The Steppes is an area in Asia where a set of civilizations took place during the time between third century BC and Fifth century AD. The Steppes was inhabited by organized societies who led a nomadic lifestyle. Other groups of people who practiced agriculture were in a path of interaction with the nomads. The Steppes is also known for emergence of pastoralism as a way of life. The steppe people were mainly equestrians who led a life of herding livestock and moved from place to place in search of greener pastures. The nomadic lifestyle led them to wide areas of peripheral civilization where they were seen as enemies by communities living a sedentary life based on agriculture. Due to their advanced warfare skills, the Nomads dominated the sedentary tribes and occupied their land. They also intermarried with other sedentary agriculture based groups in the course of their herding. They were referred to as Barbarians.
The steppe people can be classified in three main tribes, Indo-European, Turkic, and Mongol. Samarian barbarians spoke Indo-European and they are believed to have stopped Alexander’s eastward expansion. They also controlled North Central Asia. When the Hun people began their westward expansion, they pushed the Gansu out creating room for the Buddhist Kushan dynasty, which controlled northern India. The Turkic culture originated in the 5th century BC in current Siberia. They had migrated from the area west of the Steppes where they gave room for rise of the Huns. The Huns were nomads from the central Asian steppes. They are believed to be direct remnants of the Xiongnu because they appeared immediately after the Xiongnu disappeared.
The Hun used Turkic and Germanic languages due to their diverse culture. The Huns are commonly associated with the Xiongnu people who invaded Europe in the 4th century. The Xiongnu people developed their power when the Chinese people were fighting against each other. The Xiongnu people were mainly cattle breeders and sold warhorses to neighboring communities. They had intensive diplomatic and economical contacts with the Chinese peasant farmers. The Hans gained control of plains between Ural and Carpathian Mountains. The nomadic people led their herds into the grassy plains of central Eurasia where they displaced the original hunters and gatherers.
The horse nomads threatened early civilization but some Indo-European people established their own empires and centers of power that have evolved into modern day states. When the Chinese people drove the Xiongnu into the Gobi dessert, they encountered the Indo-Iranian Yuezhi. The Xiongnu displaced them and went back to attack the Chinese. This led to development of a history of violence among the Eurasian people. Constant wars were waged to dethrone the vast emerging dynasties that were mainly controlled by the warrior pastoral tribes. It was due to the increased attacks by the Xionhnu people to the Chinese that triggered construction of a fortified wall to protect themselves. The Han and Qin dynasties built the Great Wall of China to defend current day china from attacks by Xiongnu. Hunnic migrations led to occupation of the Roman Empire by the Huns.
The Huns invaded the Roman Empire, conquered it and divided it into two parts. This was only a beginning of fierce wars between the Romans and the Huns. This rivalry was very common with that the Huns had with the Xiongnu people. Only difference is that now the Hun people were the oppressors. There are many cities, which are found in the Asian desert and mainly along the Silk Road. Examples include Afghanistan, Beijing, Delhi, Jordan, Petra, Karakorum and Istanbul in Turkey. These desert cities were proximate to the Indian Ocean where they could irrigate water from to support sustainable agriculture. Flash rains in the desert also played a role in ensuring that these cities obtained water for irrigation. Use of canals from the Jordan River could have been a major irrigation component in the dry land of Jordan. Rivers could also have played a major role in facilitating irrigation.
Other Agricultural inputs could have been acquired through trade along the Silk Road. These cities became very important to pastoral communities in that they formed their centers of trade for their livestock and bronze. The cities were also strategic refreshment spots for the nomads in their journeys to find greener pastures. It can also be added that the pastoral people used the cities as their centers of power and administration. Many are the cities that developed because of being central command points for dynasties and places where emperors lived. It is also important to note that majority of these cities fall within the nomadic belt. The cities along the silk roads played an important role in exchanging goods and technology among the pastoral people. They were major facilitators of long distance trade by offering market places.
The Silk Road can be used to bring out the economic interaction between the nomads and the sedentary people (Tignor, Aldelman & Brown, 2008)
The Silk Road extends from China, India and central Asia to Mediterranean region and Indian Ocean. Cities such as Istanbul and Delhi developed as a direct result of trade along the Silk Road. Spread of religions such as Islam had a direct influence on growth of trade networks along the Silk Road. Artistic exchange between the pastoral communities and the sedentary people was also facilitated. Great Han dynasty paintings found their way to India through this channel. The trade route had abstractions in form of mountains and seas. These mountains were covered in snow and dander of falling avalanches was eminent.
Pictures depict presence of dangerous dragons along the way that spit forth-poisonous winds. Other obstructions along the trade routes were the vertical slopes of Indus River gorge and wild game that attacked the pastoral communities in their travels. Despite these setbacks, the Silk Road still grew to become one of the world’s oldest trade routes in history. The steppe people of Central Asia were a major influence to the growth of the long distance trade along the Silk Road. They traded their warfare equipments for food. The sedentary people traded rice for bronze, which was a main component of trade. The Steppe people also influenced the cultural exchanges along the Silk Road since they traveled everywhere. Nomads adopted Buddhism as early as the second century BC and consequently established the Buddhist faith in the Steppes. The adoption of this religion helped mitigate the tough barbaric and soldierly qualities of the pastoral communities. The pastoral communities through intermarriages with other communities were able to pacify the volatile Central Asia region because trade served as a means of helping bring people together. The spread of religion was also important because people started to respect the sanctity of life as taught by religion.
The Mongols controlled the Silk Road and since most of them had been converted to Islam, they facilitated the spread of Islam in Asia. The Silk Road also enhanced the introduction of Buddhism to china. The cross-cultural exchanges also had their negative impacts. The first impact was erosion of culture. Some communities were forced to adopt foreign culture, which was thought to be superior to that of the natives. As a result, some communities lost their independency. During the classical era, Cross-cultural exchanges led to increased warfare in some areas. This was because of rivalry between the interacting communities on culture superiority. It is also important to note that inter-cultural exchanges led to total moral decadence. The traveling long distances to go trade caused a need for prostitution to arise. The mentioned benefits of this interaction cannot be outweighed by the few consequences of the trade. The Silk Road succeeded in creating and sustaining the peace and unity of Eurasian people an aspect that still can be felt today.
Tignor, Robert, Jeremy Aldelman & Peter Brown. Worlds Together, Worlds Apart: A History of the World, Volume One: Beginnings Through the Fifteenth Century. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 2008