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Cross-Cultural Exchanges on the Silk Roads

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					CHAPTER 9

Cross-Cultural Exchanges
on the Silk Roads



I   n the year 139 B.C.E., the Chi-
    nese emperor Han Wudi sent
an envoy named Zhang Qian on a
                                              and they provided him with a
                                              Xiongnu wife, with whom he had a
                                                                                          LONG-DISTANCE TRADE AND
                                                                                          THE SILK ROADS NETWORK
                                                                                            Trade Networks of the Hellenistic Era
                                                                                            The Silk Roads
                                              son. When suspicions about him
mission to lands west of China.               subsided, however, Zhang Qian               CULTURAL AND BIOLOGICAL
                                                                                          EXCHANGES ALONG THE SILK ROADS
The emperor’s purpose was to                  escaped with his family and servant.          The Spread of Buddhism and
find allies who could help combat                                                              Hinduism
                                              He even had the presence of mind
                                                                                            The Spread of Christianity
the nomadic Xiongnu, who men-                 to keep with him the yak tail that            The Spread of Manichaeism
                                                                                            The Spread of Epidemic Disease
aced the northern and western                 Han Wudi had given him as a sign
                                                                                          CHINA AFTER THE HAN DYNASTY
borders of the Han empire. From               of his ambassadorial status. He fled
                                                                                            Internal Decay of the Han State
captives he had learned that other            to the west and traveled as far as            Cultural Change in Post-Han China

nomadic peoples in far western                Bactria, but he did not succeed             THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE
                                                                                            Internal Decay in the Roman Empire
lands bore grudges against the                in lining up allies against the               Germanic Invasions and the Fall of
Xiongnu, and he reasoned that                 Xiongnu. While returning to                      the Western Roman Empire
                                                                                            Cultural Change in the
they might ally with Han forces to            China, Zhang Qian again fell into                Late Roman Empire
pressure their common enemy.                  Xiongnu hands but managed to
    The problem for Zhang Qian                escape after one year’s detention
was that to communicate with po-              when the death of the Xiongnu
tential allies against the Xiongnu,           leader led to a period of turmoil.
he had to pass directly through               In 126 B.C.E. Zhang Qian and his
lands they controlled. Soon after             party returned to China and a
Zhang Qian left Han territory,                warm welcome from Han Wudi.
Xiongnu forces captured him. For                   Although his diplomatic
ten years the Xiongnu held him in             efforts did not succeed, Zhang
comfortable captivity: they allowed           Qian’s mission had far-reaching
him to keep his personal servant,             consequences. Apart from political



OPPOSITE PAGE: Tomb figure of a camel and a foreign rider. The majority of the Silk Road
trade was handled by the nomadic peoples of central and western Asia.

                                                                                                                      157
158      PART 2 | THE FORMATION OF CLASSICAL SOCIETIES, 500 B.C.E. TO 500 C.E.



and military intelligence about western lands and their     LONG-DISTANCE TRADE AND
peoples, Zhang Qian also brought back information
of immense commercial value. While in Bactria about         THE S ILK ROADS N ETWORK
128 B.C.E., he noticed Chinese goods—textiles and
bamboo articles—offered for sale in local markets.          Ever since the earliest days of history, human commu-
Upon inquiry he learned that they had come from             nities have traded with one another, sometimes over
southwest China by way of Bengal. From that infor-          long distances. Before classical times, however, long-
mation he deduced the possibility of establishing trade     distance trade was a risky venture. Ancient societies
relations between China and Bactria through India.          often policed their own realms effectively, but exten-
     Han Wudi responded enthusiastically to this idea       sive regions lay beyond their control. Trade passing
and dreamed of trading with peoples inhabiting lands        between societies was therefore liable to interception
west of China. From 102 to 98 B.C.E., he mounted            by bandits or pirates. That risk increased the costs of
an ambitious campaign that broke the power of the           long-distance transactions in ancient times.
Xiongnu and pacified central Asia. His conquests sim-             During the classical era, two developments re-
plified trade relations, since it became unnecessary to      duced the risks associated with travel and stimulated
route commerce through India. The intelligence that         long-distance trade. First, rulers invested heavily in the
Zhang Qian gathered during his travels thus con-            construction of roads and bridges. They undertook
tributed to the opening of the silk roads—the net-          these expensive projects primarily for military and ad-
work of trade routes that linked lands as distant as        ministrative reasons, but roads also had the effect of
China and the Roman empire—and more generally               encouraging trade within individual societies and facil-
to the establishment of relations between China and         itating exchanges between different societies. Second,
lands to the west.                                          classical societies pacified large stretches of Eurasia and
     China and other classical societies imposed politi-    north Africa. As a result, merchants did not face such
cal and military control over vast territories. They pro-   great risk as in previous eras, the costs of long-distance
moted trade and communication within their own              trade dropped, and its volume rose dramatically.
empires, bringing regions that had previously been
self-sufficient into a larger economy and society. They      Trade Networks of
also fostered the spread of cultural, religious, and po-
                                                            the Hellenistic Era
litical traditions to distant regions, and they encour-
aged the construction of institutional frameworks that      The tempo of long-distance trade increased noticeably
promoted the long-term survival of those traditions.        during the Hellenistic era, partly because of the many
     The classical societies established a broad zone of    colonies established by Alexander of Macedon and the
communication and exchange throughout much of the           Seleucid rulers in Persia and Bactria. Though origi-
earth’s eastern hemisphere. Trade networks crossed the      nally populated by military forces and administrators,
deserts of central Asia and the depths of the Indian        these settlements soon attracted Greek merchants and
Ocean. Long-distance trade passed through much of           bankers who linked the recently conquered lands to
Eurasia and north Africa, from China to the Mediter-        the Mediterranean basin. The Seleucid rulers con-
ranean basin, and to parts of sub-Saharan Africa as well.   trolled land routes linking Bactria, which offered ac-
That long-distance trade profoundly influenced the ex-       cess to Indian markets, to Mediterranean ports in Syria
periences of peoples and the development of societies       and Palestine.
throughout the eastern hemisphere. It brought wealth            Like the Seleucids, the Ptolemies maintained land
and access to foreign products, and it facilitated the      routes—in their case, routes going south from Egypt
spread of religious traditions beyond their original        to the kingdom of Nubia and Meroë in east Africa—
homelands. It also facilitated the transmission of dis-     but they also paid close attention to sea lanes and mari-
ease. Indeed, the transmission of disease over the silk     time trade. They ousted pirates from sea lanes linking
roads helped bring an end to the classical societies,       the Red Sea to the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.
since infectious and contagious diseases sparked devas-     They also built several new ports, the most important
tating epidemics that caused political, social, and eco-    being Berenice on the Red Sea, while Alexandria
nomic havoc. Long-distance trade thus had deep              served as their principal window on the Mediterranean.
political, social, and cultural as well as economic and         Even more important, perhaps, mariners from
commercial implications for classical societies.            Ptolemaic Egypt learned from Arab and Indian sea-
                                                CHAPTER 9 | CROSS-CULTURAL EXCHANGES ON THE SILK ROADS           159


