Category: ancient rome

The Praetorian Guard, Rome’s Elite Soldiers

The Praetorian Guard, Rome’s Elite Soldiers

from Kings and Generals

The Roman-Germanic Wars — The Battle of …

The Roman-Germanic Wars — The Battle of Teutoburg Forest 9 AD

from Kings and Generals

Roman Spatha with bone handle, 3rd-5th century…

Roman Spatha with bone handle, 3rd-5th century AD.

from Pax Romana Aucitons

Helmet of a Thracian gladiator, uncovered from…

Helmet of a Thracian gladiator, uncovered from Pompeii, 1st century AD.

The Roman Legion vs. the Macedonian Phalanx

The Roman Legion vs. the Macedonian Phalanx

from Kings and Generals

The Marian Reforms and the Military Effects

The Marian Reforms and the Military Effects

from Kings and Generals

Roman slinger, 5th century AD

Roman slinger, 5th century AD

Roman gladii, 1st-3rd century AD.

Roman gladii, 1st-3rd century AD.

The Romans who stole Silk from China

The Romans who stole Silk from China

During the 6th century the Eastern Roman Empire (known as the Byzantine Empire by historians) became an important center of politics, culture, and commerce in Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean. What made the empire especially powerful was it’s access to the Silk Road, and thus control of goods from India and China. One of the most popular goods traded from China was silk, a good which China maintained a strict monopoly over. This posed a problem as the Persian Sassanid Empire controlled many of the trade routes to India, and thus could levy high tariffs on the good or cut off supply entirely. The Persians had been longtime enemies of the Roman Empire going back to the days of Julius Caesar, thus the Byzantines needed to find a way to circumvent Persia’s control over the Silk Road

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In 552 AD two monks approached the Emperor Justinian I with a plan. The two monks had been part of a mission to spread Christianity to India, and had traveled as far as China. There they learned the secret of Chinese silk making, and had learned that raw silk is produced from a species of worm that fed on mulberry leaves.

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The monks planned to steal some of the worms and smuggle them back to Byzantium. Justinian approved the plan and the monks immediately journeyed east. A year later they arrived in China, where they stole silkworm eggs or larvae which they hid in special compartments in their walking canes. It was not long after the monks returned home that the empire set up silk factories in Constantinople, Antioch, Tyre, and Thebes.

Byzantine silk was not as good of quality as Chinese silk, instead what was produced was a lesser grade knockoff. However it was still very popular as it was more affordable than real Chinese silk. The Eastern Roman Empire’s trade in domestically produced silk allowed the Byzantines to undercut the Chinese and Persians, making the empire fabulously wealthy. The Byzantines would dominate the silk market in Europe until their monopoly was broken by Italian traders in the 13th century.

Roman pendant, 1st-2nd century AD

Roman pendant, 1st-2nd century AD

from Timeline Auctions