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LESSON IX

ANCIENT AND MODERN TRADE ROUTES OF

MESOPOTAMIA

TRADE is promoted by the demand for luxuries. Iron in the form of knives, forks, and firearms is the article for which uncivilized tribes are usually most willing to trade. Beads are greatly prized. Tea is desired almost universally among the steppe dwellers of Asia and Europe as well as in many parts of every other continent.

This craving for luxuries is no new thing, for we read (2 Chron. 9. 21) that Solomon's ships "went to Tarshish with the servants of Huram: every three years once came the ships of Tarshish bringing gold and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks”-a list of luxuries surely. The oldest European trade was largely in jade, amber, furs, gold, and precious stones. During the Middle Ages the demand for spices created trade with the East.

History is repeating itself, and the people of the Western world are again turning toward “the East” as they did during Columbus's time. Now, however, men want markets for the products of Western factories in exchange for the raw materials from the East. To provide for this exchange they are opening new avenues of trade and improving old ones.

HIGHWAYS OF THE PAST

Among the most noted of these old trade routes of the world is Mesopotamia, once the center of its strongest nations. In a previous chapter we have floated in imagination down some of its chief waterways, and also learned of that noted highway of olden times, the Syrian Saddle. Just south of the “Saddle” is a line of towns which mark the southern limit of water supply for irrigation in that region.

The home of Rebecca and Rachel. One of these towns is Haran, where Terah dwelt with his family after they left Ur of the Chaldees (Gen. II. 31, 32). Terah died there, and Nahor, one of his sons, remained in Haran while another son, Abraham, moved westward “into the land of Canaan” (Gen. 12. 4, 5.) Haran was the old capital of Assyria B. C. 1000 and a center of food supply. An ancient saying has it that “when corn comes from Haran, then there is plenty; when no corn comes from Haran, then there is hunger."

Barley is raised in Haran, and the wooden plow is used there now just as it was in those far-off days. Some of the homes are bell-shaped huts of mud, but there are also many tents stretched away from the side of the watering place. Girls in blue smocks help the herdsmen water the flocks as they did in the days when Jacob, coming from Canaan, watched his cousin Rachel, a descendant of Nahor, at one of these wells. 1. Haran means “road town.” Why is this an appropriate name? 2. Name two girls, each of whom dwelt in Haran and became the

wife of a patriarch. What other woman came with her husband and sojourned there?

BUSY ROUTES FOR TRADE

In olden times caravans laden with pearls, jewels, and spices from India, embroidered garments and imitation lapis lazuli from Babylon, passed westward through Haran. These caravans probably passed others traveling eastward and laden with gems, perfumes, and frankincense from Arabia, or linen and gold work, and inlaid ivory from Egypt. Some carried olive oil, wines, copper, and Tyrian purple from the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea to be sold to the rich merchants of Babylon or Nineveh.

Several of these routes of trade with their centers of population were located along the west bank of the Euphrates River. 1See illustration, page 100.

Great nations, such as the Babylonians, Assyrians, Hittites, and in the later times the Greeks, Armenians, and Romans fought for possession of the trade routes. The Crusaders tried to take them from the Arabs, who controlled them in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

Where great armies marched.-A military route in ancient days, as now, followed the Tigris-Euphrates Valley northward from the Persian Gulf, then passed over one of the northern highways to the Mediterranean Sea. Most of this route is through country unable to furnish food for a large army except in the late summer after the grain is harvested. The floods in the most fertile portion, Babylonia, make it a marsh in the early spring, and hinder the movements of armies. It was this that caused the defeat of the expedition into Mesopotamia during the first part of the World War.

THE BAGDAD RAILWAY

For many years England, Russia, and Germany tried to get control of Mesopotamia, the keystone of the Middle East, and thus secure an opening on the Persian Gulf.

One of the causes of the World War.—The German government succeeded in obtaining concessions from the Turks in 1903 and plans for the construction of the famous Berlin-toBagdad Railway were laid. "No step ever taken by any European power has ever caused so much trouble or been such a constant menace to the peace of the world . . as giving the control of the Bagdad Railway virtually to the Germans. This highway is the key to this East. It was closed by the Turks when they captured Constantinople in A. D. 1453. The Bagdad Railway will reopen it. This highway must be kept open if the world is to progress peaceably and if the nations of the West are to live in amicable rivalry.” The main line of the Bagdad Railway is now finished as far as Nisibis. Several small sections,

1 Morris Jastrow. The Bagdad Railway, J. B. Lippincott & Co.

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Bagdad to Berlin
BULGARIA

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Scale of Miles
50 100 150 200

Permission of "Asia,' the Magazine of the Orient.

THE NEAR EAST

among them the one from Basra to Bagdad, have been constructed recently, and now that the English have control of it the entire line will soon be completed.

Many short branch lines to important trade centers have been planned. One will be connected with projected railroads into Persia, thence through Baluchistan to India. Mail can then be sent from London to Delhi in six days instead of seventeen days, as at present via the Suez Canal. There probably will be a saving of one half in the cost of the passenger trip to Bombay as compared to the present roundabout steamship service. Plans have been formed to build railroads in Russian Turkestan, Persia, and Mongolia which will doubtless connect with the Bagdad line. By these the trade of Central Asia will be extended and the barriers to the spread of European civilization which have existed for many centuries will be removed. 1. Tell why England, Russia, and Germany all wished to obtain

possession of the highway through Mesopotamia. 2. Trace the Bagdad Railway on your map. Measure its length.

Name the chief cities on its route.

A CITY OF THE FUTURE AS WELL AS OF THE PAST The changes made in the map of southwest Asia due to the World War are great. Perhaps no single one is of more importance than that which takes misruled Mesopotamia from the Turk and virtually places the future development of the “land between the rivers" and the Bagdad Railway system in the hands of the English. One of the most important centers of action in the political and commercial awakening of the “Middle East” is Bagdad, from which the much-talked-of railway received its name.

The Arabian Nights city.-Bagdad, the home of “Sinbad the Sailor,” lies 220 miles down the Tigris from Mosul, and 500 miles from the mouth of the river. It is the most important city in Mesopotamia. Its history does not go back to Bible

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