Chapters 7 and 13 1.

The nomadic people in the European and Asian continent played a very important role in the histories of China, Rome, and other trading countries. These people tended to live in the steppes and based on where they were, they affected these empires in different ways. Some of the people who migrated throughout the steppes helped to regulate and encourage trade on the Silk Road, while the Germanic tribes often took advantage of the two empires and frequently invaded and raided them. The settled people in these empires viewed the people as “barbaric”, or dirty and uneducated. However these two groups depended greatly on each other for trade and for excuses for military action. The nomads in the steppes were a mainly pastoral group. They traveled the hills close by the Silk Road, looking for water and food for their herds. These people herded sheep and other pack animals. While these nomads didn’t trade very much, they greatly facilitated the trade between the empires and countries such as Rome and China. They sold their pack animals such as horses and in turn, that made it easier for people and countries to transport their goods, and they could transport more goods at one time. The obvious effect was the increase in trade over the Silk Road. However these steppe nomads didn’t always make trade easier. They sometimes blocked and controlled roads, setting up “toll roads”, hindering the merchants. There were also nomads who had no interest in trade or herding. These were the Germanic tribes of the north. The spoke mostly German and traveled in small nomadic groups. Their only interest was gaining land, food, and other goods. They frequently invaded the empires of Rome and China, and helped bring the collapse of the Roman Empire by attacking when the Empire was at its most unstable. These tribes would wait until a town or region was vulnerable, and then launched an attack. They had little or no military training, yet they regularly managed to escape the grasp of armies. Military leaders complained of their tactics or lack there of, and while these tribes never gained a significant victory against an empire, they regularly would attack and raid where they could. The settled people viewed these people as “barbarians.”(From the Greek word barbaroi, meaning basically “non-Greek”) The settled peoples thought of these tribes as uncivilized, uncultured, savage, crude, and primitive. Both Rome and China built walls, forts, and military outposts to repel these peoples. Yet in a way, these nomads and empires were dependant on one another. While the helpful nomads helped to facilitate trade, the more unhelpful ones actually helped to force innovation. The empires had to find way around the tribes and nomads, and had to find ways to repel their attacks. One great example of this is the Great Wall of China. It was built in several sections, and its main purpose was to repel these nomads. The nomads too, benefited from the raids and invasions conducted, gaining food and necessary resources.

2. Nomadic and settled people in ancient civilizations had very different lives from each other. Nomadic people were hunters and gatherers, while all of the settled peoples had an agricultural society. Settled people also had much more technology, art, and culture than many of the nomads. However they both faced geographical challenges. Both had to deal with hilly and rocky areas, dry and wet climates, and lack of natural resources. Nomadic people lived in a very different society than we are used to today. Some nomadic groups led pastoral communities. Their lives revolved around following and raising their animals, and they were always moving to areas with more food for the animals. Other groups of nomads were hunters and gatherers. They were a much more free society. They hunted and followed animal herds, and women many times gathered edible plants. These people also conducted raids on many of the settled people, looking for food, resources, and luxuries. Settled communities lived off of the land, growing their food and sometimes hunting wild game. These people tended to live in much larger communities than the nomads. The nomads moved in small groups or tribes, while a settled region or country would be much larger and spread out more, as it needed more land for farming and to support the growing population. Nomadic people also lacked art and technology, as there was very little specialization. The settled people relied on crops for food, and didn’t need the whole community to farm, so unoccupied people had time to create art and think of new technology. Both of these lifestyles had religion, however. The religions varied based on the people and area they were in, but almost all religions focused on magic or the supernatural. Both societies also faced geographic challenges. The European and Asian continents were very hilly and mountainous, making hard for both the nomads and farmers. Settled people could not make large cities and communities, as the hills prevented their spread; it created many small city-states of farmers throughout the entire region. Nomads also had a difficult time with the hills, as it hindered their movements. It made it harder for them to follow herds of wild and domesticated animals. Rocky and unfertile soil also affected both styles of life. It made it very hard for farmers to grow anything in the soil; and for the nomads, it made finding food for themselves and their animals harder. The climate too, also played a big role in the lives of the settled and nomadic people. Hot and dry climates made travel hard, and it also made farming difficult.


