Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Genghis Part II

Since the moment China started trading with the rest of the world with silk there has been a silk route. The silk route was a series of long trails over steppes, fields, deserts, mountains, and the like, connecting east with west. Most often it started somewhere in the western edge of China and the eastern edge of the Muslim lands, around Yarkand. From there it connected to various other cities, whether directly on the route or aside from it. Finally it ended in the western parts of the Middle East. During most of history pieces of this route were controlled by multiple kingdoms, often at war with each other. With so much time spent at war they could not really help the traders who came along. When Genghis Khan conquered his empire he included the entire silk route. Once done the road became one of the safest and most efficient way of travel. Guards kept watch constantly and important caravans had their own escorts. Also, the Mongol Empire used a communication system much like the pony express of the Old West in America, only better. Message carriers would go to the nearest station on a road, get a horse, and then ride as fast as possible for several miles, at the next station they would get a new horse while the old one rested. A few more stations later they transferred what they carried to another rider. This system was so good a message could cross the entire empire, from the Caspian Sea to Mongolia, within a few weeks or even days. Trade and communication were greatly improved by safety and speed. This was a major reason for how Marco Polo could cross the entire empire without ever being attacked by thieves or robbers. Next post about the Mongols will be about their military.

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