   men about the monsoon winds that governed sailing            extended its authority to Mesopotamia. The Roman
   and shipping in the Indian Ocean. During the sum-            empire brought order to the Mediterranean basin.
                 mer the winds blow regularly from the          With the decline of the Mauryan dynasty, India lacked
The Monsoon
                 southwest, whereas in the winter they          a strong imperial state, but the Kushan empire and
System
                 come from the northeast. Knowledge of          other regional states provided stability and security,
   these winds enabled mariners to sail safely and reli-        particularly in northern India, which favored long-
   ably to all parts of the Indian Ocean basin.                 distance trade.
       Establishment and maintenance of these trade                 As the classical empires expanded, merchants and
   routes was an expensive affair calling for substantial in-   travelers created an extensive network of trade routes
                      vestment in military forces, construc-    that linked much of Eurasia and north
Trade in the                                                                                                    Overland
                      tion, and bureaucracies to administer     Africa. Historians refer to these routes Trade Routes
Hellenistic World
                      the commerce that passed over the         collectively as the silk roads, since high-
   routes. But the investment paid handsome dividends.          quality silk from China was one of the principal com-
   Long-distance trade stimulated economic development          modities exchanged over the roads. The overland silk
   within the Hellenistic realms themselves, bringing ben-      roads took caravan trade from China to the Roman
   efits to local economies throughout the empires.              empire, thus linking the extreme ends of the Eurasian
   Moreover, Hellenistic rulers closely supervised foreign      landmass. From the Han capital of Chang’an, the
   trade and levied taxes on it, thereby deriving income        main silk road went west until it arrived at the Takla-
   even from foreign products. Thus with official encour-        makan desert, also known as the Tarim Basin. The
   agement, a substantial trade developed throughout the        silk road then split into two main branches that
   Hellenistic world, from Bactria and India in the east to     skirted the desert proper and passed through oasis
   the Mediterranean basin in the west.                         towns that ringed it to the north and south. The
       Indeed, maritime trade networks through the In-          branches came together at Kashgar (now known as
   dian Ocean linked not only the large classical societies     Kashi, located in the westernmost corner of modern
   of Eurasia and North Africa but also smaller societies       China). From there the reunited road went west to
   in east Africa. During the late centuries B.C.E., the        Bactria, where a branch forked off to offer access to
   port of Rhapta (located near Dar es Salaam in Tanza-         Taxila and northern India, while the principal route
   nia) emerged as the principal commercial center on           continued across northern Iran. There it joined with
   the east African coast. With increasing trade, groups        roads to ports on the Caspian Sea and the Persian
   of professional merchants and entrepreneurs emerged          Gulf and proceeded to Palmyra (in modern Syria),
   at Rhapta, and coins came into general use on the east       where it met roads coming from Arabia and ports on
   African coast. Merchants of Rhapta imported iron             the Red Sea. Continuing west, it terminated at the
   goods such as spears, axes, and knives from southern         Mediterranean ports of Antioch (in modern Turkey)
   Arabia and the eastern Mediterranean region in ex-           and Tyre (in modern Lebanon).
   change for ivory, rhinoceros horn, tortoise shell, and           The silk roads also included a network of sea lanes
   slaves obtained from interior regions.                       that sustained maritime commerce throughout much
                                                                of the eastern hemisphere. From
                                                                                                            Sea Lanes and
                                                                Guangzhou in southern China, sea Maritime Trade
   The Silk Roads                                               lanes through the South China Sea
   The establishment of classical empires greatly ex-           linked the east Asian seaboard to the mainland and
   panded the scope of long-distance trade, as much of          the islands of southeast Asia. Routes linking south-
   Eurasia and north Africa fell under the sway of one          east Asia with Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka) and India
                                classical society or an-        were especially busy during classical times. From
        Interactive Map         other. The Han empire           India, sea lanes passed through the Arabian Sea to
        The silk roads          maintained order in             Persia and Arabia, and through the Persian Gulf and
                                China and pacified               the Red Sea they offered access to land routes and
   much of central Asia, including a sizable corridor of-       the Mediterranean basin, which already possessed a
   fering access to Bactria and western markets. The            well-developed network of trade routes.
   Parthian empire displaced the Seleucids in Persia and            A wide variety of manufactured products and agri-
                                                                cultural commodities traveled over the silk roads. Silk
   Ptolemaic (TAWL-oh-may-ihk)                                  and spices traveled west from producers in southeast
  160          PART 2 | THE FORMATION OF CLASSICAL SOCIETIES, 500 B.C.E. TO 500 C.E.




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                                                              Land route                               I n d i a n O cea n                                                     SUMATRA

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  Map 9.1 The silk roads from about 200 B.C.E. to 300 C.E. Note the extent of both the land and the sea routes across Eurasia. What
  conditions would have made successful travel across these routes possible?



  Asia, China, and India to consumers in central Asia,                                                                      Zhang Qian was only one of many individuals
  Iran, Arabia, and the Roman empire. Silk came mostly                                                                  who made very long journeys during classical times.
                 from China, and the fine spices—cloves,                                                                 Indeed, records indicate that merchants and diplo-
Trade Goods
                 nutmeg, mace, and cardamom—all came                                                                    mats from central Asia, China, India, southeast Asia,
  from southeast Asia. Ginger came from China, cinna-                                                                   and the Roman empire traveled long distances in pur-
  mon from China and southeast Asia, pepper from                                                                        suit of trade and diplomacy. On a few occasions indi-
  India, and sesame oil from India, Arabia, and south-                                                                  viduals even traveled across much or all of the eastern
  west Asia. Spices were extremely important com-                                                                       hemisphere between China and the Roman empire.
                                   modities in classical                                                                A Chinese ambassador named Gang Ying embarked
         Primary Source            times because they had                                                               on a mission to distant western lands in 97 C.E. and
         “Battuta in China”        many more uses than                                                                  proceeded as far as Mesopotamia before reports of the
                                   they do in the modern                                                                long and dangerous journey ahead persuaded him to
  world. They served not only as condiments and fla-                                                                     return home. And Chinese sources reported the ar-
  voring agents but also as drugs, anesthetics, aphro-                                                                  rival in 166 C.E. of a delegation claiming to represent
  disiacs, perfumes, aromatics, and magical potions. For                                                                the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius.
  the silk and spices they imported, western lands ex-                                                                      Individual merchants did not usually travel from
  changed a variety of manufactured goods and other                                                                     one end of Eurasia to the other, either by land or by
  commodities, including horses and jade from central                                                                   sea. Instead, they handled long-distance trade in stages.
  Asia and glassware, jewelry, textiles, and pottery from                                                               On the caravan routes between China and Bactria, for
  the Roman empire.                                                                                                     example, Chinese and central Asian nomadic peoples
                                                   CHAPTER 9 | CROSS-CULTURAL EXCHANGES ON THE SILK ROADS               161