The Silk Road was on of the most important trade routes in the ancient world. Running from the Pacific Ocean all of the way to the Mediterranean Sea, it linked Europe and Asia, providing a route for the great Empires (Rome and China) and other countries to trade and spread ideas. Merchants traveled along this road trading with each other and stopping in other counties to trade, spreading their goods wide and far. No one country ran it, but instead countries and nomadic groups controlled bits and portions of it. Rome, being a large empire, controlled and provided security for a large part of the Silk Road. Meanwhile, nomadic tribes controlled and influenced very small sections of the route. Some areas even turned the Silk Road into a “toll road”. Everything from including art, crops and animals, were traded along the trail and it spread ideas and cultures to everyone who came into contact with it. The Silk Road was one of the largest and most influential trade networks in the world. It stretched from eastern China all the way into the Mediterranean villages, empires, and counties like Rome and Greece. It provided a method of long distance trade for these areas and all who used this trade route benefited. Merchants from all countries would bring caravans of goods and trade it in the regions connected to the Silk Road, as well as with other merchants traveling the Silk Road. No one country controlled trade and security throughout the entire trail, but instead controlled bits and pieces of it. Rome controlled a great deal of this path, and during the pax romana, (or Roman Peace) Rome tried to stimulate trade by guaranteeing security provide by the Roman army itself. Other small tribes of nomads controlled small sections of the trail, and depending on the group, influenced the Silk Road in different ways. Some groups had no interest in the trade, but sold pack animals to merchants allowing them to travel farther along the Silk Road, carrying more goods. Other nomadic tribes set up checkpoints, where merchants would have to pay in order to pass. Almost everything imaginable traveled along the Silk Road. Obviously, silk was a major trade item coming out of China, but other things were traded as well. Crops and trees were traded, some of which had never been seen before in other countries. Art and other luxuries were traded, as well as resources such as wood and metal were traded. Tools, animals, spices, foods, medicines, precious stones, oils, and dyes were some of the things seen on the Silk Road. Trade became very important because many of the spices and fruits were indigenous to certain regions, so other regions could not grow them where they were. However some crops and plants that were traded did end up being grown in other areas. China got alfalfa and wine grapes from Rome, alfalfa being a main feed for pack animals. Other plants and flowers were also taken and grown in other places. Ideas and religions were also spread through this trade route. Buddhism and Christianity were spread and taught all throughout the Silk Road. Also major military technology was spread. The advent of the stirrup and crossbow were discovered and spread to all the countries using the Silk Road for trade.

4. The Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea were very important bodies of water as they both provide methods of expansion and trade. They were different systems however, and had they could be compared to large shopping center and a mall. The Indian Ocean was much bigger than the Mediterranean Sea and had less islands and stops in between the large areas of land. The Indian Ocean also had many more technological advances than the Mediterranean. The traders also had a different mindset depending on which system they traded in. The Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea played very important roles in ancient trade and expansion. They were both large bodies of water big enough to support the cargo ships that traveled on them. Ancient civilizations and sea villages lined the coasts of both, and colonies were created along their shores as well. However the overall geography of these trade systems were different. The Mediterranean Sea is dotted with islands and areas to rest and stop, while the Indian Ocean’s islands are very scarce. The Indian Ocean is also much larger and vast, trade routes stretching from African and the Middle East, all the way to Southern China. The Mediterranean only had access to the ancient river-valley area and parts of Arabia, Europe, and Africa. The Indian Ocean also was connected to the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean, which would later provide pathways for early explorers. In addition to all of this, the Indian Ocean also had monsoon winds. These made it necessary to find different technologies, and to plan out each expedition in accordance to these powerful winds. All of these conditions discussed above made it necessary for the ancient people of the Indian Ocean trading system to find new technologies, instead of relying on the technology of the Mediterranean. Because of the powerful winds and vastness of the sea, larger ships with engineered sails were needed. Monsoon winds could propel a ship across the ocean without the use of oars; therefore longer distances could be achieved, with more goods aboard. The Chinese made ships called junks, basically large ships made for transporting large amounts of goods and people. The larger ones could have up to 12 sail and hold over 1000 people. The Chinese built special rudders so that they could control these huge ships. Also the junks had separate watertight compartments, so that if there was any damage to the hull, the entire ship would not necessarily sink. Also, because of the vastness, new navigation technologies were needed. In the Mediterranean, people navigated using the shoreline as a reference point, and some of the smaller ships in the Indian Ocean used this navigation. However, the larger ships, and the ships that traveled long distances used the stars and other navigational instruments in order to navigate the seas. The two system’s merchants and sailors also had a different mindset. In the Mediterranean, people tended to be loyal and identify with their homeport or colony, and tended to return there after their voyages. The people in the Indian Ocean system tended to be freer and people tended to lose their political ties to their country over time.

