Prior to 1000 BC

Circa 3200 BC The horse is domesticated on the south Russian steppe.
Circa 3000 BC Silk cloth is produced in China.
Circa 3000 BC Sumerians develop a writing system.
Circa 2500 BC The Bactrian and Arabian camels are domesticated.
Circa 1600-1046 BC The oldest known proto-porcelain is from China’s Shang dynasty, which lasted from 1600 BC to 1046 BC.
Circa 1700 BC Horse-drawn chariots are introduced in the Near East.
Circa 1500 BC Iron technology develops in Asia Minor.
Circa 1500 BC The Euroasian steppes are inhabited by semi-nomadic tribes that raises livestock.


1000 BC to 300 BC

Circa 900 BC Horse-riding nomadism is spreading.
Circa 750 BC Rome is founded.
707 BC The nomadic Cimmerians conquer the Kingdom of Urartu in the Near East.
The 600s BC Zoroaster, founder of Zoroastrianism, is born in Persia.
The 560s BC Siddhārtha Gautama, founder of Buddhism, is born in Nepal.
The 550s BC The Achaemenid Empire is established in Persia.
551 BC Confucius, found of Confucianism, is born in China.
450 BC Greek historian Herodotus visits Olbia to collect information about the Scythians.
Circa 400 BC The Empire of Alexander the Great expands into Asia.


Third century BC (also known as the 200s BC)

  • The Greco-Bactrian kingdom develops in Central Asia.
  • The Parthian Empire, lasting from 247 AD to 224 AD, is a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran and Iraq.
  • Lasting from 221 to 206 BC, the Qin dynasty was the first dynasty of Imperial China.
  • In 206 BC, the Han dynasty overthrows the Qin.
  • Buddhism begins to spread north from northern India.

Second century BC

  • The Hellenistic period of Greece comes to an end with the establishment of the Roman province of Macedonia in Roman Greece in 146 BC.
  • The Xiongnu (later known as the Huns) rise to power in Central Asia and invade parts of western China.
  • Emperor Wu of Han (157 BC – 87 BC), 7th emperor of China’s Han dynasty, sends te Chang Ch’ien expeditions to the West (Fergana and Yueh-chih).
  • The Tarim region, and thus this part of the Silk Road, comes under Han control.

First century BC

  • The Parthian King Mithridates sends embassadors to Sulla and Wu-ti, eventually forming an important link between East and West.
  • The Parthians defeat the Romans at Carrhae. The Battle of Carrhae was fought in 53 BC, with the Parthians led by General Surena defeating the numerically superior army of the Roman Republic under the command of Marcus Licinius Crassus. This is one of the most crushing defeats in the history of the Roman Republic.
  • Egypt falls under Roman control, giving Rome better access to the Red Sea.
  • The Roman Republic turns into the Roman Empire.

First century AD

  • Silk is imported to the city of Rome.
  • Glass blowing is developed in Roman Syria.
  • Accelerated spread of Buddhism in Central Asia.
  • The Kushan Empire controlls much of Central Asia.Kushan ruler Kanishak
  • The Xiongnu carries out raids into the Chinese-controlled Tarim Basin.
  • The Chinese General Pan Ch’ao defeats the Xiongnu, putting and end to their raids in the Tarim Basin. This dramatically improves the situation for travelers along this stretch of the Silk Road.
  • China sends an ambassador to Rome, but the ambassador never reaches that far west.
  • Jewish preacher and religious leader Jesus of Nazareth dies in circa 30 AD, and the new religion Christianity emerges.
  • Greco-Egyptian geographer Claudius Ptolemy writes his Geography and attempts to map the Silk Road.

Second century AD

  • This is the century when the Roman Empire is at its largest, and it is a major market for goods exported from the Far East.
  • The Silk Road is a comparatively safe way to travel since four powerful empires – the Roman Empire, the Parthian Empire, the Kushan Empire, and the Chinese Empire – all benefit from keeping in that way.
  • Rome sends its first envoy by sea to China.
  • Buddhism spreads in China.
  • Many Zoroastrians in Central Asia converts to Buddhism.