   dominated trade. Farther west, however, the Parthians            It is impossible to determine the quantity or the
   took advantage of their power and geographic position        value of trade that passed over the silk roads in classi-
                          to control overland trade within      cal times, but it clearly made a deep impression on
The Organization
of Long-Distance          their boundaries. Once merchandise    contemporaries. By the first century C.E., pepper, cin-
Trade                     reached Palmyra, it passed mostly     namon, and other spices graced the tables of the
                          into the hands of Roman subjects      wealthy classes in the Roman empire, where silk gar-
   such as Greeks, Jews, and Armenians, who were espe-          ments had become items of high fashion. Some Ro-
   cially active in the commercial life of the Mediterranean    mans fretted that see-through silk attire would lead
   basin.                                                       to moral decay, and others worried that hefty expen-
        On the seas, the situation was similar: Malay and       ditures for luxury items would ruin the imperial econ-
   Indian mariners dominated trade in southeast Asian           omy. In both cases their anxieties testified to the
   and south Chinese water, Persians and subjects of the        powerful attraction of imported silks and spices for
   Roman empire dominated the Arabian Sea, Parthi-              Roman consumers.
   ans controlled the Persian Gulf, and the Roman em-               As it happened, long-distance trade more likely
   pire dominated the Red Sea. Indeed, after Roman              stimulated rather than threatened local economies.
                                       emperors absorbed        Yet long-distance trade did not occur in a vacuum.
           Primary Source
                                       Egypt in the first cen-   Commercial exchanges encouraged cultural and bio-
           “The Geography of Strabo:
           The Roman Empire”
                                       tury C.E., their sub-    logical exchanges, some of which had large implica-
                                       jects carried on an      tions for classical societies.
   especially brisk trade between India and the Mediter-
   ranean. The Greek geographer Strabo reported in the
   early first century C.E. that as many as 120 ships de-        C ULTURAL AND B IOLOGICAL
   parted annually from the Red Sea for India. Mean-
   while, since the mid–first century C.E., the Romans
                                                                EXCHANGES ALONG THE S ILK ROADS
   also had dominated both the eastern and the western
                                                                The silk roads served as magnificent highways for mer-
   regions of mare nostrum, the Mediterranean.
                                                                chants and their commodities, but others also took ad-
                                                                vantage of the opportunities they offered to travel in
                                                                relative safety over long distances. Merchants, mission-
                                                                aries, and other travelers carried their beliefs, values,
                                                                and religious convictions to distant lands: Buddhism,
                                                                Hinduism, and Christianity all traveled the silk roads




          During the first century B.C.E. Romans developed              A Roman coin dated 189 C.E. depicts a merchant
          advanced glass-blowing techniques that enabled               ship near the lighthouse at Alexandria. Ships
          them to produce wares like this jar that were                like this one regularly picked up pepper and
          popular with wealthy consumers.                              cinnamon from India along with other cargoes.
  162      PART 2 | THE FORMATION OF CLASSICAL SOCIETIES, 500 B.C.E. TO 500 C.E.



  and attracted converts far from their original home-
  lands. Meanwhile, invisible travelers such as disease
  pathogens also crossed the silk roads and touched off
  devastating epidemics when they found fresh popula-
  tions to infect. Toward the end of the classical era, epi-
  demic disease that was spread over the silk roads
  caused dramatic demographic decline, especially in
  China and the Mediterranean basin and to a lesser ex-
  tent in other parts of Eurasia as well.


  The Spread of
  Buddhism and Hinduism
   By the third century B.C.E., Buddhism had become
   well established in northern India, and with the spon-
   sorship of the emperor Ashoka the faith spread to
   Bactria and Ceylon. Buddhism was particularly suc-
   cessful in attracting merchants as converts. When they
   traveled, Buddhist merchants observed their faith
   among themselves and explained it to others. Gradu-
   ally, Buddhism made its way along the silk roads to
   Iran, central Asia, China, and southeast Asia.
       Buddhism first established a presence in the oasis
   towns along the silk roads where merchants and their            Early Buddhist sculpture in Bactria reflected the
                  caravans found food, rest, lodging, and          influence of Mediterranean and Greek artistic styles.
Buddhism in
Central Asia markets. The oases depended heavily on                This seated Buddha from the first or second century
                  trade for their prosperity, and they al-         C.E. bears Caucasian features and wears Mediterranean-

   lowed merchants to build monasteries and invite                 style dress.
   monks and scribes into their communities. Because
   they hosted travelers who came from different lands,
   spoke different languages, and observed different re-
   ligious practices, the oasis towns became cosmopoli-
   tan centers. As early as the second century B.C.E.,         Buddhist monasteries and missionaries in China’s
                                                               major cities did attract some converts. Then, in about
   many residents of the oases themselves adopted Bud-
                                                               the fifth century C.E., the Chinese began to respond
   dhism, which was the most prominent faith of silk
                                                               enthusiastically to Buddhism. Indeed, during the post-
   roads merchants for almost a millennium, from about
                                                               classical era Buddhism became the most popular reli-
   200 B.C.E. to 700 C.E.
                                                               gious faith throughout all of east Asia, including Japan
       From the oasis communities Buddhism spread to
                                                               and Korea as well as China.
   the steppe lands of central Asia and to China via the
                                                                   As Buddhism spread north from India into central
              nomadic peoples who visited the oases to
Buddhism                                                       Asia and China, both Buddhism and Hinduism also
              trade. In the early centuries C.E., they in-
in China                                                       began to attract a following in south-
              creasingly responded to the appeal of Bud-                                                    Buddhism and
                                                               east Asia. Once again, merchants trav-         Hinduism in
   dhism, and by the fourth century C.E., they had
                                                               eling the silk roads—in this case the sea Southeast Asia
   sponsored the spread of Buddhism throughout much
                                                               lanes through the Indian Ocean—
   of central Asia. Foreign merchants also brought their
                                                               played prominent roles in spreading these faiths.
   faith to China in about the first century B.C.E. Al-
                                                               By the first century C.E., clear signs of Indian cultural
   though the religion remained unpopular among na-
                                                               influence had appeared in many parts of southeast
   tive Chinese for several centuries, the presence of
                                                               Asia. Many rulers con-           Image
                                                               verted to Buddhism,
                                                                                                The Diamond Sutra
  Buddhism (BOO-diz'm)                                         and others promoted
                                                                               CHAPTER 9 | CROSS-CULTURAL EXCHANGES ON THE SILK ROADS                                          163


the Hindu cults of Shiva and Vishnu. They built                                                         One of the more famous was Gregory the Wonder-
walled cities around lavish temples constructed in the                                                  worker, a tireless missionary with a reputation for per-
Indian style, they adopted Sanskrit as a means of writ-                                                 forming miracles, who popularized
                                                                                                                                                      Christianity
ten communication, and they appointed Buddhist or                                                       Christianity in central Anatolia during              in the
Hindu advisors.                                                                                         the mid–third century C.E. Contem- Mediterranean
                                                                                                        poraries reported that Gregory not                   Basin
                                                                                                        only preached Christian doctrine but
The Spread of Christianity                                                                              also had access to impressive supernatural powers.
Early Christians faced intermittent persecution from                                                    Gregory and his fellow missionaries helped to make
Roman officials. During the early centuries C.E., Roman                                                  Christianity an enormously popular religion of salva-
authorities launched a series of campaigns to stamp out                                                 tion in the Roman empire. By the late third century
Christianity, because most Christians refused to ob-                                                    C.E., in spite of continuing imperial opposition, de-
serve the state cults that honored emperors as divine                                                   vout Christian communities flourished throughout
beings. Imperial officials also considered Christianity a                                                the Mediterranean basin in Anatolia, Syria, Palestine,
menace to society because zealous missionaries at-                                                      Egypt, and north Africa as well as in Greece, Italy,
tacked other religions and generated sometimes vio-                                                     Spain, and Gaul.
lent conflict. Nevertheless, Christian missionaries took                                                     The young faith also traveled the trade routes and
full advantage of the Romans’ magnificent network of                                                     found followers beyond the Mediterranean basin. By
roads and sea lanes, which enabled them to carry their                                                  the second century C.E., sizable Chris-
                                                                                                                                                   Christianity in
message throughout the Roman empire and the Medi-                                                       tian communities flourished through- Southwest Asia
terranean basin.                                                                                        out Mesopotamia and Iran, and a few
     During the second and third centuries C.E., count-                                                 Christian churches had appeared as far away as India.
less missionaries worked zealously to attract converts.                                                 Christians also attracted large numbers of converts in




