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Trade routes that linked the Far East and Western Europe were evident in Roman times, and continued (with some generational interruptions) right up until today. Explanation: A valid trade route requires political stability at either end, and (mostly) among the middlemen in between the producer and the market. There was a European demand for silk, spices, gems, and later for ceramics from East and South Asia during Roman times. What China usually wanted in return was just silver. Interruptions could result from major climate events (such as fallout from two supervolcano erruptions around 450 and 540 AD -- which led to widespread famine and epidemic, often followed by major political upsets). The start of the Medieval Warm period in the 9th Century also ushered in a new period of relative stability and prosperity in both Europe and Asia. There were two routes -- overland through Central Asia and the Black Sea, and Maritime, through India and then the Red Sea into the Mediterranean World. However, in the late 10th Century, the rise of the Seljuk Turks in Central Asia and their spread into the Middle East caused considerable distruption to trade -- and eventually triggered the Crusades. Later, in the 14th Century, the Ottoman Turks would prove disruptive and significantly marked up prices for exports to Europe. This help prompt the European maritime response (pioneered by Portugal) that led to direct Oceanic trade between Europe and China.