Third century AD

  • Silk weaving begin to spread throughout Asia, but the weavers largely rely on silk threads imported from China.
  • The Han Dynasty ends in 220 AD and is succeeded by the Three Kingdoms period (220-280 AD). China is no longer unified.
  • The Sassanians rise to power, having a major impact on life along parts of the Silk Road.
  • The Iranian religious leader Mani dies in 276. He was the founder of Manichaeism, a major religious movement in the Sasanian Empire. (This religion eventually became very widespread, with Manichaean churches and scriptures existing as far east as China and as far west as the Roman Empire. It died out in the 1300s)

Fourth century AD

  • The Silk Road becomes an important route for the spread of sericulture from China.
  • Northern nomads introduces the stirrup to Chinese riders.
  • The Xiongnu attacks China again.
  • Constantinople is the capital city of the Eastern Roman Empire from 330 AD. Before this, the city was known as Byzantium. The city is very strategically important, since it is a hub for trade routes between Europe and Asia.
  • With the Edict of Thessalonica in 380 AD, Roman Emperor Theodosius I makes Nicene Christianity the Empire’s state religion. He was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire.
  • Construction of the Mogao Caves begin near Dunhuang, an important stop on the Silk Road. Today, they are known as the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas.
  • By 370 AD, the Huns had arrived to the River Volga region.
  • The Chinese Buddhist monk Fa-hsien travels on the Silk Road to reach India.

Fifth century AD

  • Silkworm farms exist in Central Asia.
  • Visigoths invade the Italy and Spain.
  • The Sogdians introduces new glass production techniques to China.
  • The year 480 is considered the last year of the Western Roman Empire. This year marks the end of the juridical division of the Roman Empire into two separate imperial courts.

Sixth century ADHephthalites

  • This is the century when the Sassanian Empire of Central Asia is at its largest.
  • The Hephthalite Kingdom flourishes, taking over a lot of Sogdian territory in Asia.
  • Silkworm farms exist in Europe.
  • Nestorian Christians travels to China.
  • Buddhism reaches Japan.
  • The Turkish Kaganate is split into two: the Eastern Kaganate and the Western Kaganate.
  • Western Turks migrate from the Mongolian plateau to Central Asia.
  • The Sui Dynasty (581-617) was a short-lived but significant imperial dynasty of China. The Sui unified the Northern and Southern dynasties and reinstalled the rule of ethnic Han Chinese in the whole China proper.

Seventh century AD

  • China is ruled by the Tang dynasty. This is an era marked by many new innovations in China, and also by China’s relative openness to the West. A lot of trade is carried out between East and West along the Silk Road.
  • The new religion Islam is founded in Mecca in the early 7th century. Its founder Muhammad dies in 632 AD.
  • The Avars introduces Europe to the use of stirrups.
  • The Arabs conquer Sassanian Persia.
  • Muslims control Mesopotamia and Iran.

Eight century AD

  • The Umayyad Islamic caliphate extends from Iberia in the west to the Indus River in the east.
  • Arabs conquer Spain.
  • Arabs defeat the Chinese soldiers at the Battle of Talas. Among the prisoners of war taken by the Arabs are some paper makers, who introduces the art of paper making to the Arab world.
  • Block printing is invented in China.
  • The decline of the Tang dynasty makes that part of the Silk Road less stable.

gunpowderThe ninth century AD

  • Gunpowder is invented in China.
  • The Chinese start using the compass.
  • Religions considered foreign are banned in China.
  • From the 9th to the 12th century, Venice developed into a city state and an important hub for international trade, including the trade in goods imported through the Silk Road.

10th century AD

  • The Chinese Tang dynasty ends in 907. China stops being unified.
  • Playing cards are invented in China.
  • Kirghiz Turks control Eastern Central Asia.
  • The Islamic Empire breaks up into smaller kingdoms.
  • China’s Song dynasty starts in 960, unifying China again and ending the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period.