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                                                                                                         Arabian                      Bay           S O U T H E A S T China
                                                                                                           Sea                                           ASIA          Sea
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                                                                                                                                     Straits of
                                                 Buddhism                                                                               Melaka
    Atlantic                                     Hinduism                                                 Indian Ocean
     Ocean
                                                 Christianity



Map 9.2 Major routes through which Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity spread between 200 B.C.E. and 400 C.E. Compare
this map with Map 9.1. What similarities do you notice between the silk roads and the spread of religion?
  164      PART 2 | THE FORMATION OF CLASSICAL SOCIETIES, 500 B.C.E. TO 500 C.E.



  southwest Asia and came to constitute—along with            elements as a religious faith that would serve the
  Jews and Zoroastrians—one of the major religious            needs of a cosmopolitan world.
  communities in the region.                                      Mani was a dualist: he viewed the world as the site
      Christian communities in Mesopotamia and Iran           of a cosmic struggle between the forces of light and
  deeply influenced Christian practices in the Roman em-       darkness, good and evil. He urged his
                                                                                                            Manichaean
  pire. To demonstrate utter loyalty to their faith, Chris-   followers to reject worldly pleasures and
                                                                                                                   Ethics
  tians in southwest Asia often followed strict ascetic       to observe high ethical standards. De-
  regimes and sometimes even withdrew from family life        vout Manichaeans, known as “the elect,” abstained
  and society. By the third century C.E., some Mediter-       from marriage, sexual relations, and personal com-
  ranean Christians were so impressed by these practices      forts, dedicating themselves instead to prayer, fasting,
  that they began to live as hermits in isolated locations,   and ritual observances. Less zealous Manichaeans,
  or to live exclusively among like-minded individuals        known as “hearers,” led more conventional lives, but
  who devoted their efforts to prayer and praise of God.      they followed a strict moral code and provided food
  Thus ascetic practices of Christians living in lands east   and gifts to sustain the elect. Mani’s doctrine had
  of the Roman empire helped to inspire the formation         strong appeal because it offered a rational explanation
  of Christian monastic communities in the Mediter-
  ranean basin.
      After the fifth century C.E., Christian communi-
  ties in southwest Asia and the Mediterranean basin
  increasingly went separate ways. Most of the faithful
  in southwest Asia became Nestorians—followers of
  the Greek theologian Nestorius, who lived during
                                   the early fifth century
         Image
                                   and emphasized the
         Nestorian stele
                                   human as opposed to
  the divine nature of Jesus. Mediterranean church
  authorities rejected Nestorius’s views, and many of
  his disciples departed for Mesopotamia and Iran. Al-
  though they had limited dealings with Mediterranean
  Christians, the Nestorians spread their faith east
  across the silk roads, and by the early seventh cen-
  tury they had established communities in central
  Asia, India, and China.


  The Spread of Manichaeism
  The explosive spread of Manichaeism dramatically il-
  lustrated how missionary religions made effective use
  of the silk roads trading network. Manichaeism was
                the faith derived from the prophet Mani
Mani and
Manichaeism
                (216–272 C.E.), a devout Zoroastrian
                from Babylon in Mesopotamia who also
  drew deep inspiration from Christianity and Bud-
  dhism. Because of the intense interaction between
  peoples of different societies, Mani promoted a syn-
  cretic blend of Zoroastrian, Christian, and Buddhist

                                                              A cave painting from about the seventh century C.E. depicts a
  Zoroastrian (zohr-oh-ASS-tree-ahn)                          group of devout Manichaean faithful, whose austere regimen
  Nestorian (neh-STOHR-eeuhn)                                 called for them to dress in plain white garments and keep their
  Manichaeism (man-ih-KEE-iz'm)                               hair uncut and untrimmed.
                                              CHAPTER 9 | CROSS-CULTURAL EXCHANGES ON THE SILK ROADS              165


  for the presence of good and evil in the world while       tance, immunities, or medicines to combat them. As
  also providing a means for individuals to achieve per-     disease ravaged the two empires, Chinese and Roman
  sonal salvation.                                           populations declined sharply.
      Mani was a fervent missionary and traveled widely          During the reign of Augustus, the population of
  to promote his faith. He also created a Manichaean         the Roman empire stood at about sixty million peo-
  church with its own services, rituals, hymns, and litur-   ple. During the second century C.E., epidemics re-
  gies. His doctrine attracted converts first in Mesopota-    duced Roman population to forty-five million. Most
  mia, and before Mani’s death it had spread throughout      devastating was an outbreak of smallpox that spread
  the Sasanid empire and into the eastern Mediterra-         throughout the Mediterranean basin during the years
  nean region. In spite of its asceticism, Manichaeism       165 to 180 C.E. In combination with war and inva-
  appealed especially strongly to merchants, who adopted     sions, by 400 C.E. continuing outbreaks caused the
  the faith as hearers and supported the Manichaean          population to decline even further, to about forty mil-
  church. By the end of the third century C.E., Mani-        lion. Whereas population in the eastern Mediterranean
  chaean communities had appeared in all the large           probably stabilized by the sixth century C.E., western
  cities and trading centers of the Roman empire.            Mediterranean lands experienced demographic stag-
      Manichaeism soon came under tremendous pres-           nation until the tenth century.
  sure in both the Zoroastrian Sasanid state and the             Epidemics appeared slightly later in China than
                Roman empire. Mani himself died in           in the Mediterranean region. From fifty million peo-
Decline of
                chains as a prisoner of the Sasanid em-      ple at the beginning of the millennium, Chinese pop-
Manichaeism
                peror, who saw Manichaeism as a threat       ulation rose to sixty million in 200 C.E. As diseases
  to the public order. Authorities in the Roman empire       found their way east, however, Chinese numbers fell
  also persecuted Manichaeans and largely exterminated       back to fifty million by 400 C.E. and to forty-five mil-
  the faith in the Mediterranean basin over the course       lion by 600 C.E. Thus by 600 C.E. both Mediter-
  of the fifth and sixth centuries. Yet Manichaeism sur-      ranean and Chinese populations had fallen by a
  vived in central Asia, where it attracted converts         quarter to a third from their high points during clas-
  among nomadic Turkish peoples who traded with              sical times.
  merchants from China, India, and southwest Asia.               Demographic decline in turn brought economic
  Like Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity, then,           and social change. Trade within the empires declined,
  Manichaeism relied on the trade routes of classical        and both the Chinese and the Ro-
                                                                                                                Effects of
  times to extend its influence to new lands and peoples.     man economies contracted. Both Epidemic Diseases
                                                             economies also moved toward re-
                                                             gional self-sufficiency: whereas previously the Chinese
  The Spread of Epidemic Disease                             and Roman states had integrated the various regions
  Like religious faiths, infectious and contagious dis-      of their empires into a larger network of trade and
  eases also spread along the trade routes of the classi-    exchange, after about 200 C.E. they increasingly em-
  cal world. Aided by long-distance travelers, pathogens     braced several smaller regional economies that con-
  had opportunities to spread beyond their original en-      centrated on their own needs instead of the larger
  vironments and attack populations with no inherited        imperial market. Indeed, epidemic disease contributed
  or acquired immunities to the diseases they caused.        to serious instability in China after the collapse of the
  The resulting epidemics took a ferocious toll in hu-       Han dynasty, and in weakening Mediterranean soci-
  man lives.                                                 ety, it helped bring about the decline and fall of the
      During the second and third centuries C.E., the        western Roman empire.
  Han and Roman empires suffered large-scale outbreaks
            of epidemic disease. The most destructive of
Epidemic
            these diseases were probably smallpox and        C HINA AFTER THE HAN DYNASTY
Diseases
            measles, and epidemics of bubonic plague
  may also have erupted. All three diseases are devastat-    By the time epidemic diseases struck China, internal
  ing when they break out in populations without resis-      political problems had already begun to weaken the
                                                             Han dynasty. By the late second century C.E., Han au-
                                                             thorities had largely lost their ability to maintain
  Sasanid (suh-SAH-nid)                                      order. Early in the third century C.E., the central
166      PART 2 | THE FORMATION OF CLASSICAL SOCIETIES, 500 B.C.E. TO 500 C.E.



