I once posted a really wonderful map of all the main roads in the Roman Empire Fantastic Map of The Roman Empire and as I love maps I am always on the lookout for something similar and if you do a search on my blog you will find more maps than you know what to do with!
Recently I came across a map that shows the old trade routes and thought others might like to see them too. As you can see from the map below there were established trades routes from the British Isles in the West down to modern day Zimbabwe in the south and all the way east to the Pacific Ocean.
Of course unlike today, no one person would undertake a journey with goods from China to London but rather they would be passed through a well established network of middlemen and travellers.
I have taken some screenshots to go through the main regions closer up.
As you can see from the above map, most trade in Africa was by way of the legendary caravan routes across the Sahara Desert, many of which were still in use well into the 20th Century. Many of these tied into Southern Spain and Gibraltar which of course at the time was an Islamic area. In fact the name of Gibraltar is directly taken from a Jabal Ṭāriq which in Arabic means Mount Tariq with Tariq being Ṭāriq ibn Ziyād who captured the peninsula in 711AD.
The map also illustrates the extremely established link between the Middle East and Eastern Africa, especially around the Zimbabwe which had a its own quite powerful civilisation that is largely unknown about in the West.
There are so many things here that I find fascinating. Primarily how the trade routes in Asia are formed by the geography of the continent, especially by mountain ranges and just how developed they were within China and India.
It’s also worth noting how numerous the sea-links were both with South Asia and the Middle East but also between the Eastern coasts of Asia and the prominent western Pacific land masses.
Perhaps the most interesting though is how the trade routes all have to be funnelled through Persia or modern day Iran to the Middle East and Europe. No wonder the country has always been so rich and cultured.
Finally we come to Europe and the Middle East with an incredibly dense network along the eastern shores of the Mediterranean where trade from Africa reaches up with European trade and Persian and Asian routes.
Again sea routes supplement the land network and could often be safer and more reliable depending on wars and events on land. Due to the timeframe of this map there are also interesting links between the British Isles and Scandinavia, a reminder that until at least 1066AD Britain was largely orientated to Scandinavia rather than continental Europe.