Centre for Continuing Education

History Course: Empires of the Silk Road

History. See the future. It’s in the past.

COVID-19 update: arrangement of our courses

We are now delivering courses both online and in-person. Please check the delivery format for each class before you enrol.

Please note that course materials for all classes (excluding prescribed textbooks) are shared electronically within 48 hours of a course starting. Printing is not available.

This course examines the medieval history of the Silk Road and the remarkable architectural heritage of places like Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand.

The ‘Silk Road’ is the name given to various land routes through central Asia (Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan) used for transporting trade goods between China and the Mediterranean. Long contested, the region of Central Asia has seen the rise and fall of mighty empires that flourished as a result of their control of the trade in silk and other precious commodities.

Join us for a rewarding and interactive learning experience, discussing the rich and varied history of the Silk Road.


To provide a detailed history of the Silk Road during the medieval period (AD 700-1600). We will explore the cultural heritage of the region including social structure, and architecture. The course will examine which goods and ideas moved on the Silk Road.


By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • discuss the causes for the rise and fall of medieval empires on the Silk Road
  • identify major sites on the Silk Road and the architectural trends in the region
  • explain how cultural ideas and goods travelled along the Silk Road.


The coming of the Arabs

Arab forces entered Central Asia in AD 649 during their conquest of Persia. They overran the Sogdians who had controlled the lucrative Silk Road trade routes in the 7th Century. The new religion spread gradually through the region replacing the native traditions of the Persians.

The Samanids

In the 8th and 9th Centuries there was a ‘golden age’ for Central Asia. Bukhara became one of the wealthiest and most important centres on the Silk Road ruled by the Samanid Dynasty. Intellectual figures of this period included the polymath Avicenna and the poet Rudaki.

Central Asia under the Seljuks

Turkic nomads from the steppes overran central Asia in the period of AD 1000. Amongst their numbers were the Seljuks who, ruling from their capital at Merv, established an Empire that encompassed most of Central Asia.

The Mongol Century

The Mongols marched across the Tian Shan Mountains into the heart of Central Asia in AD 1218, murdering and enslaving the local population. They seized Samarkand and Bukhara and brought destruction in their wake.

Tamerlane and his successors

Amir Timur (also called Tamerlane) made Samarkand his capital in AD 1370 before going on to conquer most of Central Asia, Turkey and northern India. The empire broke apart soon after the death of Tamerlane leading to the period of the Khans.

Intended audience

Anyone with an interest in history, archaeology and/or ancient literature.

Delivery style

Five, face-to-face lectures delivered over one day, illustrated with artefacts, maps, plans and photographs of the sites.


The lecturer will provide a handout with maps, plans and family trees. Please bring a pen and paper.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

History Course: Empires of the Silk Road

<p>{block name:“Course Tagline - History”}</p><p>{block name:“Block - COVID 19 updates”}</p><p>This course examines the medieval history of the Silk Road and the remarkable architectural heritage of

We acknowledge the tradition of custodianship and law of the Country on which the University of Sydney campuses stand. We pay our respects to those who have cared and continue to care for the Country.