    S O U R C E S F R O M TH E PA ST

  St. Cyprian on Epidemic Disease in the Roman Empire

  St. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, was an outspoken proponent of Christianity during the early and middle decades of the
  third century C.E. When epidemic disease struck the Roman empire in 251 C.E., imperial authorities blamed the outbreak
  on Christians who refused to honor pagan gods. Cyprian refuted this charge in his treatise On Mortality, which described
  the symptoms of epidemic disease and reflected on its significance for the Christian community.
                                                           I     I     I

  It serves as validation of the [Christian] faith when              without any discrimination, the just are dying
  the bowels loosen and drain the body’s strength,                   alongside the unjust, but you should not imagine
  when fever generated in bone marrow causes sores                   that the evil and the good face a common destruc-
  to break out in the throat, when continuous vomit-                 tion. The just are called to refreshment, while the
  ing roils the intestines, when blood-shot eyes burn,               unjust are herded off to punishment: the faithful
  when the feet or other bodily parts are amputated                  receive protection, while the faithless receive retri-
  because of infection by putrefying disease, when                   bution. We are unseeing and ungrateful for divine
  through weakness caused by injuries to the body ei-                favors, beloved brethren, and we do not recognize
  ther mobility is impeded, or hearing is impaired, or               what is granted to us. . . .
  sight is obscured. It requires enormous greatness                     How suitable and essential it is that this plague
  of heart to struggle with resolute mind against so                 and pestilence, which seems so terrible and fero-
  many onslaughts of destruction and death. It re-                   cious, probes the justice of every individual and ex-
  quires great loftiness to stand firm amidst the ruins               amines the minds of the human race to determine
  of the human race, not to concede defeat with                      whether the healthy care for the ill, whether rela-
  those who have no hope in God, but rather to re-                   tives diligently love their kin, whether masters show
  joice and embrace the gift of the times. With Christ               mercy to their languishing slaves, whether physi-
  as our judge, we should receive this gift as the re-               cians do not abandon those seeking their aid,
  ward of his faith, as we vigorously affirm our faith                whether the ferocious diminish their violence,
  and, having suffered, advance toward Christ by                     whether the greedy in the fear of death extinguish
  Christ’s narrow path. . . .                                        the raging flames of their insatiable avarice, whether
      Many of us [Christians] are dying in this epi-                 the proud bend their necks, whether the shameless
  demic—that is, many of us are being liberated from                 mitigate their audacity, whether the rich will loosen
  the world. The epidemic is a pestilence for the Jews               their purse strings and give something to others as
  and the pagans and the enemies of Christ, but for                  their loved ones perish all around them and as they
  the servants of God it is a welcome event. True,                   are about to die without heirs.
  • To what extent do you think St. Cyprian was effective in his efforts to bring inherited Christian teachings to bear on
      the unprecedented conditions he and his followers faced?

  SOURCE: Wilhelm von Hartel, ed. S. Thasci Caecili Cypriani opera omnia in Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum. Vienna,
  1868, vol. 3, pp. 305–6. (Translation by Jerry H. Bentley.)




government dissolved, and a series of autonomous re-                 Internal Decay of the Han State
gional kingdoms took the place of the Han state.
With the disappearance of the Han dynasty, China ex-                 The Han dynasty collapsed largely because of inter-
perienced significant cultural change, most notably                   nal problems that its rulers could not solve. One
an increasing interest in Buddhism.                                  problem involved the development of factions within
                                                            CHAPTER 9 | CROSS-CULTURAL EXCHANGES ON THE SILK ROADS                                            167

                                                                                                                                       Map 9.3 China after the
                                GOBI DESERT                                                                                            Han dynasty. Note the
                                                                                                                            Se a o f   division of China into three
                                                                                                                            J a pa n
                                                                                                                                       large kingdoms. What
                                                                                                                                       would have been the




                                            Yellow River
                                                                                                                                       advantages to such a
                                                                                                                                       division? Would there also
                                                                                                         Yellow
                                                                                                          Se a                         have been disadvantages?
                                                           (Huang He )
                                                               Luoyang

                                                                                      Jianye
                                                                                   (Nanjing)
                                                                                                 )
                                        Yangzi River
                                                                         (C
                                                                              ha            ng
                                                                                   ng Jia
                              Chengdu                                                                              Ea s t
                                                                                                                  Chi n a
                                                                                                                   Se a




