Roman Legion ended up in Chinese frontier?

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Roman Legion ended up in Chinese frontier?

Post by Gott » 03 Aug 2003 11:33

According to Chinese historical records and as well as legends, a large Roman army was fighting in the eastern lands against the nomadic barbarians, possibly the Huns. The Roman army was almost wiped out, and some soldiers was said to have managed to escape from total annihilation. These Roman soldiers arrived in areas near Tien Shan, where there were numerous Chinese outposts. These Romans seemed to have settled there and paid tributes to the Han Dynasty.

Could it be possible that these Roman soldiers did indeed settled in Tien Shan? As the chronicles mentioned, the Romans were fighting the barbarians in the east, but which specific battle?

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Post by fdewaele » 03 Aug 2003 15:21

I have heard this before... I believe it were the survivors of Crassus' defeat against the Parthians at Carrhae who were relocated by those Parthians towards the Chinese border and to save their own hide had to defend the places were they were relocated and also manny of them had married there and gotten children. When the Han attacked the area in 36 BC (17 years after their defeat at Carrhae) they managed to defeat the Romans and captured about 1,500 Romans and brought them to China. Emperor Yuandi ordered that they be settled in Fanmu County (the present Yongchang County) and that a separate county named Lijian be set up. In 592, as the Lijian people had integrated with the Hans, Emperor Wendi of the Sui Dynasty (581-618) ordered the merger of Lijian with Fanmu County. Until that point, the City of Lijian had been in existence for 612 years.

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Digging for Romans in China

Post by Gungnir » 03 Aug 2003 23:10

This is from my understanding...

Ancient documents hint that soldiers from the West lived on the edge of the Gobi Desert more than 2,000 years ago. Some of the compelling evidence includes the light- colored eyes and curly hair of the villagers there today.

The village of Zhelaizhai, which may hold the key to the mystery, has so far refused to give away its secrets--such as who built its crumbling city wall centuries ago, where they came from, and why, even today, some residents of this remote area sport curly brown hair and light-colored eyes instead of the classic Chinese features of their curious neighbors.

Homer Hasenpflug Dubs. was intrigued by the mention of a city and county called Liqian in a government land register of AD 5, compiled at the height of the Han Dynasty.

At the time, Liqian (or Li-jien, in some transliterations) was also the ancient Chinese word for Rome or the Roman Empire--a name derived, perhaps, from Alexandria, then under Roman control and a place with which the Chinese had indirect contact.

The soldiers first set out in 53 BC under the command of Marcus Licinius Crassus, who ruled Rome along with Julius Caesar and Pompey. The Greek biographer Plutarch records that Crassus led 42,000 men on an abortive campaign against Parthia.

The Parthians mowed down their attackers with a hail of arrows, wiping out half of the Romans at the Battle of Carrhae, near the border of modern Turkey and Syria. Ten thousand Roman troops were taken prisoner, a portion of whom were moved to Central Asia to help Parthia guard its eastern frontier, according to the historian Pliny

a number of the Roman soldiers somehow managed to escape Parthia and flee about 500 miles northeast to the land of the Huns, who were, like the Romans, enemies of Parthia. There, the theory goes, they hired themselves out as mercenaries to the mighty Hun leader Jzh-Jzh, whose vast empire stretched across the grasslands of Mongolia.

A restless conqueror, Jzh-Jzh had always cast a hungry eye on China to the south. But in 36 BC, the Chinese army decisively defeated Jzh-Jzh's men at their encampment somewhere near today's Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.

An account of that battle, recorded in the ancient "Book of the Late Han Dynasty," provides crucial evidence for Dubs' hypothesis that Romans came to China via the Huns.

Even more remarkable, more than 100 of Jzh-Jzh's foot soldiers lined up outside the gates with their shields linked in a "fish-scale formation," which Dubs identified as the testudo, a stratagem not found anywhere outside Rome.

The victorious Chinese brought back 145 prisoners with them to China, as recorded in the "Book of the Late Han Dynasty." These captives, Liqian buffs contend, were the Roman soldiers who had set out 17 years earlier to fight the Parthians.

Eager to make use of the POWs' experience, the Chinese installed them as border guards in what has always been a strategically vital point in China's northern frontier in modern Gansu province, Dubs postulated. This isolated outpost, which grew into a city and county, was then named Liqian in honor of the men who hailed from the West.

Eventually, the Roman legionnaires intermarried with the local population, then finally died out--well before the first recorded diplomatic contact between the Roman and Chinese empires in AD 166, when an envoy dispatched by Emperor Marcus Aurelius arrived in the Chinese imperial capital of Luoyang.

Digging for Romans in China

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Post by Feanor » 04 Aug 2003 03:37

Actually, the practice of resettling captured enemies at the OTHER end of your empire was a pretty common practice in antiquity (that way they would both be doing something useful and wouldn't be causing trouble). When Alexander conquered Persia, on the border with India he found the descendants of Greeks taken prisoner during the Ionian rebellion a hundred years earlier. So the theory that Roman prisoners were transplanted from the western to the eastern border of Parthia (btw., I wouldn't call the Parthans barbarians) is probably true.

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roman legion...

Post by Grünherz » 04 Aug 2003 04:05

Incredible! I am a Roman history nut and never heard these stories! There were recent reports of Western-looking mummies found in remote China. Could these be the light-colored-eye people referred to? Wow!

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Re: roman legion...

Post by Deterance » 04 Aug 2003 04:25

tscrawford wrote: There were recent reports of Western-looking mummies found in remote China. Could these be the light-colored-eye people referred to? TC

I dont think so. The Discover Special I saw on the Cauacasian Mummies in China was referring to a pre Roman group. I cant remember if metal weapons and artifacts were found with the Mummies. If no metal objects were found.....they would be far older than Rome.

Also Western China had a small, indigenous Jewish population that came on silk road. I think the last Rabbi from an unbroken tradition died in early 1800s. Then knowledge of Judaims and Hebrew died as well. Some Chinese in the area are attempting to rediscover their Jewish roots though

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Re: roman legion...

Post by Windward » 04 Aug 2003 08:53

tscrawford wrote:Incredible! I am a Roman history nut and never heard these stories! There were recent reports of Western-looking mummies found in remote China. Could these be the light-colored-eye people referred to? Wow!

The mummies could improve nothing.You know Romans were latin people, blond or light-colored-eye people were rare among Roman citizen, and usually they were Nordic slaves. Many Chinese scientists said their suspicion. The local people, the residents in kingdoms such as Loulan, Rouzhi, Shan-shan, Hotan, during the Han Dynasty, were more Western or Nordic-looking.

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Post by Von_Mannteufel » 14 Aug 2003 08:24

I've read about it in a book (which i have no Idea of the name in english) and it states that there are relates of a "white people fighting force that fought very disciplinatly and like a turtle" which after helping the chinese in some battle lived amongst them and operated as part of their army and also relates of a lost roman legion that lost a battle agains persian army and was forced to go east.

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Post by karltrowitz » 24 Aug 2003 07:49

Living close (within 3 miles) of Hadrians wall, I have a great interest in Roman history. But this is the first time I have heard of Romans going as far as China. Very interesting. :)

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Post by Patrick Edwin Cooley » 13 Sep 2003 23:25


Has anyone here run across an article in "Command" magazine entitled,
"China And the Huns-How China Helped Defeat The Roman Empire.".

If so, can anyone link to it anywhere?

Thank you very much!


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