The Persian Royal Road

Roads are important in history. Cultures become portable and ideas are exchanged across vast distances when good roads are available. Major trading routes were the interstate highways of antiquity. You might remember learning about the “Silk Road” in school. Your class might even have spent a couple of days discussing how important it was for China to get their expensive and highly prized silk fabrics all the way to Rome. (Like getting the latest iPhone shipped to the Apple Stores on time.) But have you heard of the Persian Royal Road that predates the better known Silk Road?

Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeyTreasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is an historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. Click here to read an excerpt.
Even though there’s no road to Dodrazeb, a third-century invading Persian warrior becomes obsessed with the strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology, including methods for communicating over vast distances that are familiar in modern times. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world pulls him deeper into layers of mysteries as its sly princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden?
Get your copy on! Available in both e-book and paperback.

SilkRoadMapThe Chinese began making silk fabrics around the year 2700 BCE. Reserved exclusively for use in their imperial court, methods for creating silk were kept secret for more than 3,000 years. But silks showed up in other parts of the world as the Chinese traded it extensively with their nearest neighbors and used it as diplomatic gifts. Early in the first century BCE, silk became prized in the Roman Empire as a rare and exotic luxury. Trading routes were developed and expanded to move the goods from East to West. From Rome, the desire for silk was introduced to other western cultures.

The silk trade was important in moving people and products back and forth across Asia, but it wasn’t the only product in demand. Textiles, spices, grain, fruits and vegetables, furs, tools, religious objects, art, precious stones, and much more made the network of Silk Roads well-travelled through the Middle Ages and into the 19th century. Merchants and traders could choose from different routes that crossed Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia and the Far East. There were also maritime routes which shipped goods from China and South East Asia through the Indian Ocean to Africa, India, and the Near East.

4320c72a0c547bcb6cb81040db971e68--genghis-khan-chariotsMuch more was exchanged along the Silk Roads than just sought after trade goods. The trade routes connected major cities and civilizations, making cultural interaction necessary. Languages and customs were understood and adopted to make buying and selling possible. Religions and cultures developed and influenced each other because knowledge about science, arts, literature, crafts, and technologies was shared across the Silk Roads. By the way, scientists and historians now widely believe that the route was a primary way that the Black Death plague bacteria moved westward into Europe.

8c0389bafcd3607018dc6ff1fa4fc6da7092aafeBefore the network of Silk Road trading routes, there was the Persian Royal Road which would become one of the main arteries of the Silk Road. Before his death circa 529 BCE, Cyrus the Great had conquered a vast amount of territory, uniting many small and large kingdoms and peoples under his rule. His Achaemenian Empire survived for more than two centuries due to his willingness to support local customs and religions of the people he conquered.

When Darius the Great (521-485 BC) rose to power, he realized the Empire needed efficient organization. To prevent his territorial governors from gaining enough power to overthrow him, Darius appointed a separate military commander for each territory. Darius monitored his governors and commanders by using imperial spies. These “king’s ears” kept tabs on both and reported back to Darius through the postal service. The Empire was connected by a network of Royal Roads with stations spaced a day’s travel apart. Like the Silk Road that came later, these routes promoted cultural interaction, uniting disparate peoples in the far-flung Persian Empire.

parthian_cataphractsThe Persian Royal Road ran from Susa, in north Persia (modern Iran) to the Mediterranean Sea in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) a distance of more than 1,600 miles. The postal stations at regular intervals along the route provided fresh horses for envoys to quickly deliver messages throughout the empire and inspired the famous line “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” (see my post Ancient Persia’s Pony Express) Relay messengers could traverse the entire road in a mere nine days, sometimes only seven or eight. Normal travel time for caravans or casual travelers was about three months.

The Persian Royal Road was so impressive that Alexander the Great used it in his invasion and conquest of the Persian empire in 334 BCE. Never underestimate the importance of good roads—and how they can be used.


Oooh! (BOOM!) Ahhh! The History of Fireworks


It’s common knowledge that fireworks originated in China, but like many marvelous inventions, it was an accidental discovery. History tells us that alchemists attempting to develop an elixir for immortality tried a recipe of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate (saltpeter). What they got was gunpowder and soon firecrackers were in huge demand as their loud bangs were used to scare away evil spirits.

Fireworks7Just as in modern times, military engineers saw a practical use for the substance’s explosive properties. Stuffing gunpowder into bamboo tubes was just the first step. The first documented use of gunpowder in a weapon of war is a catapult in the year 1046. Imagine the numerous trials and failures that eventually led to enough success that someone proudly recorded it for posterity!

What you learned in elementary school about Marco Polo bringing fireworks to Europe from his travels in 1295 is true. But Europeans had already experienced gunpowder weaponry during the Crusades. China tried to keep the technology within its own borders, but the formula for gunpowder had been carried to the Middle East by caravans traversing the Silk Road.

Fireworks4By the 15th century, Italians had refined methods for mixing chemicals and shaping aerial shells to produce specific shapes and colors of pyrotechnics. Ambitious displays lighting up the night sky were incorporated into religious and public celebrations all across Europe. For instance, the marriage of England’s Henry VII and Elizabeth Plantagenet in 1486 saw an elaborate presentation of pyrotechnic prowess.

The rise of fireworks as entertainment coincided with the end of medieval warfare. The same science that sent colorful explosions into the air created advances in ballistic weaponry; metal armor could be punctured by projectiles and fortified walls could be demolished from a distance.

Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeySet in the third century, Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is a historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. A Persian warrior’s curiosity is ignited when he leads an invasion into Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world draws the warrior deeper into layers of mysteries as its princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden? Get your copy on! Available in both e-book and paperback.

Fireworks8Varieties of Fireworks

Stars: The small bits of explosive that scatter across the sky when fireworks explode
Peony: An explosion of stars in a radial pattern
Dahlia: Like a Peony, but with fewer and larger stars
Chrysanthemum: Like a Peony that leaves a trail of glowing particles as it falls
Crossette: A Chrysanthemum with stars that explode as smaller pieces, creating branches across the sky
Willow: Like a Crossette, but the glowing limbs must stay in the sky for 10 seconds or more
Palm: Like a Willow, but with slower-moving, slower-burning stars, resembling the limbs of a palm tree
Spider: Like the Chrysanthemum, but with longer-burning, droopy tails (like a spider’s leg)
Fish: Explodes into particles that wriggle like fish across the sky.
Rings: From a spherical shell, explosions that spread like Saturn’s rings
Time rain: Big, slow-burning stars that leave trails of sizzling, sparkling stars
Multi-break/Bouquet shells: A big shell containing smaller shells scattered by the first burst