                                                                                      South China Sea


                                                                                                           Wei        Wu       Shu




  the ranks of the ruling elites. The desire of some                                                      Meanwhile, Han generals increasingly usurped po-
  elites to advance their own prospects in the imperial                                              litical authority. By 190 C.E. the Han emperor had be-
  government at the cost of others led to constant in-                                               come a mere puppet, and the generals Collapse of the
  fighting and backstabbing among the ruling elites,                                                  effectively ruled the regions controlled Han Dynasty
  which reduced the effectiveness of the central gov-                                                by their armies. They allied with wealthy
  ernment. An even more difficult problem had to do                                                   landowners of their regions and established themselves
  with the perennial issue of land and its equitable dis-                                            as warlords who maintained a kind of rough order
  tribution. In the last two centuries of the Han dy-                                                based on force of arms. In 220 C.E. they abolished the
  nasty, large landowners gained new influence in the                                                 Han dynasty altogether and divided the empire into
  government. They reduced their share of taxes and                                                  three large kingdoms.
  shifted the burden onto peasants. They even formed                                                      Once the dynasty had disappeared, large numbers
  private armies to advance the interests of their class.                                            of nomadic peoples migrated into China, especially
      These developments provoked widespread unrest                                                  the northern regions, and they helped to keep China
  among peasants, who found themselves under in-                                                     disunited for more than 350 years. Between the
                      creasing economic pressure with no                                             fourth and sixth centuries C.E., nomadic peoples es-
Peasant Rebellion
                      means to influence the government.                                              tablished large kingdoms that dominated much of
  Pressures became particularly acute during the late                                                northern China as well as the steppe lands.
  second and third centuries when epidemics began to
  take their toll. In 184 C.E. peasant discontent fueled a
  large-scale uprising known as the Yellow Turban re-
                                                                                                     Cultural Change in Post-Han China
  bellion, so called because the rebels wore yellow head-                                            In some ways the centuries following the fall of the
  bands that represented the color of the Chinese earth                                              Han dynasty present a spectacle of chaos and disor-
  and symbolized their peasant origins. Although                                                     der. One kingdom toppled another, only to fall in its
  quickly suppressed, the rebellion proved to be only                                                turn to a temporary successor. War and nomadic in-
  the first in a series of insurrections that plagued the                                             vasions led to population decline in much of north-
  late Han dynasty.                                                                                  ern China. By the mid–fifth century, contemporaries
  168      PART 2 | THE FORMATION OF CLASSICAL SOCIETIES, 500 B.C.E. TO 500 C.E.



   reported, the Former Han capital of Chang’an had           Buddhism provided an important cultural founda-
   no more than one hundred households and the Later          tion for the restoration of a unified political order.
   Han capital of Luoyang resembled a trash heap more
   than a city.
        Beneath the disorderly surface of political events,   THE FALL OF THE ROMAN E MPIRE
   however, several important social and cultural changes
                     were taking place. First, nomadic        A combination of internal problems and external pres-
Sinicization of
                     peoples increasingly adapted to the      sures weakened the Roman empire and brought an end
Nomadic Peoples
                     Chinese environment and culture,         to its authority in the western portion of the empire,
   and as the generations passed, distinctions between        whereas in the eastern Mediterranean imperial rule
   peoples of nomadic and Chinese ancestry became less        continued until the fifteenth century C.E. In the
   and less obvious. Partly because of that development,      Mediterranean basin as in China, imperial weakness
   a new imperial dynasty was eventually able to reconsti-    and collapse coincided with significant cultural change,
   tute a centralized imperial state in north China.          notably the increasing popularity of Christianity.
        Second, with the disintegration of political order,
   the Confucian tradition lost much of its credibility.      Internal Decay in
   The original goal of Confucius and his early follow-
   ers was to find some means to move from chaos to
                                                              the Roman Empire
   stability during the Period of the Warring States.         As in the case of the Han dynasty, internal political
   When the Han dynasty collapsed, Confucianism               problems go a long way toward explaining the fall of
   seemed both ineffective and irrelevant.                    the Roman empire. Like their Han counterparts, the
        Individuals who in earlier centuries might have       Roman emperors faced internal opposi-
                                                                                                           The Barracks
   committed themselves to Confucian values turned            tion. During the half century from 235
                                                                                                               Emperors
   instead to Daoism and Buddhism. Daoism, from its           to 284 C.E., there were no fewer than
   origins in the Period of the Warring States, had orig-     twenty-six claimants to the imperial throne. Known
   inally appealed mostly to an educated elite. After the     as the “barracks emperors,” most of them were gen-
   fall of the Han, however, Daoist sages widened its ap-     erals who seized power, held it briefly, and then sud-
   peal by promising salvation to those who observed          denly lost it when they were displaced by rivals or
   their doctrines and rituals and by offering the use of     their own mutinous troops. Not surprisingly, most of
   elixirs made of spices, herbs, and drugs that suppos-      the barracks emperors died violently. Only one is
   edly conferred health and immortality. Daoism at-          known for sure to have succumbed to natural causes.
   tracted widespread interest among a population                  The Roman empire also faced problems because
   afflicted by war and disease and became much more           of its sheer size. Even during the best of times, when
   popular than before, especially because it faced less      the emperors could count on abundant revenues and
   competition from the Confucian tradition.                  disciplined armed forces, the sprawling empire posed
        Even more important than Daoism for Chinese           a challenge for central governors. After the third cen-
   cultural history was Buddhism. After the fall of the       tury, as epidemics spread throughout the empire and
                  Han empire, Buddhism received strong        its various regions moved toward local, self-sufficient
Popularity of
                  support from nomadic peoples who mi-        economies, the empire as a whole became increas-
Buddhism
                  grated into northern China and who in       ingly unmanageable.
   many cases had long been familiar with Buddhism in              The emperor Diocletian (reigned 284–305 C.E.)
   central Asia. Meanwhile, as a result of missionary ef-     attempted to deal with this problem by dividing the
   forts, the Indian faith began to attract a following       empire into two administrative districts:
                                                                                                           The Emperor
   among native Chinese as well. Indeed, between the          one in the east and one in the west. A co-
                                                                                                             Diocletian
   fourth and sixth centuries C.E., Buddhism became           emperor ruled each district with the aid
   well established in China. When a centralized impe-        of a powerful lieutenant, and the four officials, known
   rial state took shape in the late sixth century C.E.,      as the tetrarchs, were able to administer the vast em-
                                                              pire more effectively than an individual emperor
                                                              could. Diocletian was a skillful administrator. He
  Confucianism (kuhn-FEW-shun-iz'm)                           managed to bring Rome’s many armies, including un-
                                                      CHAPTER 9 | CROSS-CULTURAL EXCHANGES ON THE SILK ROADS          169


                                                                   empire, however, he and his successors faced the
                                                                   same sort of administrative difficulties that Diocle-
                                                                   tian had attempted to solve by dividing
                                                                                                              Constantine
                                                                   the empire. As population declined and
                                                                   the economy contracted, emperors found it increas-
                                                                   ingly difficult to marshall the resources needed to
                                                                   govern and protect the vast Roman empire.

