Monday, November 26, 2012

Marco Paulo spies the Silk Road


“The history of the Silk Road is neither poetic nor a picturesque tale; it is nothing more than scattered islands of peace in an ocean of war.”
-Luce Bulnois

In the rich and fertile terrain of Central Asia, the great Islamic Samanid Empire rose.  Great scholars like Abu Ali ibn-Sina—better known in the west as the great Avicenna, made Bukhara a light of the world at the turn of the first millennium.    Some two centuries prior, Al-Khorezmi (algorismi, sound familiar?) worked of Al-Jebr.

In the fateful turn of events, in 1218 a Khorezmian governor in Otrar (in modern day Kaz-stan) received a trade delegation sent by one Chinggis (Genghis) Khan to inaugurate commerce.  Fearing the burgeoning Mongols, the governor decided to viciously slaughter the emissaries in cold blood.  Until that point, the soon-to-be-great Khan had been weighing commerce versus conquest; with the slaughter of his emissaries, he chose the latter and stormed across the steppes.  The Mongols conquered all in their path, and when they reached Otrar, Chinggis personally watched the aforementioned governor have molten silver poured into his ocular cavities.

The Mongols went on to sack the great Bukhara, with an orgy of violence and destruction.  Mongol soldiers raped and looted, and horses trampled holy books in the streets.  The great Khan took to the pulpit of the Great Mosque of Bukhara, and declared to the terrified congregants, “I am God’s punishment for your sins.”

It could be said that centuries later, Central Asia still has yet to recover its former glory.

“They came, they sapped, they fired, they slew, they looted and they left.”
-The Persian historian Juvaini

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