We invite you to join us each week for Did you know? articles which adhere to preselected themes. Knowledge and appreciation of these subjects helps to preserve, diffuse, and promote elements of our common heritage of the Silk Roads.
Multiple encounters and dialogue between cultures, are the direct consequence of the abundance of diverse civilisations. In this way, the Silk Roads have acted as the major arteries of an interrelated system whereby people, goods and ideas circulate between the Eastern and Western worlds. Thereby, Venice, Athens, Istanbul, Alexandria, Muscat, Karachi, Madras, Bangkok, Manila and other cities on the Silk Routes, form a galaxy in the sky of the history of mankind. The Anatolian peninsula is considered as a bridge between Asia and Europe. By being a crossroads of many civilisations, it links these diverse cities and their cultures together.
The Silk Routes of Turkey originated from the time of Alexander’s expedition to the East. The routes subsequently encompassed the Silk Routes of the Seljuks, the Silk Route of Marco Polo, and the Ottoman Silk Routes. Included within these routes are the Maritime Silk Routes of Anatolia. The main ports were situated in Trabzon, Istanbul, Bursa, Izmir, and Antioch. These were connected with Crimea, Venice, Florence, Dubrovnik, or Ancona in Europe, and ports of the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and Southeast Asian regions.
Eventually the trade routes of Anatolia gained great importance, especially in transit transportation. Notably, this can be attributed to the caravanserais built in the 13th century that facilitated trade and culture. In fact, they were at the service of the travellers with their baths, mosques, bakeries, libraries, physicians, technicians among others. Caravanserais enabled the establishment of this interrelated system of goods and people.
These trade routes encouraged the practice of silk weaving which was first mass-produced in the region of Bursa during the Eastern Roman period, and later exported to Europe. After the Ottomans’ settlement in Anatolia, they took advantage of the existing Silk industry in this region, by importing a vast amount of raw silk from the East. Consequently, Bursa - situated at the North West of the Anatolian peninsula - became the centre of both silk weaving and silk trade. Due to its particular geographical situation, both Eastern and Western traditions influenced weaving, creating a unique art of weaving.
Consequently, the breadth of this vast region linking worlds together, allowed for the cohabitation several religions. This interrelated system of the Silk Roads led to the sharing of different languages, cultures and knowledge. Therefore, facilitating exchanges between the Eastern and Western spirit.