Armenia on the Great Silk Road
In the Roman, Greek, Persian and Venetian atlases and country descriptions of the coming centuries there is a manifest evidence of intent interest towards Armenia both from the neighbouring and far off countries. The surrounding world was attracted by Armenia not only for the luxury of the land and the creations of the local craftsmen, but also by the advantages of the geographical position. Thanks to it Armenian articles were spread from the palaces of Persepolis and Baghdad to the castles of European Kings. During the centuries Armenian masters paved way to a key place in the multilevel caravan trade between the East and the West, the North and the South.
The archaeological evidences of the involvement of Armenia in the gradually shaping system of all Asian exchange of goods became manifest in the 3rd millennium BC. The goods destined for the Near East, from the Central and South-Eastern Asia, penetrated into Armenia via “Lapis Lazuli” and “Tin” routes to be taken to the West Asia Minor, Balkans and the North Caucasian Passes and farther. These routes later served as the beginning of the Great Silk Road.
The “opening” of the road in 130s BC after the successful mission of Chan Tsiang – the ambassador of the Chinese Emperor in the Palace of Parthian monarchs, coincided with the period of political and economic rise of the Armenian Kingdom under Tigran 2nd the Great (95-55 BC).
We can find vivid illustrations of the international goods exchange (including Armenian) occurring through the Armenian land in the manuscripts elucidating the different periods of the history of the country. Following the Assyrian cuneiforms, Herodotus (5 c. BC) and Strabo (1 c. BC) testify about the export of the Armenian wine and horses to Babylon and Persia.
The exceptional properties of Armenian dyes which were exported to Rome and the East are testified by Pliny (1 c. AD) and later by Arabian authors. The renowned Venetian Marco Polo was astounded by the beauty of the Armenian carpets. We find that beauty on the canvases of the Italian Renaissance painters and in the descriptions of the palaces of Khalid Al-Rashid.
Concurrent with the export of the local goods, there was an oncoming flow of goods from outside. And it is not accidental that, according to the written sources, one of the most famous regional fairs of the Chinese silks took place in the early medieval capital of Armenia – Dvin.
Archaeology as well displays many vivid evidences of the import to Armenia through the Silk Road. Greek, Italian and Mesopotamian ceramics, Syrian glass, jewelry, sculptures, Chinese porcelain and samples of silk, Indian ivory, hundreds and hundreds of coins, seals of the foreign merchants evidently testify the trade links of the Kingdom along the Great Road from the Classical times to the late Medieval Ages, from China to Western Europe.
The significance of Armenia in this vital exchange of goods, technologies, cultural, scientific achievements was also reflected in the diplomatic documents of the antiquity. In the treaties between the Roman Empire and Parthia (166 AD) and later Byzantium and the Sassanid Empire (408 AD), the capital of the Classical Armenia – Artashat and later Medieval Dvin were stated as one of the three points for the goods exchange for these “perpetually fighting partners”.
In spite of the trials and ordeals imposed during the centuries, Armenia preserved its position on the Great Silk Road. Through the current territory of the Republic along the Ararat valley, stretches one of the principal branches of the Road.
Not surprisingly five capitals of Armenia including the capital of nowadays Republic – Yerevan, are on this road.
All of them, as Armenia itself, are hospitably open for inquisitive visitors.