Iranian Plateau Irrigation System (02:40)
Dr. Sam Willis will travel the Silk Road's southern route from the Persian Gulf to Tehran. Underground streams called qanats provide water for desert travelers and cities.
Darius I built the Persian Empire's desert city, introduced standardized weights and measures, and built monumental architecture. His empire was the biggest to date; Sogdians were among defeated enemies and facilitated trade with China.
Connecting East and West (02:40)
Darius I built a royal road from Persepolis to modern day Turkey to control his empire. Dr. Tabatabe explains that Silk Road merchants used the infrastructure for trade. In 330 B.C., Alexander the Great burned the unfortified city.
Sacred Yazd (04:24)
Pilgrims and prophets used the Silk Road. People continue to practice Zoroastrianism in Iran's desert city that features architectural innovations for heat mitigation. Willis finds a 1,500-year-old fire dedicated to Ahura Mazda; learn about the religion's duality.
Zoroastrian Ceremony (03:09)
Willis visits Kalantar where inhabitants still speak an ancient Zoroastrian language. Men pray and make offerings to the souls of former home occupants. Village leader Danavas Javid Mahdi discusses efforts to keep the dialect alive.
Paisley Origins (01:32)
Zoroastrianism is believed to have inspired a unique fabric style in Yazd. Termeh, cloth made of wool and silk, features a motif popularized in the West by Queen Victoria.
Jamia Mosque (02:15)
Zoroastrianism prevailed in Persia for 1,000 years. Islam took over in the 7th century; a mosque stands where a fire temple once stood in Yazd. Sunni and Shia branches split in Iran.
Persian Renaissance (02:07)
Over half of the Silk Road was under Muslim influence. Persian and Arabic art and culture fused in 16th century Isfahan, visible in the Royal Mosque.
Royal Mosque (03:15)
The Safavids converted Iranians to Shia Islam. Willis visits Isfahan's main mosque, built by Shah Abbas, and tests its echo chamber. Architect Ali Akbar Esfahani developed a prefabricated tile technique to improve labor efficiency.
Strengthening Iran (02:16)
Shah Abbas moved the capital to Isfahan, linked the national identity with Shia Islam, and recruited the clergy and merchants for his political vision. The Isfahan Bazaar represents efforts to upstage Istanbul in international commerce.
Shah Abbas promoted the arts, driving the Persian Renaissance. In Isfahan Bazaar, Willis visits an enameling workshop continuing a 400-year-old tradition. In a tea shop, he considers the word Iran, meaning "civilized place," in a cultural context.
Shah Abbas rerouted the Silk Road through Esfahan. According to legend, he became separated from a hunting party and spent an uncomfortable night in the desert, inspiring him to build a hostel network for traders.
Shah Abbas' Legacy (02:39)
Iran's cultural rebirth threatened Istanbul. The emperor is buried in Bagh-e-Fin Garden in Kashan. Willis visits Tehran to see a tower built by the last Shah in 1971 that commemorates 2,500 years of the Persian Empire.
The Ottoman Empire's capital was the Overland Silk Road terminus. The Hagia Sophia symbolizes Byzantine rule; mosaic figures wear colorful silks. Stolen from the Chinese, silk was produced in Byzantium by the 6th century.
Byzantium Silk Hierarchy (02:40)
Silk historian Dr. Anna Muthesius explains that purple symbolized Christ's death and gold symbolized God's resurrection; anyone other than the emperor wearing these colors was considered a traitor. Members of court had colored uniforms indicating their rank.
Galata Tower (02:27)
Constantine moved the Roman capital to Constantinople to access the Silk Road. Genoese and Venetian traders controlled the Maritime Silk Road in the 12th century, and observed ship activity in the Golden Horn from a tower.
Marco Polo (03:01)
In 1295, the Venetian merchant returned from a 24 year trip to China along the Silk Road. He recorded his travels in "Il Milione." Merchants followed his footsteps, bringing wealth and ideas contributing to the Renaissance.
Silk Road Renaissance (01:55)
Western scholars are acknowledging art, ideas, and inventions brought from the east. A pillar supporting the Doge's Palace on St. Mark's Square depicts merchants and traders; view architectural details influenced by Islam.
Credits: The Silk Road: Where East Met West: Episode 3 (00:36)
Credits: The Silk Road: Where East Met West: Episode 3
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