Empires of the Ancient World Travelogue
Due: Monday, May 3rd 150 pts
“Of the designated ports on the Erythræan Sea, and the market-towns around it, the first is the Egyptian port of Mussel Harbor. To those sailing down from that place, on the right hand, after eighteen hundred stadia, there is Berenice. The harbors of both are at the boundary of Egypt, and the bays opening from the Erythræan Sea.”
~ The Periplus of the Erythræan Sea, 1st Century CE
Travelers in the ancient world had no access to GPS or Map-Quest. And yet, despite having limited knowledge of large-scale geography, merchants and pilgrims travelled great distances to connect the Eurasian continent. Along the way, they encountered new cultures, traded new products, and shared new ideas. While there was no set path to travel across the ancient world, historians generally refer to this age of commerce as the Silk Roads – the collection of trade routes connecting cities and cultures from the Mediterranean to the coastlines of China, India, and even Southeast Asia. Named for the trade of Silk, a product of Han Dynasty China, the Silk Roads represented a complex back and forth of goods and people from 300BCE until the European Age of Discovery in the 15th century CE.
Few merchants ever made the entire journey themselves, and even those who claim to have done so largely plagiarized the notes of others. (We’re looking at you, Marco Polo!) Instead, most merchants engaged in short-distance trade, travelling back and forth between nearby cities and states to create a web of commerce. Along the way, travelers would record their travels, sometimes in the form of journals or diaries, other times as guidebooks for others to follow. An example of this was the Periplus of the Erythræan Sea, a guide for Greek and Roman merchants in the Red Sea (called the Erythræan Sea by the Romans) and the Arabian Sea, giving notes on where to find safe harbors, what goods could be found in various ports, and even where pirates or brigands were known to prey on unsuspecting travelers!
Project Guidelines: Rather than a traditional essay, for this assignment we will be merging historical knowledge and creativity to imagine what life on the Silk Roads might be like. In 5-6 pages, students will construct a fictionalized account of someone travelling along the Silk Roads between 300BCE-400CE, giving an account of the cultures, locations, and ideas one might have encountered while travelling in the Ancient World. While the account is fictionalized, students will draw on material presented in Xinru Liu’s The Silk Roads: A Brief History with Documents as well as information from Lecture and Worlds Together/World’s Apart to construct a realistic image of life on the Silk Roads.
Your Travelogue must consider the following things:
1) Location: Where are you travelling from and to?
2) Trade: Why are you travelling along the Silk Roads? What are you selling? What are you hoping to buy? How are you travelling and how is travelling with you?
3) Cultures: Your project should display at least two cultures present along the Silk Road – Treat this like a comparison: how does the culture you’re coming from compare to the culture you’re encountering? Consider things like language, dress, political systems, and religion.
Your Travelogue will be graded on the following rubric:
Proper use of language: This is not a formal essay, however you should still follow the general rules of grammar and syntax. Imagine that your travelogue was being written for others to use a guide to follow along the same path.
Support: Although this is an imaginative project, you must still show where you got your ideas from. Your travelogue must include at least four references to material from lecture, Worlds Together/Worlds Apart, or Xinru Liu’s The Silk Roads. Place your references in footnotes.
Cultural Contact: Your essay must display at least two cultures we have learned about present along the Silk Roads network. What are the key features of the cultures you have selected? What are the first things you might notice about the culture you encounter: Religion? Politics? Architecture? While not required, it is recommended that you select one or two culture settings from the list below.
Formatting: Your travelogue should be formatted like a set of 3-5 journal or diary entries. Each entry should be prefaced with a date and location. The goal of this is not to create an exact historical setting, but rather to evoke the feeling of the Silk Roads era. While each entry does not have a required length, the complete travelogue should be at least 5 complete pages.
Mauryan or Gupta India
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