5. Saharan trade developed slowly, and the main trade was between the north and the south, trading resources with each other. They Saharan and sub-Saharan people used camel caravans to transport their goods. This trade system was very different from the maritime and Silk Road trade because it was a very closed and isolated system, with the main trade between the north and south. The Saharan desert stretches across the African continent from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, and takes up the entire to half of Africa. The Saharan desert is one of the harsher places in the world, with a dry, hot climate and vast areas of emptiness. Sand dunes, sand plains, and dry rock cover the vast emptiness called the Sahara, only interrupted by the Nile River flowing in the east. Lack of water and resources made travel incredibly arduous, and very few trade routes existed in the area. Cave painting suggested that this desert wasn’t once this dry, but instead was sprawling grassland with cliffs and river, however now it is all dried up and there is little archaeological evidence that suggests that it was once a fertile area. Today there is a sub-Saharan area, a large tropical forest region on the edge of the desert. In the south, there were salt mines that produced huge quantities of salt and traded it with the other areas of the desert. We also know that sub-Saharan and that other traders brought products from the forests such as kola nuts to the fringe of the desert to trade with the north. These people traded many necessities with each other, as there was a large lack of natural resources. Very few luxuries were needed; therefore there was a lack of art and precious materials traded amongst these people. To the north, the wealthy Roman Empire traded with Italy and northern Africa, transporting mostly wheat and olives. There were probably middlemen involved in the trade, however their role was very small in overall trade and did not provide a big influence. In order to cross a desert like the Sahara with trading goods, special pack animals were needed. Camels were excellent animals well suited for the desert, and they were used as soon as they were domesticated. The camel could travel long distances in the desert without needing large amounts of water and food like horse, and their feet could handle the hostile desert ground. Desert traders usually traveled in caravans, with the trading goods and caravan leaders riding the camels other people traveling usually walked. This desert trade system was very different from the Silk Road and the expansive maritime trade system. The Saharan desert was an extremely harsh area and hardly any luxuries were traded in this system. This made it so that it was a very closed system; the north traded with the south and the south trade with the north, and outside countries didn’t interfere or trade in the Saharan desert.

6. Buddhism was a popular and fast spreading religion in the early centuries of civilizations. Kings of civilizations promoted Buddhism, as well as missionaries traveling along the Silk Road. The “great traditions”, or in other words main and dominating cultures, helped to spread Buddhism, but it also destroyed some (but not all) local traditions. Buddhism is based on a man named Siddhartha Gupta. A young prince of the Sakyas, a small group of people in the Himalayas, he is said to have been “enlightened” and found the way to reaching nirvana, or eternal peace. His teachings quickly turned into a religion, and his followers practiced this religion throughout India. Then in the third century BC and second century CE, King Ashoka of the Maurya Empire in India and King Kanishka of the Kushans in northern Afghanistan started to promote Buddhism in their empires. This caused a large majority of people to all convert to Buddhism, but the spread of this religion was not totally dependant on this event. During the period of trade over the Silk Road and trade in the Indian Ocean system, Buddhism was spread though monks and missionaries traveling these paths. Pilgrims and monks played a huge role in spreading this religion when they boarded ships and sailed across the Ocean, spreading Buddhism to China, Korea, and Japan. Thanks to the Buddhist merchants and missionaries traveling the Silk Road, Buddhism was spread to Southeast China, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. Scientists and archeologists who study the early centuries refer to the major cultures, practices, religions, and languages as the “great traditions.” The “small traditions” are the traditions of the local peoples of the area, or the minority cultures of the time period. A good example is the Saharan nomads and pastoral steppe herders who had their own religions and practices separated from the major influences and cultures of the world. Some of the great religions during that time period were Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism. These religions had the most followers and the most influence over the politics and society of the time period. When a large empire like the Romans or the Chinese conquered small tribes and villages, usually the great traditions were forced upon them, and the small traditions were pushed aside. However this was not the case in all areas. Some isolated areas that were not conquered or explored by these large civilizations maintained their small traditions and practices. Also, if the conquering empire showed religious tolerance (like the Persians), then the small traditions would not be totally forgotten.