The historic Silk Road was a series of land and sea trade routes that stretched for more than 6,400 kilometres (4,000 miles) to link the Far Eastern cultures of China to India, Persia, Arabia and as far west as the Mediterranean. The Silk Road earned its name from the lucrative Chinese silk trade between the Chinese and Roman empires, which began around 200 BCE. For the next 1,500 years, the Silk Road would not only transport silk and spices, but share knowledge, culture and customs across unimaginable distances. Historians believe that algebra and other higher mathematics first arrived in the West via this route, as did the printing press and the magnetic compass. For safety and security, most traders travelled in caravans along established routes that linked towns and oases dotting the Central Asian steppes.
Answered by Dave Roos.