The Silk Road started in the Chinese city of Chang'an and then split in many directions, so it reached its end in a number of different places, including Damascus, Tyre, Alexandria and the Ganges delta. The Silk Road was, therefore, an important conduit for goods between the eastern and western parts of the ancient world.
The Silk Road began in the 2nd century B.C., under the rule of China's Han Dynasty, whose rulers realized that bandits in the West were attacking caravans and damaging foreign trade opportunities. To control the trade routes better, the government built walls and garrisoned troops in the area. This guaranteed the safety of trade caravans, spurring merchants to begin traveling in greater numbers. The Silk Road gradually declined in importance until the Mongols conquered Asia in the 13th century. Their control of the entire route made peace, allowing for thriving trade again.