The Influence of Trade Routes on the Welfare of Empires

Trade routes remained as the foundation of many empires and in many cases, they influenced their rise and decline. For example, during the time period from 700 CE-1500 CE, three powerful Sudanic states rose in Western Africa in the order of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai. These empires lived extremely wealthy as they dominated important gold deposits in which Muslim merchants traded for salt, copper, clothes, and other daily necessities. In fact, at their glorious eras, the king of Mali, Mansa Musa, went on a hajj to Mecca in 1324, and during his journey, he handed away a large sum of gold as gifts that their prices could not recover in the next few years.

Throughout the time period from 600 CE-1450 CE, the development of the Eurasian Silk Road and Indian Ocean Sea Route had more differences than similarities. Both trade routes aided the spread of major religions including Buddhism and Islam. However, the locations of these routes offered very diverse transportation methods as the Silk Road utilized domesticated animals and caravans while the Indian Ocean Route, in contrast, sailed on ships through their significant, periodically monsoons. New innovations gradually appeared, in which through the Silk Road, technologies of printing and gunpowder spread across to the west, while new ship designs and navigational instruments were often detected in the Indian Ocean region.

Religions flourished as new conversions emerged along the Silk Road and Indian Ocean Route collectively. For instance, Buddhism reached China during the downfall of the Han Dynasty by the missionaries works of monks, wandering on the Silk Road. By that time, the citizens had begun to waver from traditional Confucianism beliefs and favored the new religion.

However, the rise of the Tang and Song Dynasty halted the further growth of Buddhism as Confucian bureaucrats resented their reputation. Even though Tang officials ordered the burning of Buddhist monasteries, and forced monks and nuns back to secular life, the religion never faded away as they intertwined with Chinese cultures. Peasants popularized Buddhism, and it gradually fused with both Confucianism philosophy and Daoism beliefs, creating Neo-Confucianism in the Song Dynasty. The Silk Road, similarly, urged the spread of Christianity as the other half of this trade was linked to the Roman Empire. The constant nomadic invasions and bureaucracy corruption during their decline led to the final collapse of Imperial Rome, but their successor, Byzantium, continued to abide by their religion which was Christianity.

Even though Rome failed, Byzantium remained as a new place of commerce, thus their beliefs passed along the Silk Road all the way from the Mediterranean region to Eastern Asia. At this time, in the Indian Ocean Route, Islam stood as one of the core religion in which many people supported. This was a result as the Islamic Empire controlled the Delhi Sultanate in the post-classical period. Though there were contrary differences between Hinduism, the lower castes, untouchables, and slaves welcomed Islam as they heavily stressed equality upon Allah.

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