caravan


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caravan,

group of travelers or merchants banded together and organized for mutual assistance and defense while traveling through unsettled or hostile country. Caravan trade is associated with the history of the Middle East as far back as the records of ancient civilizations extend and seems to have been well developed before sea commerce began. It is evident that all trade from one fertile area to another in this region had to be organized from the first, since long distances of desert trail separated settled parts and since local governments could not guarantee protection against tribes eager for loot and pillage. Such wares as jewels, spices, perfumes, dyes, metals, rare woods, ivory, oils, and textiles (chiefly silk) are associated with the trade. Camels were the main carriers from Egypt to Mesopotamia and throughout the Arabian peninsula. They were introduced into N Africa and the Sahara region in the 3d cent. A.D. Donkeys were used in Asia Minor. Trade naturally prospered in the period of the great empires, when the caravan routes could be controlled and protected; and it was to secure control of such routes that many wars were fought and conquests made in ancient times. An empire provided for the establishment of inns, or caravansaries, for the accommodation of travelers along the way. Such improvements facilitated the movement of troops to protect the routes. Cities rose and fell in ancient times in proportion to the rise and fall in the trade of the caravan routes upon which they were located. Basically the caravan system underwent little change until challenged in modern times by the motor truck and the airplane. Travelers having occasion to cross desert spaces usually joined merchant caravans. After the advent of Islam, the pilgrimage of the devout to Mecca gave rise to long pilgrim caravans that were a feature of the pilgrimage season each year. The closest approach to caravan trade in the New World was the wagon trainwagon train,
in U.S. history, a group of covered wagons used to convey people and supplies to the West before the coming of the railroad. The wagon replaced the pack, or horse, train in land commerce as soon as proper roads had been built.
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 commerce that developed over the Sante Fe Trail.
References in classic literature ?
The boy had paused after his first sight of the caravan, and now was following slowly in the wake of the sordid, brutal spectacle.
At least, his caravan that season had been ambushed and shot at twice on the way down, when Mahbub's men accounted for three strange ruffians who might, or might not, have been hired for the job.
In 1859, in the month of August, the young traveller, Roscher, from Hamburg, set out with a caravan of Arab merchants, reached Lake Nyassa, and was there assassinated while he slept.
The first intimation they had was when three of their great slave caravans were annihilated in rapid succession.
For many days they marched, the apes following the trail easily and going a little distance ahead of the body of the caravan that they might warn the others of impending danger.
A FOGY who lived in a cave near a great caravan route returned to his home one day and saw, near by, a great concourse of men and animals, and in their midst a tower, at the foot of which something with wheels smoked and panted like an exhausted horse.
In the center of the troops following the imperial elephant marched a great caravan of slaves.
In short, he told us there was a great caravan of Muscovite and Polish merchants in the city, preparing to set out on their journey by land to Muscovy, within four or five weeks; and he was sure we would take the opportunity to go with them, and leave him behind, to go back alone.
For fifteen hundred miles one may trace this ghastly caravan route by these scattered remains of those who had fallen by the wayside.
On the border of this common, and close to the hedge which divided it from the cultivated fields, a caravan was drawn up to rest; upon which, by reason of its situation, they came so suddenly that they could not have avoided it if they would.
Veiling his clear-cut, lean face in a thin layer of a hard, high cloud, I have seen him, like a wizened robber sheik of the sea, hold up large caravans of ships to the number of three hundred or more at the very gates of the English Channel.
They set off in caravans, bought their freedom one by one or ran away, and drove or walked toward the "warm rivers.