                                                                   Germanic Invasions and the Fall
                                                                   of the Western Roman Empire
                                                                   Apart from internal problems, the Roman empire
                                                                   faced a formidable military threat from migratory
                                                                   Germanic peoples. Indeed, during the fifth century
                                                                   C.E., Germanic invasions brought an end to Roman
                                                                   authority in the western half of the empire, although
                                                                   imperial rule survived for an additional millennium
                                                                   in the eastern Mediterranean.
                                                                       Germanic peoples had migrated from their home-
                                                                   lands in northern Europe and lived on the eastern and
                                                                   northern borders of the Roman empire
                                                                                                                     Germanic
                                                                   since the second century C.E. Most notable
                                                                                                                    Migrations
                                                                   were the Visigoths, who came originally
   Only the colossal head of Constantine survives from a           from Scandinavia and Russia. Like the nomadic peo-
   statue that originally stood about 14 meters (46 feet) tall.    ples who moved into northern China after the fall of
                                                                   the Han dynasty, the Visigoths settled, adopted agri-
                                                                   culture, and drew deep inspiration from Roman soci-
predictable maverick forces, under firm imperial con-               ety. In the interests of social order, however, the
trol. He also tried to deal with a crumbling economy               Romans discouraged settlement of the Visigoths and
by strengthening the imperial currency, forcing the                other Germanic peoples within the empire, preferring
government to adjust its expenditures to its income,               that they constitute buffer societies outside imperial
and imposing price caps to dampen inflation. His eco-               borders.
nomic measures were less successful than his adminis-                  During the late fourth century, the relationship be-
trative reforms, but they helped stabilize an economy              tween Visigoths and Romans changed dramatically
ravaged by half a century of civil unrest.                         when the nomadic Huns began an aggres-
                                                                                                                      The Huns
    Yet Diocletian’s reforms encouraged ambition                   sive westward migration from their home-
among the tetrarchs and their generals, and his retire-            land in central Asia. The Huns were probably cousins
ment from the imperial office in 305 C.E. set off a                 of the nomadic Xiongnu who inhabited the central
round of internal struggles and bitter civil war. Al-              Asian steppe lands west of China. During the mid–fifth
ready in 306 C.E. Constantine, son of Diocletian’s                 century C.E., the warrior-king Attila organized the
coruler Constantius, moved to stake his claim as sole              Huns into a virtually unstoppable military juggernaut.
emperor. Once he had consolidated his grip on power                Under Attila, the Huns invaded Hungary, probed
in 324 C.E., Constantine ordered the construction of               Roman frontiers in the Balkan region, menaced Gaul
a new capital city, Constantinople, at a strategic site            and northern Italy, and attacked Germanic peoples liv-
overlooking the Bosporus, the strait linking the Black             ing on the borders of the Roman empire.
Sea to the Sea of Marmara and beyond to the wealthy                    Attila did not create a set of political institutions
eastern Mediterranean. After 340 C.E. Constantino-                 or a state structure, and the Huns disappeared as a
ple became the capital of a united Roman empire.                   political and military force soon after his death in 453
    Constantine himself was an able emperor. With                  C.E. By that time, however, the Huns had placed such
the reunion of the eastern and western districts of the            pressure on Visigoths and other Germanic peoples
   170      PART 2 | THE FORMATION OF CLASSICAL SOCIETIES, 500 B.C.E. TO 500 C.E.



                                                           SC A N
                                                                    DI
                                                                         NA
                                                                            V
                                                                                  IA
                                                                                                                    a
                                                                                                               Se                 RUSSIA
                                                                                                     i     c
                                      Nor th Sea                                                  lt
                                                                                             Ba

      IRELAND




                                                                           Od er R
                       B R I TA I N            Rhine R                            iv
                                                                                       er




                                                     ive
                                                         r
                                                                                                                                                 Dn
                                                                                                                                                    i   epe
                                                                                                                                                            r   Riv
                                                                   u be Rive                                                                                       er
                                                                Dan          r



                                      GAUL
         Atlantic                                                                                                       HUNGARY
          Ocean


                                                                          A
                                                                              d
                                                                                  ri                                                                      Black Sea
                                                                 IT AL Y                at                      BALKANS
                                                                                             ic
                                                   CORSICA                Rome                    Se
                                                                                                       a
              S PA I N                                                                                                              Constantinople

                                                   SARDINIA
                                                                                                                GREECE

                                                                                                                                             A N AT O L I A
                                                                          SICILY
                                                   Hippo
                                                                Carthage
                                                                                                                                                                         SYRIA
                                        AFRICA
                                                                                                                            CRETE     CYPRUS
                                                                                                  Mediterranean Sea


             Huns                      Lombards
             Visigoths                 Angles and Saxons
                                                                                                                                  EGYPT
             Franks
                                                                                                                                      N il e R


             Ostrogoths                Western empire
                                                                                                                                                 v
                                                                                                                                          i




             Vandals                   Eastern empire                                                                                                              Red
                                                                                                                                                 er




                                                                                                                                                                   Sea


   Map 9.4 Germanic invasions and the fall of the western Roman empire between 450 and 476 C.E. Notice the many different
   groups that moved into western Roman territory in this period. What might have motivated such movement, and why couldn’t the
   western Roman empire prevent it?



   that they streamed en masse into the Roman empire                                              empire was in a shambles. In 476 C.E. imperial author-
   in search of refuge. Once inside imperial boundaries,                                          ity came to an ignominious end when the Germanic
                       they encountered little effective resis-                                   general Odovacer deposed Romulus Augustulus, the
Collapse of
the Western            tance and moved around almost at will.                                     last of the Roman emperors in the western half of the
Roman Empire           They established settlements through-                                      empire.
                       out the western half of the empire—                                            Unlike the Han dynasty, the Roman empire did
   Italy, Gaul, Spain, Britain, and north Africa—where                                            not entirely disintegrate: imperial authority survived
   populations were less dense than in the eastern Medi-                                          for another millennium in the eastern half of the em-
                                       terranean. Under the                                       pire, known after the fifth century C.E. as the Byzan-
          Interactive Map
                                       command of Alaric,                                         tine empire. In the western half, however, Roman
          Fall of the Roman empire
                                       the Visigoths even
   stormed and sacked Rome in 410 C.E. By the middle
   of the fifth century, the western part of the Roman                                             Byzantine (BIHZ-uhn-teen)
                                             CHAPTER 9 | CROSS-CULTURAL EXCHANGES ON THE SILK ROADS                 171


  authority dissolved, and nomadic peoples built succes-
  sor states in regions formerly subject to Rome. Van-
  dals and then Visigoths governed Spain, Franks ruled
  Gaul, Angles and Saxons invaded Britain, and Italy fell
  under the sway of a variety of peoples, including Visi-
  goths, Vandals, and Lombards.


