Europos in eastern Syria was a Greek colony, and eventually part of the Parthian empire when the Silk Road connected Rome and China.

Ctesiphon (Iraq)

Ctesiphon was an ancient capital of the Parthians, founded in the second BC on top of the ruins of Babylonian Opis.

Merv Oasis (Turkmenistan)

The Merv Oasis in Turkmenistan was a node in the vast central region of the Silk Road.

Taxila (Pakistan)

Taxila, in the Punjab region of Pakistan, has an architecture that reflects its Persian, Greek and Asian roots.

Khotan (China)

Khotan, in the Xingjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China is located south of the vast impassible Taklamakan Desert. It was part of the Jade Road long before the Silk Road was in operation.

Niya (China)

Niya, located at an oasis in the Taklamakan Desert of Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region of central China, was a capital of the capital of the Jingjue and Shanshan kingdoms of central Asia and a significant stop on the Jade Road as well as the Silk Road.

Chang'An (China)

At the eastern end of the Silk Road is Chang'An, capital city for the Han, Sui, and Tang dynasty leaders of ancient China.

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