One of the most powerful empires in history was born thanks to two monks with backpacks full of worms

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The Byzantine Empire reached the peak of its economy thanks to the return from China of two monks loaded with smuggled silkworms.

there for him 1st century AD one of the most fruitful and important industries on the planet revolved around silk. The precious material was used for the clothing and decoration in high places, and trade routes from the east clothed Europe for many years. China and Persia were the main producers, and had a monopoly on the production of the material, which was distributed through The Silk Road. This, along with spices, was one of the commercial operations that covered the most ground at that time.

However, in Europe They looked with happy eyes at the profitability of this business, particularly the Byzantine Empire. the byzantine emperor Justinian I always sought strategies to make alternative routes to China profitable, but in the end he realized that if he did not produce the material directly in his territory, the profits they were not going to compensate the invested infrastructure.

silk worms

Adult silkworms are very delicate, so the monks only hid eggs and young specimens. Image: Wikipedia

Thousands of kilometers away, in India, a couple of monks belonging to the Nestorian church were carrying out work of evangelization to Christianity. In the year 551 AD both monks advanced towards China, where they could see with their own eyes the methods to obtain the precious material through silkworms. The Byzantines thought for many years that silk was made in India, and upon this discovery the two monks contacted Emperor Justinian I to offer a deal. What the monarch promised them is unknown, but the bargaining chip was clear: bring silkworms smuggled back to Byzantium.

With two monks loaded with worms, the Byzantine Empire built the axis of its economy for more than 600 years

Silkworms are extremely fragile animals, and subjecting adult specimens to such a return journey was mission impossible. The two monks stole as many silkworm eggs and young as they could, and they hid them in their luggage and the bamboo canes that they had supposedly come to collect. Following an expedition estimated to lasted two yearsthe two monks arrived at the gates of the polis with the most valuable gift they could have given to the empire.

Thereafter the Byzantine Empire became a production powerhouse throughout Europe, with silk factories in Constantinople, Beirut, Antioch, Tire and Thebes. The theft of the worms allowed Byzantium to have silk monopoly in Europe, breaking the yoke that China and Persia had on him. The silk business became the backbone of its economy until its disappearance in 1204 AD In fact, silk production has continued in northern Greece to this day.

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