Gyeongju, the capital of the Kingdom of Silla, grew from a loose confederation of villages, called Saro, to become the capital of most of the Korean peninsula. Its relationships with Japan, the Eurasian Steppes, and countries along the Silk Road leading to Europe helped to make the city one of the most prosperous and significant in ancient East Asia. In this seminal new volume, Sarah Milledge Nelson draws on over 30 years’ experience to offer the first complete history of this fascinating city.  Gyeongju explores culture, class and rank, industry, international relations, rulers, and socio-cultural issues such as gender, and examines in detail the complex systems of class and rank, Gyeongju’s position as the royal seat of Silla, and the influence and legacy of the ancient city.


Excavations in Gyeongju have provided evidence not only of the wealth and power of the monarchy, but also of production and agriculture, and the reach of Gyeongju’s trade routes, making this city a fascinating case study for the region. Augmented with extensive maps and images which illustrate the city’s rich history, this volume is crucial reading for anyone interested in the city, the kingdom of Silla, the history and archaeology of Korea, and early urbanism and state formation in East Asia.

chapter 1|17 pages

The ancient city of Gyeongju

chapter 2 **|17 pages

Saro/Silla and the historical record

chapter 3|18 pages

Gyeongju archaeology

chapter 4|11 pages


Ceramics, bronze, iron, and gold

chapter 5|14 pages

Silk roads and trade routes

chapter 6 **|8 pages

Ranking and sumptuary rules

chapter 7 **|13 pages

Rulership in Silla

chapter 8 **|11 pages

Religions in Gyeongju

chapter 9 **|9 pages

Gyeongju and Japan

chapter 10|15 pages

Gyeongju in an East-Asian perspective

A summary