11th century AD

  • The First Crusade took place in 1095-1099, called for by Pope Urban II.

12th century AD

  • China is divided into Northern Sung and Southern Sung.
  • Genghiz Khan unites the Mongols, starting the expansion of the Mongol Empire.
  • Muslims oust the Franks from the Levant.
  • Silk production is established in Italy.
  • The use of paper money is developed in China.

13th century AD

  • Genghis Khan dies in 1227.Genghis Khan
  • Mongols control central and western Asia, and the Silk Road prospers due to the peace enforced by the Mongols.
  • Mongols invade Russia, Poland and Hungary.
  • Friar Giovanni Carpini is sent as an envoy from Rome to the Mongol capital Karakorum.
  • The King of France sends the Flemish Friar Willem van Ruysbroeck to Karakorum.
  • The Seventh Crusade, led by Louis IX of France, takes place in 1248-1254.
  • Kublai Khan establishes China’s Yuan dynasty. Kublai was the fifth Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, reigning from 1260 to 1294. He founded the Yuan dynasty as a conquest dynasty in 1271 and ruled it until his death in 1294.
  • The Mongols introduces paper money in Central Asia and Iran.
  • Marco Polo travels from Venice to China.
  • The Ottoman Empire is founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman I.

14th century AD

  • The Ottoman Empire continues to grow.
  • The Turco-Mongol conquerir Timur founds the Timurid Empire in Persia and Central Asia.
  • The third Silk Road route is developed in the north.
  • The Arab Ibn Battuta travels on the Silk Road all the way to China.
  • The Black Plague results in the death of an estimated 75 million – 200 million people in Eurasia. Its peak in Europe took place in 1347-1351 This is one of the most devastating pandemics in Eurasian history, and it resulted in a series of social, economic and religious upheavals that came to have a major impact on the course of history.
  • In China, the Yuan dynasty ends and the Ming dynasty starts.

15th century AD

  • Timur defeats the Ottoman Turks.
  • The Chinese explore Spice Routes to Africa.
  • Timur dies, which leads to the decline of Mongol power and a strengthening of the Ottoman Empire.
  • Ottomans conquer Constantinople.
  • China adopts of policy of closed borders to foreigners. Silk Road traffic is dramatically reduced.
  • In Europe, Lyon in France emerges as a new center for silk trading.
  • Vasco da Gama sails from Europe to India via the route that goes south of the African continent.

16th century AD

  • Islam is the leading religion in the Taklamakan region.
  • Babur (Zahir ud-Din Muhammad) founds the Mughal dynasty on the Indian subcontinent and becomes its first emperor. He is a direct descendant of Timur.

17th century AD

  • Uzbek Turks migrate from the north and settle in what we today know as Uzbekistan.
  • The Qing dynasty is established in 1636, and rules China proper from 1644. This dynasty would last until 1912, making it the most recent imperial dynasty of China. The dynasty was founded by the Manchu Aisin Gioro clan in Manchuria.

18th century AD

  • The trade along the Silk Road is disrupted by the collapse of the Safavid Empire in the 1720s.
  • Many traders take the sea route between Europe and the Far East instead of going overland on the Silk Road.

19th century AD

  • Manchus take control of the Tarim Basin.
  • The British explorer Younghusband crosses the Gobi Desert, trailblazing a new route from Kashgar to Beijing via the Muztagh Pass.
  • Swedish geographer Sven Hedin explores the Kunlun Mountains and the Taklamakan Desert, finding old towns buried along the Silk Road.
  • “The Great Game” was a political and diplomatic confrontation that existed for most of the 19th century between the British Empire and the Russian Empire over Afghanistan and neighboring territories in Central and Southern Asia.

20th century AD

  • The Qing dynasty ends in 1912.
  • China and Pakistan builds the Karakoram highway from Islamabad to Kashgar.