Monks Smuggled Silkworms Across Asia In Hollowed-Out Walking Canes
Before the sixth century, the production and trading of silk was controlled by two monopolies. One was held by China, who possessed the only way of breeding the silkworms necessary to manufacture the silk. The other was held by Persia, who controlled the only trade route that passed through Asia to Europe.
In A.D. 552, two monks volunteered to travel to China and smuggle back silkworm eggs and larvae to Justinian I, the Byzantine Emperor. However, as silkworms are extremely fragile creatures which needed to be kept at a constant low temperature, the monks had to smuggle the silkworms back inside hollowed-out walking canes which also allowed them to escape with the creatures unhindered. Additionally, in order to feed the silkworms, the monks also had to carry potted mulberry shrubs with them, which they would have had to water with their own drinking water if required.
This adventure took two years, after which the Byzantines were able to create production bases around the country, which broke the previously lucrative monopolies of China and Persia.
It seems to me that if someone has a monopoly on a product, be it nutmeg or silkworms, there will always be folks who will find a way to smuggle the product out and break the monopoly. It may not be fair, but not much about business monopolies ever is.
Coffee out on the patio again this morning!