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Silk in Greek and Roman literature
Marie-Louise Bech Nosch(CTR, Denmark)
According to tradition silk was known in China from the mid third millennium BC, but took almost 3000 years before it was manufactured in the Mediterranean area. However, there are references to silk in earlier Greek and Roman literature starting with a famous passage in the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle and our understanding of silk as absent in the Mediterranean may simply be due to the fact that we have looked for it by its name and not by description. It has in fact been shown that true silk had made its way to the West at least by the mid first millennium BCE. This paper provides an overview of key passages in Western literature and investigates the evidence for and the tradition of silk and silk weaving in the Mediterranean from the Bronze Age to Byzantium.


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