How were the Indian Ocean routes and Silk routes similar? How were they different?

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Greg Jackson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Silk Road and Indian Ocean trading routes were similar in that they both served the purpose of moving luxury goods from East Asia to the markets of the Mediterranean and Europe via the Middle East. Both routes specialized in luxury goods, namely silk, porcelain, and spices. This is because it was very expensive to transport goods over long distances and merchants could maximize their profits by focusing on smaller and more expensive products.

The routes also served to create stronger relations between the different regions involved based on mutual economic interests and cultural exchange. This led to the spread of various religions along the trade-routes, particularly Islam and Buddhism. As these religions were spread by merchants, they often underwent changes as they were adapted by the new populations which received them.

Both routes also operated on a seasonal basis. Merchants on the Silk Road had to time the various parts of their journey to coincide with clear mountain passes, full watering holes, and abundant forage. The sailors on the Indian Ocean were at the mercy of the Monsoon winds which would blow them northeast in the summer and southwest in the winter.

While both routes carried luxury goods to European markets, the Indian Ocean route also carried common goods, such as grain. This is because a ship can carry much more cargo for cheaper than a camel can. Also, because this sea route also involved the East Coast of Africa, African goods, such as ivory and gold were moved across the Indian Ocean, reaching markets in the East.

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Phillip Holland eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Both were similar in that they were seasonal, though the Indian sea voyage was more so than the Silk Road route. People on the Silk Road often tried to time their trips to take advantage of when the grass would be greenest on the steppe. The Indian Sea voyage required monsoon winds.

Both routes were partially controlled by Muslims at some point—this would be the primary incentive for Europeans to attempt to sail west in order to reach the East. Both trips were highly dangerous with both natural disasters and robbers being the primary dangers.

Both trade routes could make someone a great deal of money if one returned with enough silk, gold, and spices. Both trade routes were also known as early as the Roman era as Rome nearly bankrupted itself bringing in luxury goods from the East as the expense of shipping its gold abroad.

The primary difference was the mode of transportation. The initial trade in the Indian Ocean was carried out by traders using dhows, or small ocean-going vessels. These vessels often had shallow drafts which allowed them to stop in various small ports or in river deltas in order to refit the ships. Eventually, Portuguese and Spanish sailors would make the voyage around Africa to get to India using larger ships.

The Silk Road was mainly traversed by camels, though horses would be instrumental for part of the trip. These camels were used almost exclusively as pack animals, and the travelers often had to walk.

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There are many differences and...

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kaylapennington4 | Student

How was the Silk Road and Indian Ocean similar in that they both aimed at linking the West to the East?

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