Ancient Trade Routes

The Silk Road


This 7000 mile route spanned China, Central Asia, Northern India, and the Parthian and Roman Empires. It connected the Yellow River Valley to the Mediterranean Sea and passed through places such as Chinese cities Kansu and Sinkiang and present-day countries Iran, Iraq and Syria. The silk road was the main trade route used to trade commodities, religion, and ideas in Europe to China. The silk road was ranged from the east to the west, connecting Europe to India and China. This route that joined such opposite civilizations was started on the western side with the conquering of the area near Taklimakan desert by Alexander the Great in 330 BC ( Because the silk road was so long in length it took days often months to reach a merchant's destination. People carrying commodities across the land from Europe to Asia and vise versa would often give the commodities to different travelers, which they trusted, to get this to the destination on time (one can only travel so far).

If you would like to know more about the silk road and Asia please click this link: Wiki on the Silk Road

Amber Road

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The amber road was a trading route used to export amber from Europe to Asia and back. Amber was transported from the North Sea and the Baltic Sea coasts overland by using the Vistula and Dneiper rivers. By using these rivers, the people were able to include Italy, Greece, the black sea, and Egypt to the amber trade.Truso, which is located in Prussia along the Baltic coast, was one of the main trading places.

Medieval Trade Routes

During the middle ages Europe had many trade routes, four to be exact. These routes made it possible for all kinds of commodities to make it across Europe and the surrounding lands. These routes that were used are the Hanseatic routes, Venetian routes, Genoese routes, and the Overland connectors.

Hanseatic Routes

During the 8th and 9th century the hanseatic trade routes started off quite small. The routes only went through the Daugava, Dnepr, and Volga rivers. These river were important in that they connected Russia and Asia to Europe ( Once the Hansa merchants, which only consisted of German peoples, secured trade routes by land, routes from Lithuania all the way down to the Bug River in the Ukraine was added to the map.

Hanseatic trade league was started in the 12th century by German and Scandinavian Seafaring merchants. The routes consisted mostly of maritime, meaning done all by sea travel, routes. There were no navies to protect trade so the merchants formed an agreement to provide common defense and make sure the ports were safely protected.The Hanseatic trade routes resided in the northern towns and seas of Europe. The Baltic and the North Sea were key bodies of water used by the Hanseatic league to trade commodities. As the hanseatic merchants followed the trade routes they stopped in key cities to trade their commodities. The league trading alliance, which, at its height, included 200 towns, of which the most important were Lübeck, Hamburg, Bremen, Cologne, and Danzig (P. Dollinger, The German Hansa, 1970).

Venetian Routes

During the late 11th century Western Europe started looking east due for more trade commodities. The city that dominated the venetian trade routes was Venice, located in Italy. When the 15th century came around commerce in the venetian trade routes were at its peak. The main route used was through the Mediterranean Sea. Other seas that were being used at this time were modern day Bay of Biscay, Tyrrhenian Sea, Ionian Sea, and the Adritatic Sea. Merchants stopped at many cities along the coast to sell and barter their goods. The ports that were used, but not limited to were Spalato and Traù on the Dalmation coast, Cattaro and the islands of Corfu, Cephalonia, Zante, Crete, Chios, Samos, Naxos and Cyprus together with a number Venetian fortified centers in Morea the southern part of Greece (Essays on Hormuz © 2006 Peter B Rowland).

Genoese Routes

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The Genoese trade route was mainly located along the coast of the black sea. The main trading place for this route was located in Constantinople which was shared with the Venetians.The Genoese developed from their trading post in Galata, a trading route towards Caffa in the Crimean peninsula, by establishing colinies in Amasra and Sinop.

Overland Routes

Alongside maritime trade routes used during the medieval times, overland routes were used as well. these types of routes took a long time to travel, however due to these kinds of routes merchants could barter and sell their many collection of commodities with cities that were not alongside the coasts. These routes covered north, central, south, east, and west Europe as well as some cities in Asia. The cities which merchants stopped during their travel are, but not limited to, Frankfurt, Basel, Rome, Augsburg, Prague, Budapest, Crakow, Cologne, York, Lvov, and Kiev.

Modern European Trade Routes

Europe, in the modern times used trading routes in all ways possible, land, sea, ocean, and air. This is all due to the technological advances. With the technological advances with aviation, Europe, as well as the rest of the world, is now able to use routes that were not imaginable during ancient and medieval times.


Railroads are able to carry finished merchandise to their location at high speeds. Although they are being replaced by airplanes they still remain the best means of transporting large volumes of such bulk commodities as coal, grain, chemicals, and ore over long distances.


Roadways are the most used route for transporting goods. When the tractor trailer was invented, goods were able to be driven to far distances at a good speed. Roadway are used not only in Europe, but all over the world.

Air routes

Air routes in Europe add up to about 720 kilometers of covering distance in Europe. Air routes cover a total amount of fifteen million kilometers worldwide, making it the most used method of transportation of goods and people.


Trade routes varied completely as time passed, from land routes, to sea routes, to ocean and air routes. Over centuries trading became more widespread as technology advanced. People started out walking long distances on the land, but as time progressed people started to turn to ships to trade with different continents. As civilization progressed toward the modern times aviation made it possible for people to fly commodities long distances over a short period of time. Technology and international relations played a key role in expanding trade.

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