  Cultural Change in
  the Late Roman Empire
  In the Roman empire, as in China, the collapse of the
  imperial state coincided with important social and
  cultural changes. The Germanic peoples who toppled
  the empire looked to their own traditions for pur-
  poses of organizing society and government. When
  they settled in the regions of the former empire, how-
  ever, they absorbed a good deal of Roman influence.
  Over time, the mingling of Roman and Germanic tra-
  ditions led to the emergence of an altogether new so-
  ciety—medieval Europe.
      Christianity was perhaps the most prominent sur-
  vivor of the western Roman empire. During the
                  fourth century C.E., several develop-           Portrait of St. Augustine holding a copy of his
Prominence of
                  ments enhanced its influence through-            most famous work, The City of God, which
Christianity                                                      sought to explain the meaning of history and
                  out the Mediterranean basin. In the
  first place, Christianity won recognition as a legiti-           the world from a Christian point of view.
  mate religion in the Roman empire. In 312 C.E.,
  while seeking to establish himself as sole Roman em-
  peror, Constantine experienced a vision that im-          to articulate Christianity in terms that were familiar
  pressed upon him the power of the Christian God.          and persuasive to the educated classes.
  He believed that the Christian God helped him to               The most important and influential of those fig-
  prevail over his rivals, and he promulgated the Edict     ures was St. Augustine (354–430 C.E.), bishop of the
  of Milan, which allowed Christians to practice their      north African city of Hippo (modern-
                                                                                                         St. Augustine
  faith openly in the Roman empire. At some point dur-      day Annaba in Algeria). Augustine had
  ing his reign, perhaps after his edict, Constantine       a fine education, and he was conversant with the lead-
  himself converted to Christianity, and in 380 C.E. the    ing intellectual currents of the day. During his youth
  emperor Theodosius proclaimed Christianity the offi-       he drew great inspiration from Stoicism and Plato-
  cial religion of the Roman empire. By the mid–fourth      nism, and for nine years he belonged to a community
  century, Christians held important political and mili-    of Manichaeans. Eventually he became disillusioned
  tary positions, and imperial sponsorship helped their     with both the Hellenistic philosophical school and
  faith to attract more converts than ever before.          Manichaeism, and in 387 C.E., while studying in Italy,
      Christianity also began to attract thoughtful and     he converted to Christianity. For the remainder of his
  talented converts who articulated a Christian mes-        life, he worked to reconcile Christianity with Greek
  sage for the intellectual elites of the Roman empire.     and Roman philosophical traditions. More than any
  The earliest Christians had come largely from the         others, Augustine’s writings helped make Christianity
  ranks of ordinary working people, and for three cen-      an intellectually respectable alternative to Hellenistic
  turies the new faith grew as a popular religion of sal-   philosophy and to popular religions of salvation.
  vation favored by the masses, rather than as a                 Besides winning the right to practice their faith
  reasoned doctrine of intellectual substance. During       openly and attracting intellectual talent, Christian
  the fourth century, however, intellectual elites began    leaders constructed an institutional apparatus that
  172      PART 2 | THE FORMATION OF CLASSICAL SOCIETIES, 500 B.C.E. TO 500 C.E.



  transformed a popular religion of salvation into a pow-      these councils proclaimed that Jesus was both fully
  erful church. In the absence of recognized leadership,       human and fully divine at the same time, in contrast
                     the earliest Christians generated a       to Nestorians, Arians, and other Christian groups who
The Institutional
                     range of conflicting and sometimes         held that Jesus was either primarily human or primar-
Church
                     contradictory doctrines. To stan-         ily divine.
  dardize their faith, Christian leaders instituted a hier-         As Roman imperial authority crumbled, the
  archy of church officials. At the top were five religious      bishop of Rome, known as the pope (from the Latin
  authorities—the bishop of Rome and the patriarchs of         papa, meaning “father”), emerged as spiritual leader
  Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople—          of Christian communities in the western regions of
  who resided in the most important spiritual and polit-       the empire. As the only sources of established and
  ical centers of the Roman empire. Subordinate to the         recognized authority, the popes and the bishops of
  five principal authorities were bishops, who presided         other important cities organized local government
  over religious affairs in their districts, known as dio-     and defensive measures for their communities. They
  ceses, which included all the prominent cities of the        also mounted missionary campaigns to convert Ger-
  Roman empire. When theological disputes arose, the           manic peoples to Christianity. Although Roman im-
  patriarchs and the bishops assembled in church coun-         perial authority disappeared, Roman Christianity
  cils to determine which views would prevail as official       survived and served as a foundation for cultural unity
  doctrine. The councils at Nicaea (325 C.E.) and Chal-        in lands that had formerly made up the western half
  cedon (451 C.E.), for example, took up the difficult          of the Roman empire.
  and contentious issue of Jesus’ nature. Delegates at




                             S UMMARY
                             By 500 C.E. classical societies in Persia, China, India, and the Mediterranean basin
                             had either collapsed or fallen into decline. Yet all the classical societies left rich lega-
                             cies that shaped political institutions, social orders, and cultural traditions for cen-
                             turies to come. Moreover, by sponsoring commercial and cultural relations between
                             different peoples, the classical societies laid a foundation for intensive and systematic
                             cross-cultural interaction in later times. After the third century C.E., the decline of
                             the Han and Roman empires resulted in less activity over the silk roads than in the
                             preceding three hundred years. But the trade routes survived, and when a new series
                             of imperial states reestablished order throughout much of Eurasia and north Africa
                             in the sixth century C.E., the peoples of the eastern hemisphere avidly resumed their
                             crossing of cultural boundary lines in the interests of trade and communication.
                                                     CHAPTER 9 | CROSS-CULTURAL EXCHANGES ON THE SILK ROADS                        173


   CHRONOLOGY
   THIRD CENTURY B.C.E.                           Spread of Buddhism and Hinduism to southeast Asia

   SECOND CENTURY B.C.E.                          Introduction of Buddhism to central Asia

   139–126 B.C.E.                                 Travels of Zhang Qian in central Asia

   FIRST CENTURY B.C.E.                           Introduction of Buddhism to China

   SECOND CENTURY C.E.                            Spread of Christianity in the Mediterranean basin and southwest Asia

   184 C.E.                                       Yellow Turban rebellion

   216–272 C.E.                                   Life of Mani

   220 C.E.                                       Collapse of the Han dynasty

   284–305 C.E.                                   Reign of Diocletian

   313–337 C.E.                                   Reign of Constantine

   313 C.E.                                       Edict of Milan and the legalization of Christianity in the Roman empire

   325 C.E.                                       Council of Nicaea

   451 C.E.                                       Council of Chalcedon

   476 C.E.                                       Collapse of the western Roman empire




FOR FURTHER R EADING
Thomas J. Barfield. The Perilous Frontier: Nomadic Empires and               sources on the society and history of nomadic and migratory
    China. Cambridge, Mass., 1989. Provocative study of the                 peoples.
    Xiongnu and other central Asian peoples.                            Samuel Hugh Moffett. A History of Christianity in Asia, vol. 1.
Jerry H. Bentley. Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts             San Francisco, 1992. An important volume that surveys the
    and Exchanges in Pre-modern Times. New York, 1993. Studies              spread of early Christianity east of the Roman empire.
    the spread of cultural and religious traditions before 1500 C.E.    Joseph A. Tainter. The Collapse of Complex Societies. Cambridge,
Averil Cameron. The Later Roman Empire, A.D. 284–430. Cam-                  1988. Scholarly review of theories and evidence bearing on
    bridge, Mass., 1993. A lively synthesis.                                the fall of empires and societies.
———. The Mediterranean World in Late Antiquity, A.D. 395–600.           Susan Whitfield. Life along the Silk Road. Berkeley, 1999. Focuses
    London, 1993. Like its companion volume just cited, a well-             on the experiences of ten individuals who lived or traveled
    informed synthesis.                                                     along the silk roads.
Edward Gibbon. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Many           Francis Wood. The Silk Road: Two Thousand Years in the Heart of
    editions available. A classic account, still well worth reading,        Asia. Berkeley, 2002. A brilliantly illustrated volume dis-
    by a masterful historical stylist of the eighteenth century.            cussing the history of the silk roads from antiquity to the
C. D. Gordon, ed. The Age of Attila: Fifth-Century Byzantium                twentieth century.
    and the Barbarians. Ann Arbor, 1972. Translations of primary

				
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