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The Silk Roads is a vast region that include complex networks of maritime and land routes. They played an essential role in the rapprochement of Eastern and Western civilizations. Moreover, the cities along this vast region were capable to establish connections and form links thanks to the strategic position of their major cities such as Sana’a, Baghdad, or Izmir in Western Anatolia.
The silk trade that led to the Silk Roads dates from ages, and finds its origins in Central Asia that was the pivot to transport the silk from China to western regions. This road persisted during centuries due to the demand of silk from wealthy people and diverse palaces. In Anatolia, Bursa was historically the main hub for the silk trade. Nevertheless, from the seventeenth century, Izmir took over Bursa through the port of Phocaea, and became one of the major international trade centre for silk, as well as for goods, from East to West and conversely.
Aside from its central position in Anatolia along the coasts of the Aegean Sea, the rise of Izmir is also attributable to its tax system, its reliability and attractiveness compared to the other ports of the region. Indeed, the Ottoman rulers encouraged the merchants from the world to come and trade. In this way, they built diverse structures in Izmir port such as storehouses, docks, and the Sancak Kalesi fortress in order to guarantee a good protection for the ships.
At these times, the silk carried to Izmir came principally from Iran via the secure route Isfahan-Izmir. Precious, raw and finished silk products were transported and used in Anatolia. Yet, most of the silk imported through this route was intended for the European countries. Moreover, some Western European merchants were living in Izmir, notably thanks to the tolerance of the inhabitants of Izmir towards them. Thus, the traders could buy the silk coming from Bursa, Iran, and other part of the region, directly from the Western Anatolian port, and then exported it to European ports. Usually from about 1700 CE, the silk importations arrived at the port of Marseille in the South of France.
Apart from being a mean to trade, this silk was also a social, political and economic tool. The silk and its trade led to the foundation of what we call today the Silk Roads, which contributed to develop cities such as Izmir. Thanks to these maritime and land routes, Izmir became an open city to the rest of the world where people from diverse part of the world could encounter. Izmir still remains an important coastal city today.