Empires of the Silk Road is a major scholarly achievement. This is the first book to provide a comprehensive account of the history of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the present. But it is much more than a simple narrative of events in what is arguably the most important region for the development of civilization during the past four or five millennia. It is an intellectually ambitious undertaking that attempts to account for essential transformations in the cultural, economic, and political life of societies situated both within the Central Eurasian heartland and on its periphery. Beckwith achieves the radical feat of demonstrating how Central Eurasia is actually key for understanding the dynamics of human history and progress throughout antiquity, the medieval period, and the recent past. Above all, and for the first time, he convincingly shows that Central Eurasia was not a sump of poverty-stricken, unremittingly vicious subhumans, but a wellspring of vibrant, energetic, resourceful, enterprising peoples who facilitated communication and change in all directions. In other words, Beckwith turns conventional wisdom on its head and makes Central Eurasia the core of human history, rather than the embarrassing backwater which it is usually portrayed as. Perhaps his greatest contribution is in the powerful, sustained epilogue, where he shatters a whole galaxy of misconceptions about the dreaded 'barbarians.' -- Victor H. Mair, University of Pennsylvania Ambitious, provocative, and bristling with new ideas, Empires of the Silk Road will set off sparks. The book's clearly articulated themes are lively and stimulating, and Beckwith's integration of European, Central Asian, and East Asian materials makes this a major work in Eurasian and world history. In range and depth, this readable book is quite unlike any other. -- Peter B. Golden, Rutgers University
PREFACE vii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS xv ABBREVIATIONS AND SIGLA xvii INTRODUCTION xix PROLOGUE: The Hero and His Friends 1 CHAPTER 1: The Chariot Warriors 29 CHAPTER 2: The Royal Scythians 58 CHAPTER 3: Between Roman and Chinese Legions 78 CHAPTER 4: The Age of Attila the Hun 93 CHAPTER 5: The Turk Empire 112 CHAPTER 6: The Silk Road, Revolution, and Collapse 140 CHAPTER 7: The Vikings and Cathay 163 CHAPTER 8: Chinggis Khan and the Mongol Conquests 183 CHAPTER 9: Central Eurasians Ride to a European Sea 204 CHAPTER 10: Th e Road Is Closed 232 CHAPTER 11: Eurasia without a Center 263 CHAPTER 12: Central Eurasia Reborn 302 EPILOGUE: The Barbarians 320 APPENDIX A: The Proto- Indo- Europeans and Their Diaspora 363 APPENDIX B: Ancient Central Eurasian Ethnonyms 375 ENDNOTES 385 BIBLIOGRAPHY 427 INDEX 457
Christopher I. Beckwith is professor of Central Eurasian studies at Indiana University. His other books include "The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia" (Princeton).
Christopher I. Beckwith, professor of Central Eurasian studies at Indiana University, suggests in his recent book, Empires of the Silk Road (Princeton University Press), that 'the most crucial element' of societies all through Central Eurasia--including the ones analyzed by this exhibition--was the 'sociopolitical-religious ideal of the heroic lord' and of a 'war band of his friends' that was attached to him and 'sworn to defend him to the death.' This idea, he suggests, affected the organization of early Islam as well as the structure of Tibetan Buddhist devotion. In fact, this 'shared political ideology across Eurasia,' Mr. Beckwith suggests, 'ensured nearly constant warfare.' The region's history is a history of competing empires; trade became part of what was later called the Great Game. -- Edward Rothstein, New York Times [T]his is no mere survey. Beckwith systematically demolishes the almost universal presumption that the peoples and powers of Inner Asia were typically predatory raiders, and thus supplied themselves by extracting loot and tribute from more settled populations... With his work, there is finally a fitting counterpart to Peter B. Golden's magnificently comprehensive An Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples: Ethnogenesis and State Formation in Medieval and Early Modern Eurasia and the Middle East, based on Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Greek, Latin, and European medieval sources. By reading just two books anyone can now sort out Charlemagne's Avar Ring, the Golden Horde, modern Kazakhs and Uzbeks, ancient Scyths, Borodin's Polovtsian dances (they were Cumans), present-day Turks, Seljuks, Ottomans, early Turks, and Bulghars and Bulgarians, among many less familiar states or nations. -- Edward Luttwak, New Republic [E]rudite and iconoclastic, [Empires of the Silk Road] provides a wealth of new ideas, perspectives, and information about the political and other formations that flourished in that large portion of the world known as Central Eurasia... [A] major contribution to Central Eurasian and world history. -- Nicola Di Cosmo, Journal of Global History [T]his volume is certain to provoke lively discussion across the field. -- Scott C. Levi, American Historical Review This book demands our attention and will stimulate interest and debate in many circles. The author is to be congratulated on a book that is both thoughtful and provocative in its call for a reassessment of Central Eurasia and its role in world history. -- hael R. Drompp," Journal of Asian Studies In the process of illuminating this essential piece of the human past, Beckwick constructs a scrupulously researched narrative that is wholly accessible, and demands close attention. -- Nicholas Basbanes, FineBooksMagazine.com [Beckwith] is quite a feisty writer, as in his hot-tempered preface excoriating post-modern thought... Prof. Beckwith is one of those scholars whose almost innumerable footnotes can be relished for their wonderfully obscure detail. -- George Fetherling, Diplomat & International Canada Beckwith is the first to have carried off the feat of actually writing a history of this whole expanse of time and space in a way stimulating enough to make the reader think about it from start to finish. There is certainly something heroic about that, and this book deserves therefore to go into paperback very much as it is, uncompromised by any retractions that may be forced upon its author by others. -- T. H. Barrett, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies The result of a lifetime's work on Central Asia and a complete overturning of many of our preconceptions... Essential. -- Hugh Andrew, Glasgow Herald Beckwith's arguments are persuasive, and backed by considerable empirical evidence. He is scrupulous about noting where the evidence is murky and noting where further research is needed. Beckwith provides an interesting Central Eurasian perspective on world history... Empires of the Silk Road is work that any scholar who seeks to write about Central Eurasia will need to address closely. It is a benchmark--indeed a high one--for Central Eurasian, and indeed, world history. -- Thomas D. Hall, Cliodynamics