Samarkand is introduced in the Brave New World expansion pack.
Musical Theme Inspiration: ?
Samarkand is one of the oldest cities in the world, located in the region of Central Asia known as Transoxiana. Built in the fertile Zerafshan River valley, Samarkand had the benefit of abundant natural resources and food; more significantly, it sat astride the Silk Road, the main trade route between the Orient and the West. Founded c. 700 BC by the Sogdians, by the time Alexander the Great conquered it in 329 BC Samarkand was one of the world's richest and most important cities.
The city remained a mercantile power for centuries after, growing ever richer on taxes imposed on caravans along the Silk Road; it also served as a conduit for culture and innovations between the East and the West. Legend has it that the secret of papermaking was obtained from two Chinese prisoners by the Muslims around 751 AD, which led to the creation of the first paper mill in the Islamic world in Samarkand. From there the knowledge of linen paper spread throughout the Muslim lands, and onward to Europe.
Marco Polo, in his account of his journey along the Silk Road to China, described Samarkand as "a very large and splendid city." In 1370, Tamerlane, founder of the Timurid Empire, made Samarkand his capital. During the next 35 years, he rebuilt, several times over, the city, populating it with skilled artisans, craftsmen, merchants and scholars from across the empire, making it the cultural and commercial center of all Central Asia.
But the opening of sea trade routes between the Orient and Europe, and the exploitation of the newly discovered Americas, made it a backwater. The population declined precipitously, and for a period it was uninhabited. Only after it became a provincial capital in the expanding Russian Empire in 1887 did Samarkand became an important economic center again.