From the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean.
By Hossein Isadpanah
To get to the roots of Iran-Italy relations, perhaps we can mention the oldest roles of the two Empires: Persian and Roman in the ancient world.
These two empires, with the decline of those, Greek, Chinese and Egyptian, have managed to dominate various countries by stabilizing their role and establishing commercial and political relationships thanks to their territorial expansion.
The era of Mongol rule, however, is the most flourishing period between the two countries and in some way between Asia and Europe. At that time, which coincides with the beginning of the fifteenth century, the governments of the cities of Venice and Genoa had the most effective role in developing commercial and cultural relations, thanks to the situation of some Iranian cities and for the will and the interest of Mongolian chiefs in trade.
Another reason was the interest of Venetian and Genoese merchants for unprocessed silk so that the Italian silk processing factories remained active and therefore could import other essential products from the East to the West.
When the Mongols defeated the Abbasid government, weakening Iraq as the political and commercial center of the Islamic world, they traced a new route which, passing from Khorassan and Azerbaijan, arriving in Anatolia and the Black Sea, connected to the Mediterranean. Iran consequently became the center of gravity of this trade route where traders brought their goods from China, including leather, textiles and unprocessed silk, all the way to Italy.
In a historical period in which competition between Venice and Genoa had intensified, in order to weaken the presence of the Venetians, Genoese traders launched a proposal to the Mongolian Ghazan khan. At that time, trade relations between Iran and Italy were flourishing and, through the city of Tabriz, a new itinerary was created: India, Hormuz, Esfahan, Soltanieh, Constantinople, instead of India, the Red Sea, Egypt which he was in favor of the Venetians; consequently the role of the Persian Gulf and Iran became even more important.
This proposal was not successful because the Mongols, lacking a substantial naval force, were more likely to trade by land and deserts.
However in the eighth century of the Hegira, the merchant-diplomat of Genoa named Buscarlo, who for a period resided in Iran as an ambassador by the Mongols, was sent to Europe. By deciding to open a business office in Hormuz, he managed to implement this proposal for a period.
The Persian Gulf, given its central role and pivot between Europe, Africa, southern Asia and southeast Asia, had a favorable situation for commercial, cultural and religious exchanges with other peoples of the world.
Exactly from the XNUMXst to the XNUMXth century of the Hegira, the Iranian sailors from the port of Siraf, in southern Iran, passing through the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea went to India and China with pre-existing commercial relations, also increasing scientific exchanges and cultural.
But the salient point regarding the role of the commercial stretch between East and West, called Via della Seta marina, was its security towards the Earth's Silk Road. In fact, the Earth's Silk Road, where Chinese and Indian goods arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean, was unsafe because of political changes and because the goods were being plundered by marauders.
So the choice of the sea route, considering that the Muslim sailors in the first centuries of the Hegira were remarkably expert, represented a new experience from a scientific and cultural point of view.
It should also be considered that, in this way, the goods coming from China and India by sea, through the Persian Gulf, arrived in Hormuz and passing through the Fars and the Curcuma Road, reached as far as Tabriz and still later in Rome.
From the Safavid period onwards, Christian missionaries and very few tourists have traveled to Iran and purposely wrote a lot about this topic. But before this period, Marco Polo, a Venetian merchant and tourist, in a trip to China, passing through Iran, in one of his writings spoke of Iranian society and cities, in particular of Hormuz, saying that in this place there are wooden boats full of turmeric and pearls brought from India. At that time, Hormuz was considered the main port for the docking of large ships, a role previously performed by the island of kish and, even earlier, in the XNUMXth century, by the port of Siraf considered to be the mother of the ports of the Middle East
The port of Siraf, which is located in the Persian Gulf south of the Bushehr region, until the second half of the second century of the Hegira, and before the devastating earthquake, was one of the most important transit ports for Indian and Chinese goods.
Soleiman Sirafi, one of the famous captains, four hundred years before Marco Polo, in a book recounted his experiences of the trip to China describing the commercial role by sea and its effect in multicultural exchanges, also bringing back ideas and thoughts of traders and navigators and the importance of the role of the port of Siraf.
Of what remains of the ancient structures of the port of Siraf, the site can be confirmed today as a treasure of civilization.
Italy in the seventh century witnessed the presence of Muslims, especially in Sicily. The island, from the XNUMXth to the XNUMXth century, was under Muslim rule. Here, as in other Italian cities, the occupation has left clear signs of Islamic architecture.
Between the years 1980-1990, Italy more than other European countries was the center of particular attention, also considering the proximity and availability of marine routes with some African Muslim countries.
In Italy, laws and regulations in favor of foreign citizens and Iranian students are weak and not very optimal for a lasting reception.
Now, after centuries and events created by traders in the Silk Road, the time has perhaps come to establish a historical-cultural and scientific relationship between Italy and Iran, through China's ambitious project to revive the Silk Road , among the largest and most important projects of the XNUMXst century.
The role of these two countries is fundamental in our XNUMXst century and, having an ancient and rich culture, with an important role for the creation of human civilizations both in the Mediterranean and in the Middle East, they can revive a precious dialogue between the West and the East, establishing a fruitful opportunity to decrease the tensions existing throughout the world.
The position of the Vatican in Italy as a center of Christianity, and Iran, a Muslim country also important in the energy sector in the Middle East, represent fundamental factors for establishing a fruitful dialogue between Iran and Europe, with the hope that this openness to the West can rediscover the culture and common history and make Iranian civilization and culture known to the European and world people.