The spread of religion during the Classical Period for both Christianity and Buddhism was directly influenced by economic and social exchange, between various societies, through prosperous trade routes and political connections spawned from within individual civilizations. Over time, these persistent religions will develop into the basis of Western and Eastern culture that would eventually influence the emergence of new societies ruled with renewed political and religious structures even rivaling those of the prominent Classical Period.
Although Christianity and Buddhism both Lourdes through social interaction over the silk roads, which lead to immense cultural exchange, there were various reasons linked to religious diffusion which were greatly taken advantage of with respect to regional and religious distinctions. Starting in 200 BCC and developing well into 700 CE, the silk roads and sea routes spanned across most of Asia, linking the Roman Empire with China and other prominent civilizations of Egypt, Persia, Iran, Anatolia, India and the Steppe lands into a booming, deviating tree of cultural exchange.
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While Christian missionaries traverse long the silk roads to the west and sea routes in the Mediterranean basin, Buddhist merchants utilized the monsoon system of the Indian Ocean and also the eastern branches of the Silk Road to spread their faith. With that said, beginning at about the middle of the 1st century CE, Christianity primarily spread through trade routes from influential missionaries, such as Paul of Tarsus, who sought converts from non-Jewish communities in the Hellenic world and within the Roman Empire. Paul traveled widely in order to attract converts, making numerous Journeys through Greece, Syria,
Anatolia, and Palestine to offer guidance for Christian communities before being swiftly executed in Rome due to social tensions regarding his attempts to spread Christianity among roman settlements. Likewise, other Christian missionaries like Paul can be compared to the merchants and missionaries of India who followed the teachings of Shattered Augusta, who gave up his lavish life to search for the cause of suffering in 534 BCC, eventually becoming the Buddha, “the enlightened one. ” Whether widely accepted or not, both merchants/missionaries of Christianity and
Buddhism took considerable advantage of the extensive network of roads and sea lanes to spread word of their religion. Similarly to Buddhism and other religions of salvation such as Hinduism or Zoroastrian, Christianity attracted much of the urban masses which included the lower classes and women. Both had doctrines which called for high moral standards and aesthetic values. More in-depth, Christianity called for people to place their faith in front of personal and family interests, much like Buddhism which encouraged people to hold back desire for peace and a calm, tranquil lifestyle.
Additionally, the Buddhist doctrine (The Four Noble Truths) inspired people to realize that all life involves suffering, that desire is the cause of suffering, that the elimination of desire brings an end to suffering, and that the ultimate goal is to reach Nirvana, a state of personal salvation – these aspects virtually eclipsed the ideas of Christianity, for each person can bring out the good within themselves and conquer the sins which compel them to hurt others for their own good.
Unlike Buddhist missionaries who primarily utilized gateway roads to Southeast Asia and westward to some parts of the Mediterranean, most Christian seminaries of the Classical period typically stuck along roads and sea routes that connected the Mediterranean basin to the Roman Empire and beyond. As a result, Christianity spread mainly across the Greek societies of the Mediterranean basin and in Mesopotamia and Iran; furthermore, Christian societies appeared in almost all parts of the Roman Empire by the 3rd century CE.
The spread of Buddhism, on the other hand, generally relied on merchants who traveled along the central Asian silk roads to various trading centers – notably Mere, Babushka, Samaritan, and Karakas, just to name a few. Due to the constant exchange of information and cultural ideas at this time, these “oasis towns” became important cosmopolitan centers for trade and social interaction for the civilizations of Asia.
During the 1st century BCC, foreign merchants traveling to and from these oasis towns often converted to Buddhism as the religion gave them reason and enlightenment for their roles in society – as they traveled, these merchants continued to spread their influence, some even in China! Another prevalent difference was the emergence of popular monasteries in the 5th entry CE which helped to attract many Chinese converts (although it did not appeal to them as effectively until the Post-Han dynasty nomadic assassination of China after 220 CE, when powerful generals abolished the Han and split it into three separate kingdoms).
Christianity, on the other hand, was not as appreciated by officials from the Roman and Hellenic Empires – Polytheism was already prominent in the Roman empire during Fax Roman (Roman peace during the 1st and 2nd centuries CE), and the introduction of a monotheistic religion would be expected to bring about inflicting ideas between the imperials and their fraction of Christian subjects.
While Christianity dispersed mainly in the Mediterranean basin, and in regions conquered by the Roman Empire with considerable amounts of disapproval from most imperial officials, Buddhism left successful trails throughout China, India, and even the Archfiend Empires of Classical Persia over a relatively short amount of time. Both Christianity and Buddhism were able to develop and grow due to political changes and imperial expansion, which encouraged the construction of roads, postal yester, and the mastery of sea routes.