Ships from the Roman Empire first sailed to India and bought silk, which became very popular in Rome. In fact, purple silk was worth its weight in gold.
Eventually the Roman merchants set up trading posts all the way to China and reached Canton; then traded in Chang-Cheou near today’s Shanghai. Source: Romano-Chinese Relations
Until 73 AD, the sea route was the only one open since the caravan routes along the Silk Road were closed at that time.
Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar (31 BC to 14 AD) earned credit for establishing trade between Rome and China.
In 166 AD, Roman travelers arrived at the Court of the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 219 AD). These Romans met powerful representative of the Han Dynasty.
About the same time, Buddhist missionaries arrived in China by ship from India and introduced Buddhism to China.
The next paragraph may sound as if history were repeating itself between the U.S. and China.
Romans spent recklessly. Gold left Rome and flowed to the East at such a rate that the government had to restrict imports. After a long period of prosperity in Rome, the empire entered a serious economic crisis.
Rome was bankrupt from this overspending and couldn’t maintain the hundreds of thousands of troops needed to protect the empire.
In 312 AD, Constantine moved the Roman capital to Constantinople. In 395, the Roman Empire was divided between the Western and Eastern Empires. Then the Western Roman Empire collapsed.
Return to or start with A brief history of silk: Part 1
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.
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