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Dr. Raoul McLaughlin

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The Roman Empire and the Silk Routes:
The Ancient World Economy and the Empires of Parthia, Central Asia and Han China

In ancient times, the Han Empire of China matched the Roman regime in the scale of its territories and subject populations. But the Chinese possessed superior crossbow weaponry and steel manufacturing techniques that outperformed the military technologies available to the Roman Legions. With this advantage, the Han created a system of Central Asian transport connections known as the Silk Routes that carried their unique goods as far as Persia and the frontiers of the Roman Empire. Ancient evidence suggests that one-tenth of Roman revenues came from taxing the Silk Route commerce that entered the Empire across its Syrian frontiers.

This book investigates contacts between Rome and the powerful Empires of inner Asia, including the Han Dynasty. It explains the development of international commerce, especially the role that China and the Xiongnu (Huns) played in the formation of Silk Routes across Central Asia. The book also explores Roman rivalries with the Parthian Empire which ruled Iran and imperial dealings with the powerful Kushan Empire which seized power in Bactria (Afghanistan) and laid claim to northern India.

The Roman Empire and the Silk Routes explains Rome’s position in the ancient world economy and offers perspective on Roman civilisation and its legacy for modern society.

Dr. Raoul McLaughlin was educated at Lagan College, the first Integrated School in Northern Ireland. He studied Archaeology and Ancient History in Belfast before completing a Master’s degree and then a PhD on the study of trade beyond Rome’s eastern frontiers. He lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

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